Where to ski, board, stay, eat, drink, shop, play, and buy real estate in Colorado's best mountain towns.
Situated where the Rockies meet the high desert, Durango has seen many incarnations, from mining hub and ranching center to college town and year-round recreation destination. Perhaps that’s why it’s hard to categorize: Breweries and hillbilly saloons sit next to wine bars and sleek lounges, and you’re just as likely to spot dreadlocked students as cowboy-hatted ranchers and GoreTex-clad yuppies. Here, everyone is welcome.
SKI Durango Mountain Resort, also known as Purgatory, has long touted its family-friendly trails, but last year it opened a new 125-acre area, Legends, to attract experts. After entering the nicely spaced aspen glade, traverse left to find the best fall line and freshest tracks. On powder days, stay on the Needles Lift while everyone heads to the backside, and ski Styx, a rolling black diamond that gets tracked out last. Demon, a superhighway-wide groomer, is a good option for beginners, and intermediates love the flock of rolling blue squares off Chair 3.
STAY Right at the base of Durango Mountain Resort, the swanky two-year-old Purgatory Lodge has two- to four-bedroom condos with views of the mountains, gas fireplaces, granite counters, and flat-screen TVs (1 Skier Place, durangomountainresort.com, starting at $485). Downtown, the historic Strater Hotel has 93 rooms bedecked with rich curtains, Victorian furniture, and period wallpaper (699 Main Ave., straterhotel.com, starting at $104).
EAT The Olde Schoolhouse Cafe entices hungry skiers with its siren call of hot thin-crust pizza and free darts and pool (46778 Highway 550, 970-259-2257). Downtown, the new Golden Triangle serves satay, curries, and inventive cocktails in a metro-cool lounge (150 E. College Drive, 970-382-8424). For a taste of the area’s ranching heritage, wash down a grass-fed beef burger with an amber ale at the Durango Brewing Company (3000 Main Ave., 970-247-3396, durangobrewing.com).
DRINK Lady Falconburgh’s Barley Exchange stocks more than a dozen local beers among its 100 offerings (640 Main Ave., ladyfalconburgh.biz). Drink local and Old World wines while admiring locals’ abstract art at Eno, a wine bar and gallery (723 E. Second Ave., 970-385-0105).
SHOP Eight miles north of town, Honeyville sells local specialty honeys, as well as jams, chili, and beans (33633 Highway 550, honeyvillecolorado.com). Nearby, Appaloosa Trading Co.offers fun Western kitsch, like belt buckles, cowboy boots, and turquoise jewelry (501 Main Ave., appaloosadurango.com).
BUY IN Durango’s real estate market didn’t fall as sharply as other Western vacation towns, which makes it tough to find a deal. This year, median prices ran about $460,000 for a condo at the resort and $346,500 for a home in Durango, though a well-maintained Victorian in the historic district will cost you $500,000 and up.
DON'T MISS Evening is the best time to go to Trimble Hot Springs, when the southwestern sky turns out the stars, and deer and owls frequent the poolside pines (6475 County Road 203, trimblehotsprings.com). The Durango Discovery Museum, the long-awaited interactive children’s science center, is scheduled to open late fall in the renovated Powerhouse by the Animas River (1333 Camino del Rio, durangodiscovery.org).