A Beginner’s Guide to Skiing and Snowboarding in Durango!

If you’re considering skiing or snowboarding in and around Durango, you’re in for a great Winter adventure! With three ski resorts and ski areas within a 30-minute drive of Downtown Durango, and acres of backcountry hills and mountains, you can expect a ski or snowboard trip like no other.

Here we’ve put together a simple beginner’s guide on what to expect and what you should know about skiing and snowboarding in Durango:

Introduction to Skiing and Snowboarding in Durango

Powder Day- Skiing at Purgatory Resort

Skiing and snowboarding in Durango couldn’t be any more magical thanks to the characteristics of the conditions, access, terrain, and views. These factors make Durango and the surrounding mountain and wilderness areas the perfect place for your upcoming Winter ski trip.

Outlined below are some of the features of Durango that make the skiing and snowboarding so amazing:

Conditions and Weather

The conditions of Durango couldn’t be better for skiing and snowboarding throughout the year. In fact, Ski.com has stated that Durango has some of the most reliable conditions in the southern Rockies. The snow that falls in the San Juan Mountains (where Durango resides) is a dry, light powder caused through a combination of the elevation and weather patterns from the warmer, drier desert areas of eastern Utah. 

This creates fantastic snow conditions combined with generally milder temperatures throughout the year. 

Even with the consistent snowfall throughout the year, Durango is known for its “bluebird,” sunny days with miles of visibility.

Access to Runs, Trails, and Backcountry

It’s no secret that Durango offers incredible access for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Three established ski resorts lay within a 30-minute drive of Downtown Durango offers over 150 groomed trails and 3,000 acres of terrain. While many other Colorado ski towns shut down for skiing and snowboarding after 4, both Purgatory Resort and Hesperus Ski Resort offer night skiing until 9 PM.

For those looking for a backcountry adventure, there’s no shortage of trails! Durango is surrounded by the mountains and mesas of southern Colorado as well as the largest wilderness area in the state: the Weminuche Wilderness.

Whether you’re looking for some easy laps or backcountry cliffs, Durango is the place to be!

Off-the-Beaten Path

Backcountry Skiing in Durango Near Engineer Mountain

A major draw for people skiing and snowboarding in Durango is the lack of crowds and its remoteness. We see this as a good thing!

Unlike other ski resorts on the front range outside of Denver, Durango doesn’t get crowds of people every time there’s a powder day. The largest city from Durango is Albuquerque, New Mexico at nearly 4 hours away. The fact that Durango is a further distance away keeps hordes of people from overrunning the runs and trails each week.

That being said, with a little planning, Durango can be easy to get to! The Durango-La Plata County Airport offers daily, direct flights from major hubs including Denver, Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Access to Hotels, Restaurants, and Nightlife

While little, ski towns throughout Colorado gives us the warm feeling of solitude, there are also drawbacks! Having fewer hotels, restaurants, and things to do means that the competition for reservations and prices can go through the roof...putting financial strain on your Winter ski trip.

Thankfully, Durango has over 2,500 rooms via hotels, motels, and cabins giving you the choice of amenities, footprint, and value for your dollar.

In addition, Durango has a lively restaurant and bar scene offering great nightlife and Apres ski opportunities.

You don’t have to worry about the town shutting down at 8 PM like in other Colorado ski towns!

Gear Shops, Tours, and Professionals

Thanks to the multitude of ski and snowboarding runs and terrain, Durango is able to have a number of gear shops offer new and used equipment as well as rentals. Specialized tours and lessons are available at most of these outfitters. No matter if you’re looking for a lesson to introduce yourself to snowboarding or if you’re looking for a guided ski tour down one of the neighboring 13ers, Durango has it for you!

Both Family-Friendly and Expert-Level Runs and Terrain

Purgatory Family Skiing

If you’re with your family- no problem! If you’re with a partner or spouse that is better than you- no problem! If you’re looking to shred in the backcountry- no problem! 

As mentioned before, the sheer number of runs and terrain that is available from Durango’s three ski resorts and huge backcountry area provides plenty of skiable opportunities no matter your skill level or your desired experience.

Where to Ski and Snowboarding in Durango

Snowboarder Jumping at Purgatory Resort

As you begin to plan your ski or snowboard trip in Durango, consider the following ski resorts and backcountry opportunities. 

Ski Resorts in Durango

Purgatory Resort

Located 20 minutes north of Downtown Durango, Purgatory Resort is Durango’s largest and most established ski resort.

  • Trails: 105 

  • Skiable acres: 1,635

  • Summit elevation: 10,822 feet

  • Trail ratings: 20% beginner; 45% intermediate; 35% advanced/expert

Hesperus Ski Area

15 minutes west of Downtown Downtown lies Hesperus Ski Area. Considered a more beginner-friendly destination, Hesperus Ski Area offers a more relaxed experience than other ski resorts in southwestern Colorado. 

In addition, Hesperus Ski Area is the largest night skiing operation in the entire Southwest. 

  • Trails: 26 

  • Skiable acres: 60

  • Summit elevation: 8,888 feet

  • Trail ratings: 35% beginner; 40% intermediate; 25% advanced/expert

Chapman Hill

Located just outside the heart of Downtown Durango, Chapman Hill is Durango’s local in-town ski facility. Perfect for beginners, skiing and snowboarding at Chapman Hill offers three runs via two, tow-ropes. 

Chapman Hill is a great place to introduce individuals to skiing or snowboarding without needing to commit to visiting a large, established ski resort.

  • Trails: 3 

  • Skiable acres: 7

  • Summit elevation: 6,555 feet

  • Trail ratings: 100% beginner

Backcountry Skiing around Durango

Backcountry Skiing in La Plata Canyon Near Durango

Over 300,000 acres of backcountry skiing and snowboarding are available at your fingertips in and around Durango. While great access and lines await, we highly recommend utilizing a tour or guide if you’re not experienced in backcountry skiing and navigating avalanche terrain.

Within a 30-minute drive of Downtown Durango, you have access to the following backcountry skiing areas:

  • La Plata Canyon and La Plata Mountains

  • Molas Pass

  • Coal Bank Pass

  • Needle Mountains

  • The Chicago Basin

As mentioned above, do not venture into these areas without a tour, guide, or experience skiing and snowboarding in avalanche terrain!

Skiing and Snowboarding Gear Shops

If you’re looking for new or used gear in Durango, consider the following ski gear shops:

Skiing and Snowboarding Rentals

If you’re looking for ski rentals in Durango, consider the following ski shops:

Skiing and Snowboarding Tours and Lessons

If you’re looking for a guided tour or lesson for skiing or snowboarding in Durango, consider the following tour outfitters:

Tips for Beginner’s When Skiing and Snowboarding in Durango

Backcountry Skiing in Durango

If you’re brand new to skiing and snowboarding, it can be very intimidating strapping in on the slopes. While the locals and visitors to Durango are welcoming, there are times where tempers can flair! 

Here are some things to avoid when skiing and snowboarding in Durango. These tips will keep you safe, respected, and welcome amongst the other skiers:

  • Pack plenty of fluids and snacks

  • Dress in layers

  • Stick to easier runs

  • Don’t share the pricing of your equipment

  • Don’t debate politics, religion, or other controversial topics with strangers on chair lifts

  • Rent or buy a good pair of goggles

  • Apply sunscreen throughout the day

  • Don’t ski alone

  • Consider taking a professional lesson

  • Don’t wear jeans

  • Limit alcohol and marijuana consumption

  • Know your limitations

  • Don’t let someone pressure you into a run you’re not ready for

  • Don’t carry a portable speaker or backpack boombox

  • Keep crazy-wide turns to a minimal 

  • Always look uphill before making a turn

  • Do not go into the backcountry without a tour, guide, or avalanche experience!


With three ski resorts, ski areas, and over 300,000 acres of backcountry, Durango is a skier and snowboarder’s dream come true. While Durango may be a little harder to access, Durango’s remoteness offers fewer lines and more amenities than other ski resorts throughout Colorado. At the same time, Durango isn’t a tiny ski resort town either- you’ll have plenty of places to stay, eat, and lots of things to do during your ski trip. 

Coupled with great conditions and weather, Durango is the perfect place for your upcoming Winter ski trip!