Chapman, you had me at mach 70.
It was Snowdown, 1995 (Durango, Colorado’s annual winter carnival), and my friends and I were out reveling well past closing time. Someone had the amazingly (stupid) idea to go sledding under the full moon. Of course I was intrigued; it was, after all, about zero degrees, 2-plus a.m. And well I had never actually luge-d before. We walked to Chapman from downtown Durango with two vinyl mats “borrowed” from the PT office that my buddy worked in.
We hiked up the far right side of Chapman (the steep side), and proceeded to set a new land-speed, late-night descent record, probably still in tact in La Plata County, Colo.
During winter, I get to re-live that memory three nights a week as I watch my son in his freestyle ski team practices, wishing that he’d make a turn every now and then. …
Everyone in Durango has memories imprinted from our beloved Chapman, our Town Hill. It’s our meeting spot for many rides, runs and hikes. It’s ground zero for our town’s crazy hockey obsession, with the ice rink right at the base. Chapman Hill has served as the start and finish to world-cup mountain bike races as well over the past 20-plus years.
Chapman serves as a sort of lifeline; a point of critical access for the many outdoor-recreation obsessed Durangoans. Purg (we still call it this even though it’s officially Durango Mountain Resort) is 35 minutes north of town. Telluride and Wolf Creek? Both are nearly two hours in either direction in winter. Chapman Hill represents accessibility to our beloved outdoor sports – year round.
As such, it’s a point of commonality to our community – no matter what sort of sport you’re into or what circle of friends you run in, Chapman Hill serves as a common meeting place.
It is the ultimate park-and-play spot for the many recreation-obsessed Durangoans. Morning, noon and night, you’ll find us hiking up or racing down that hill, playing hockey or wrecking shop in roller derby. You’d be hard pressed to find a kid in Durango who hasn’t had a birthday party at Chapman.
Thankfully the City of Durango has invested in this true gem, a fulcrum to our community.
Just a few years ago, the City of Durango installed an updated rope tow and even more recently, snow making and grooming. Not a single resident I know of questioned the City’s investment of our tax dollars in Chapman for our in-town recreation.
The City will soon be building a bike park at the base, thanks to our national-caliber junior-development mountain bike program, DEVO (which begins many rides right at the base of Chapman).
Countless Durango residents have learned to ski or ride on Chapman Hill. I asked a few lifers about how it was to learn at Chapman. Many remembered burning through multiple pair of ski gloves thanks to the rope tow. More noted surprisingly frequent pow stashes and noted several nice pitches, learning with their friends, sledding with their families.
Chapman Hill might be pretty small in terms of its vertical, but it’s incredibly powerful in its ability to forge happy memories for Durangoans of all ages.
Photos courtesy of Scott Smith.