From Darkness To Light

Purgatory Resort’s trails

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Purgatory Resort lured a large crowd of mountain bikers into riding its new Divinity Downhill Flow Trail for its grand opening on Sept. 13, 2015, where a Forest Service official at a ribbon-cutting ceremony said that it might be the beginning of further trail projects that get approved for the mountain.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0318.Riders got themselves to the top on the uplift, some rode up a trail or the road, and many others shuttled with a vehicle up the Forest Service Road that runs through the resort once they found out that wait times at the uplift took as long as an hour due to a lack of cam straps needed to affix bikes to the lifts.

Divinity Downhill is a 1.5-mile trail of table-top jumps, berms, rollers, wide ladder bridges, and an optional wall ride. Most of the trail was built by excavator operator Grady James, and Purgatory’s Trail Manager Josh Hamill, which took most of the summer.

If you see these two guys, give them a high five and a thank you for building this fun trail.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the base area was led by Purgatory’s Mike McCormack, Purgatory’s Trail Manager Josh Hamill, Forest Service District Ranger Matt Janowiak, Forest Service Recreation Staff Officer Jed Botsford, Trails 2000’s Executive Director Mary Monroe Brown and her family, and some famous mountain bike champions.

Purgatory's Trail Manager Josh Hamill cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the Divinity Downhill Flow Trail.

Purgatory’s Trail Manager Josh Hamill cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the Divinity Downhill Flow Trail.

Janowiak gave an uplifting speech that received applause when he said that it was just the beginning of something big.

“My challenge back to you folks is, if you really want to make this just the beginning, is take care of this, cause then it’s going to be so much easier for us to say yes to the next request, cause we know you demonstrated that you can do it right,” said Janowiak.

A giant crowd gathered for the ceremony cheered as Hamill cut the ribbon.

Throughout the day, people rode the trail on all-mountain trail bikes, downhill bikes, cross country bikes, fat bikes and hard tails.

Spirits were high, and people pondered the future of trails up at the mountain.

By the end, it was time to sit down for a barbecue sandwich and a drink at Purgy’s to celebrate a day of riding new trail with friends on a mountain with endless potential to contend with some of the finest bike parks of the west.

Purgatory/Durango Mountain Resort bike trails August 8, 2012

Friendly welcoming staff helped me get my ticket and load up my bike on the lift that Saturday morning at Purg. Soon after I would learn that the cross-country mountain biking there was decent, yet the infrastructure overall was not set up for utilizing more than one lift, and that one only went halfway up the mountain.

See any mountain bikers at this line at Lift 4 at Purgatory? Am I in the right place?

The first thing that I noticed when approaching the one and only mountain bike uplift at Purg was that there were no other mountain bikers among the 20 people waiting for the lift that morning. Also, the Village Plaza needs some kind of ramp or route that bikers can take up to the lift from the ticket office so that they don’t have to use an elevator or carry their bike up a flight of 20 stairs.

Where are all the mountain bikers and hikers on this beautiful Saturday morning?

Lucky for us mountain bikers, we’re allowed to use a different line to avoid the hoards of little kids with parents heading up to the top of the Alpine Slide. All of the kids and parents watched as I approached the biker line where I was the only one waiting for the next lift.

About half way up the lift, everybody except me got off at a ramp with a lift operator kindly greeting them and unloading their sleds.

Dropping in to some of this best single track that Durango Mountain Resort has to offer, this is what you see.

At that point I knew I was one of very few people that was riding the lift with my bike that morning. All of the chairs for as far as the eye could see were empty. But why? Who was this lift serving, afterall?

You should know that I did not see one downhill mountain bike during my day of riding up at Purg on a Saturday.

More importantly, what were the trails like, you say? Well you see, the 1990 World Mountain Bike Championship Trail was a cross-country loop with big switchbacks on two-track roads and single track. It was fast at times, fun, and sometimes requiring a bit of pedaling uphill.

There were no jumps, obstacles or terrain features on any of this ride that mostly followed cat tracks.

The 1990 World Mountain Bike Championship trail up at Durango Mountain Resort.

I rode a leisurely 15 or 20 minutes to the bottom and got right back on the lift.

The second trail that I rode required a bit more effort to get to after unloading at the top. I rode up the switchbacking road to the top of the mountain to probably a thousand feet higher than chairlift 4 where I got off.

Riding on Paul’s Park trail, the first three miles of the loop was the Forest Service road going through the resort. At the top you get off that road and back on another two track logging road/cat track. The downhill is just beginning here. The views of Engineer are epic from the tops of these slopes.

The lifties hang your bike up on one of these on the back of the chairs, and cinch it down with a strap.

It’s a fast, switchbacking downhill with a few light rocky sections for thrills and skidding fishtails. This could be fun on a downhill mountain bike if you didn’t have to ride a thousand feet of elevation gain to start. If you go with a downhill bike, you should shuttle Paul’s Park with two vehicles.

I skipped Harris Park Loop and got back to Diggler heading clockwise on the World Mountain Bike Loop, which you’re not supposed to do, according to the signage. Since there’s nobody riding up it, however, it didn’t matter. Diggler ended up being a hoot of a switchbacking downhill, as well.

This is the Forest Service road that you ride on for about 3 miles before you get on another road on the back side, where the trail switchbacks downhill.

I even saw other mountain bikers riding down the forbidden, one-way Diggler. It was fine, though, as you could see well down the trail and around the switchbacks if anyone was coming up the hill towards you. No safety concern with that.

At the bottom by Chairlift 1 I checked out the pump track, which is a pitiful 40 foot by 30 foot pile of wrinkled dirt with no chance of allowing any rider the means of pumping themselves to any speed to keep their momentum.

This 40 ft. x 30 ft. pump track up at Durango Mountain Resort is a pathetic puke of an attempt at pump track construction.

Overall, it was a good day of riding cross country trails up at Purg. I was grateful for the bits of great single track on the World Championship Course.

Stay tuned for a story about the ambitions that officials at Durango Mountain Resort have for expanding its mountain bike trails and infrastructure. DMR’s Vice President for Marketing and Sales went on the record following this story about the challenges the resort faces in making these gargantuan changes.

Uplift tickets at Durango Mounain Resort are $25 for the day, or $8 dollars for each lift up.

What Durango Mountain Resort needs in place of one of these flights of stairs is a switch-backing ramp for bikers to use to ride up to the lift. Also, a narrow steel track attached to the stairs would work if it could be removed once the snow season came around.