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We have wanted to ski with our girls for a few years but hadn’t found the right fit in a resort for their first time skiing. We wanted to have somewhere that was easy to access, that was reasonably priced, and somewhere that felt like the lessons were small enough groups that the girls wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle.
We live in Denver, and there are quite a few big ski resorts off of I-70 that we could go to. The problem is lots of traffic and people- we hadn’t braved the crowd yet to have our kids ski.
So when Visit Durango invited us to ski for the first time with our kids, we were excited to check out Purgatory Resort. It’s known to be extremely family-friendly, (kids always ski free) and we wanted to check it out. Here is our experience skiing Purgatory for the first time.
About Purgatory Resort
Purgatory is located off of highway 550 about halfway between Durango, Colorado, and Silverton. The resort itself is located in the San Juan mountains. The logo was taken from the profile of the Western Needle mountains, which can be seen from anywhere on the mountain.
Purgatory averages about 260 inches of snow per year and operates 11 lifts from November to April. (Side note- you can do all kinds of activities on Purgatory mountain in the summer too- we can’t wait to go back!).
There is also ample lodging, including ski-in and ski-out condos, a pool, a small shopping center, and bars near the lodge area.
We skied Purgatory as part of our Durango winter weekend.
Getting To Purgatory
The huge advantage of Purgatory resort is that it is really easy to get to. There is almost no traffic in and out of the resort (we went on a busy Saturday) and there is a ton of parking.
You’ll turn off Colorado 550 into the resort itself. From there, there are parking lots down below, but you should try to park up higher next to the resort so you don’t have to deal with the shuttle.
If you reserved your lift tickets online you’ll want to pick them up at the base of the mountain. We loved how friendly and helpful the staff was. The girls loved the lift tickets because they were personalized with their names on them. It was such a friendly touch.
What To Bring
The day we skied the temperature was below zero when we headed to the mountain. That means we had to dress warm!
Make sure to wear layers- we wore long underwear under our snow pants, and two pairs of warm socks.
I wore a North Face fleece under my ski jacket, and there were a couple of times I got a little bit hot and was able to take off my jacket.
We had super warm gloves, ski goggles, and neck warmers. We wore helmets on the mountain, so our beanies didn’t fit on our heads. I wish we had had the option to keep our heads warm, but we didn’t. Finally, we had hand warmers to put inside our gloves for the end of the day.
Ski Rental Information
You can reserve ski rentals right online and ahead of time at Purgatory, so all you have to do is show up and grab your rentals.
We chose to ski as I already knew how and could help the girls after their lessons if need be.
First, you’ll get your boots. They didn’t go by shoe size, they went by centimeters, and they measured our feet right there.
Then they checked our ski level and assigned us each a set of skis. For first-time kid skiers, they usually don’t assign poles. Once they waxed the skis we were off to our lessons.
Lessons: What To Know
Even though I grew up skiing, it had easily been 10 years since I had gone. I didn’t feel confident that I could teach my kids to ski, so we chose to do lessons.
Purgatory offers both whole and half-day lessons for the entire family, and we chose to do half-day lessons for the girls. Since Purgatory has an extensive beginners’ area, we were there all day and didn’t get bored.
One thing to note about lessons- you need to allow yourself a lot of time before the lessons to get your ski rentals and get down to the lessons area. We arrived on the mountain at 8 am and were a little late for our 9:30 lesson- that’s how long everything took!
You can access the lesson area from the base of the mountain, but we took the shuttle since my girls didn’t know how to ski at all. Group lessons were small- it was just my daughter and two other girls in the lesson.
By the end of the morning, she was confidently going up and down the bunny hill on her own. We rode the lift up to the base of the mountain and she dismounted the lift with no problem. From there she went on the bigger lift in the beginner’s area- so many times that she started to do everything on her own. It was awesome.
You can pack your lunch and eat on “The Beach” at Purgatory, but with so many dining options on the mountain, you don’t have to.
We ate a Purgy’s at the lodge, they offered mac and cheese for the kids and I had an awesome green chili cheeseburger.
There’s also a pizzeria and a deli, so if you are staying multiple days you won’t get bored with the food options.
There are several bars (even one at the top of the mountain) so you can have your favorite cocktails or brew at altitude.
Disclosure: I was provided rentals, a lift pass and lessons in exchange for this post. All opinions, as always, are my own.
Welcome! I’m Christa, a Spanish teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. We’ve spent over 25 years living in and traveling to Costa Rica with our daughters, and this website is my love letter to all things Costa Rica- and to bilingual parenting too. You can read my full story here. Thanks for stopping by!