Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame
Ray Duncan first arrived in the town of Durango in 1958 with the hope of promoting the family oil business, but Ray would leave a different and lasting mark on the Durango community, the sport of skiing. People had been skiing in Durango for years on small local hills like Chipmunk Hill or Chapman Hill, but this would soon change when Ray met Forest Service ranger, Chet Anderson.
Ray and Chet worked together with junior ski racing programs in Durango during the 1963-64 ski season. One day on a long road trip back from Crested Butte, Ray commented to Chet : “Isn’t it too bad that we don’t have a big mountain to train on.” Chet was quick to respond that there was such a mountain close to Durango. Soon he introduced Ray to a potential winter sports site/ ski area close to town.
Encouraged by what he saw, Ray quickly went to work. Ray met with local land owners to secure access to the ski area by purchasing private land for the base area. Through the formation of the San Juan Development Company, Ray gained the local support of Durango’s civic leaders and began raising the necessary funds for the project. Filing paper work and securing numerous Forest Service permits was another key piece to the development of the ski area. Despite a rainy summer and fall, trails were cut at a feverish pace and lifts were installed.
Ray’s hard work and determination would pay off. The Durango Ski Corporation was born and Purgatory Ski Resort opened on January 20, 1966. The official Grand Opening was met with a great deal of fanfare and excitement. Governor John Love and his wife christened Purgatory’s Lift #1 with a bottle of Champagne and Purgatory was on its’ way. For his efforts, Ray was named Man of the Year by the Durango Chamber of Commerce in 1966. For over 35 years Ray Duncan and his family remained active in the management and growth of the Purgatory Ski area.
Ray also played a vital role in Colorado Ski Country, serving as chairman of the board in 1972-1973. With his savvy business sense, Ray proved to be a valuable asset to the organization. Ray’s vision and commitment to the Durango community helped pave the way for the development and growth of skiing in South West Colorado.