Telluride is a magical town, like the tiny backdrop in a snow globe. A destination you remember for a lifetime and a ski town you hope to visit again and again. Located in Southwest Colorado, deep in the San Juan Mountains, Telluride is just far enough away from hubs like Denver and Salt Lake City that weekend warriors don't crowd the mountain, traffic doesn't exist, and the heart and soul of mountain culture is alive and well.
Imagine a place where you don't need a vehicle at all because the town is only eight by four blocks and has prime public transportation. A place where gondola rides are free, and the guy driving the shuttle is the most badass backcountry skier in town. Imagine a place where townie bikes have ski racks and Main Street has puppy parking; where you head out your front door on a powder day, walk to The Coffee Cowboy for a hot, spicy chai, and then onward to the lift. This is Telluride.
Unless you frequent Telluride on a holiday or top five powder day, expect to have the mountain to yourself. Be sure to hit the classics: The Plunge, Electra or Dynamo, Revelation Bowl, Black Iron Bowl, at least one of the Gold Hill Chutes, and if you have the stamina, Palmyra Peak. The Gold Hill lift is a skier's paradise with it's steep lines and good vert. The views from the top of Revelation Bowl are comparable to those in the Alps and classic backcountry lines, like San Joaquin, are close enough to tickle your pupil.
You'll need a good dose of fuel to ski a full day with all those empty lift lines. Be sure to hit Giuseppe's for the Black Bean Sauté and a Coors Light, notice the mountain range on the bottle is the same range to the west, the Wilson Mountain Range. When your legs give out for the day, take See Forever to Milk Run directly to Oak (the new Fat Alley) to get your hands on some casual BBQ and $5 beer. Oh you fancy, huh? Then grab a spot on the back deck at Over the Moon and impress yourself with a charcuterie platter of cheeses you can't pronounce and a flute of champagne.
Restaurants line main street, everything from Mexican (La Cocina de Luz) to American (Floradora) to pizza joints (Brown Dog). The Chop House and La Marmotte, upscale restaurants in Telluride, both have incredible bar specials that are not to be missed if you have extra cash in your pocket or happen to know the bartender. If you visit either, order a flatliner. It will give you a good buzz and keep your energy level high all night. Walk to the New Sheridan Bar, play a game of pool, chat with a local and buy them a drink. You won't be disappointed by the old mining town soul in this place. If you prefer a juke box to crackling fires, head to the Last Dollar Saloon, dance with a stranger and buy them a shot. Buying alcohol for locals will increase your chances of learning about the secret stashes, both inbounds and out. They might even agree to ski with you the following day.
Telluride has some awesome experiences off the resort as well, here are some options for your rest day or fun after skiing… 1. Rent a fat tire bike from Bootdoctor's on Main Street and ride to Telluride Brewing for a Face Down Brown or Tempter IPA. 2. Hit up Wagner Custom Skis for a factory tour in the world's only ski shop located in a trailer park. 3. Visit the History Museum to fill your noggin about everything you need to know regarding mining and hookers, yes hookers. They once ruled the south side of town and now have ski runs named after them. If rest days aren't your cup of tea, be sure to reserve a seat with Telluride Helitrax. As if the helicopter isn't reason enough, you'll experience helicopter skiing at some of the highest elevations in North America in exclusive terrain. They offer single day trips so you don't have to break the bank. And, if you really want to fit in, decide to stay for the rest of the winter and consequently the following summer.
If you blew all your cash on that charcuterie platter, or more likely, one too many rounds at the Last Dollar, both the Mountainside Inn and Victorian Inn have the best rates in town and unrivaled locations; close to town, close to the party. For those that work harder than they play, you can't go wrong with Hotel Telluride and Hotel Columbia in town or Hotel Madeline and Lumiere in Mountain Village, a quite sanctuary for early risers. And remember, there's a free gondola to transport you between the two which is open until midnight.
Most importantly, cherish your time in the high alpine, chat with locals on the chairlift and high five the lifties. It's all about fun and Telluride has that part figured out pretty darn well.
Marquee image: To-Hell-U-Ride…The road to Telluride ends in Box Canyon with one way in and out of town. PHOTO: Liam Doran