Sven Brunso has traveled the globe as a pro freeskier and been photographed by with the worlds best ski photographers. With more than 2,000 images published around the world, and having landed on 50 magazine covers, he is not your typical resort town community member.
No lift lines translates into a lot of powder skiing. Some ski areas are tracked out by 10:30am and by noon you cant even tell it snowed. Thats not the case at Purgatory where I can find untracked snow days after a storm.
Like many others, I came to Durango to play for a summer, and Im still here. In 1992, after graduating college, I wanted to decompress for a season, so I headed to Durango. The sport of mountain biking was on the rise and Durango seemed to be the Mecca. I figured a summer on the single track and a winter skiing at Purgatory would be a nice way to clear my mind before heading out to find a real job.
Nearly 25 years later, Im still playing.
The question I get asked the most is, Why do you live in Durango instead of a ski-centric town? The answer is in the question. Durango is a mountain town which is energized 12 months of the year. No mud season and no visible slow down in the fall. When the snow starts to melt the river picks up and the kayakers get charged, the single track in town is perfectly buffed for biking before the snow on the mountain even starts to melt. When town gets warm you can ride through chest-high wildflowers in the high alpine. When the first snow falls, the summer lovers just change gear and the cycle repeats. Durango is a real town full of charm, culture and energy. Fort Lewis College and year-round tourism attract a very active, highly educated population.
After two decades in search of the endless winter, I have settled down a bit. Working and promoting my hometown mountain is a dream. I went to school to work in marketing, I love to ski and I love this mountain.
Purgatory has the perfect combination of good snow, great weather and really fun terrain. Its not the backyard for any metro area and stays pretty much crowd free. No lift lines translates into a lot of powder skiing. Some ski areas are tracked out by 10:30am and by noon you cant even tell it snowed. Thats not the case at Purgatory where I can find untracked snow days after a storm. One year on December 28 we had 24-inches of new snow and I skied knee deep snow on the edges of Styx and Catharsis until the first of the year.
The roller coaster terrain at Purgatory makes for great skiing as it allows you to mix up speeds and turns. On the steeps, you can make shorter turns and get face shots and then let the skis go on the flatter section making sweeping GS turns until the next pitch. We have great tree skiing which provides a sanctuary of fluff when the runs get tracked.
The grooming team lays down some great corduroy and the character of terrain takes on a whole new personality when the mountain is buffed out. The resort has a Winch-Cat so some of the steepest runs can be groomed on one side and left un-manicured on the other, opening up some of these classic runs to more people and giving people a chance to really play on the great terrain.
For a change of pace I take a trip into the backcountry with San Juan Untracked (SJU), based at Purgatory. SJU has 35,000 acres of terrain ranging from high alpine bowls and chutes to perfectly spaced old-growth trees. I have been skiing with this operation for a decade and havent even put a dent in their terrain, let alone crossed another track.
I always try my best to get out and ski every day in the winter. I love being outside and I love promoting the mountain. As my day winds down I head into Durango, enjoying the drive through the mountains and steep red canyon walls as I head home. I call my wife and ask her where we are going for dinner. We start down the list of the more than 80 restaurants in Durango and talk through the nearly endless options.
I catch a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror. My cheeks are rosy and the hint of a goggle tan is visible. My face is more wrinkled than it was in 92, but the hint of a smile still remains as I retrace the same path I have for the last 20 years. I think about the great places I have been and briefly ponder what it would be like had I decided to live elsewhere or went to find that real job. But as I pass the Welcome to Durango sign, I know Im home.