It's the strangest feeling. The sun on your skin, your helmet breaking blinding light. You've been here a thousand times, but in late summer you feel naked wearing short pants and sleeves on a stuttering chairlift, where you rise and fall on invisible 80 degree swells of air.
Dropping into Purgatory's new Divinity Flow Trail, within a few seconds things get pretty sweet.
Freeride. Flow. Whatever you call it, it's a blast, and you don't have to be a downhiller dressed like a storm trooper on a 40-pound steed with a foot of travel to dig it.
The trail: 1.5 miles, and right off the bat, a series of doubles and table tops to launch off of. Berms crank around swift corners through the pines. More jumps, more rollers. A tall blue wall ride juts up out of a butter smooth turn. Riders sail off.
Then, another mile of bliss. G-force building bobsled turns, silky smooth trail and kickers. Lots and lots of kickers.
If you so choose, you don't even have to pedal – you could coast the whole thing. It's never very steep, but always very fun.
Catching another chair up, college student Patrick Emerson said he was carving turns like he's never done before.
“These trails are so awesome,” he said from inside his full face helmet. “Going around those turns, you can almost get sideways.”
Emerson is right. The trail begs you to push yourself farther than before. Hit everything you like, or keep your wheels on the ground and just go with it. The ride is meant for everyone.
“We've built a multi purpose trail here,” said trail designer Josh Hamill. “Parents can ride this with their children and everybody has a good time.”
Hamill visited other flow trails in Colorado to get ideas of what would fly at Purgatory, then partnered with local mountain biker and skilled excavator Grady James. “We just put our heads together,” he said.
With the support of Trails 2000, the local trail advocacy group that facilitates relationships with land managers like the San Juan National Forest and the backing of the ski area, dirt started flying in the summer of 2015. Three months of volunteer crews, overworked machines and hungry riders paid off.
During the weekend of Todd and Ned's Durango Dirt Fondo, where cross-country riders rode Durango's notorious singletrack that circumnavigated town, the flow trail opened for business. Looking around at hundreds of riders as they lined up at the lift, poured off the mountain and gathered at the base area, Hamill is already looking to the future.
“We've got a pretty awesome trail,” he said. “I think we're going to see some new things here.”
The lift turns from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday through September; $15 one chair or $40 all day.