Hesperus Ski Area
The 2016-17 season and the season after were a snapshot of the difficulties Hesperus Ski Area has faced since opening in 1962. Last year, Colorado regulators flagged the area's one chairlift as unfit to run. A year later, Hesperus was forced to close early due to a lack of snow. Mechanical and Mother Nature issues have shut down business over the years. Still, the Western Slope area refuses to join the state's long line of failed ski operations.
Some things haven't changed since the early days, such as the all-volunteer patrol team. But competition has certainly ramped up in the region, with nearby Durango's Purgatory Resort and Telluride Ski Resort now world-class destinations. Hesperus is a place to learn for Durango youngsters, and unskilled tourists might be wise to try the hill for the cheaper day pass.
For the limited terrain, Hesperus claims a variety. The green portions of the trail network start midway from the top of the chairlift. From the highest reaches - however modest at about 8,888 feet - skiers and riders can get their black diamond pleasures of trees and moguls.
The area gets its name from the term in Greek mythology meaning "evening star." And it's in the evening when Hesperus shines. The lights come on, and locals after work come to get their turns.
Skiable terrain: 60 acres
Trails: 26, five beginner, eight intermediate, 13 advanced
Average annual snowfall: 150 inches
Mountain stats: 8,888-foot summit, 8,100-foot base, 788-foot vertical
Check out: Oscar's Cafe for breakfast in Durango, Steamworks Brewing Co., Kennebec Cafe in Hesperus, Mesa Verde National Park
Getting there: From Interstate 25 south, exit for Walsenburg and follow U.S. 160 west through town and all the way to Durango. From town, go east on 160 to Hesperus.
More information: ski-hesperus.com
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE