“Telluride is easily one of my most favourite places to ski, simply because it’s hard to match the steep exciting runs, the atmosphere of the historic town and the natural beauty that comes at you from every direction” says regular visitor & Snow Action Features Editor Bronwen Gora
It was early 90s the first time I rolled into Telluride. The town was still wild enough that a huge porcupine felt comfortable lumbering down the main street. There was ice and snow everywhere. Back then, it really felt like a long way from home, unlike the more popular places at the time like Breckenridge and Vail. Telluride’s modern mountain village was an idea in the making, and the gondola linking it to town wasn’t to open for a few years. Luxury log homes were only starting to spring up on the slopes.
Aspen-isation – at least on the celebrity side – peaked then ebbed all within a few years. Oprah Winfrey bought an on-slope mansion, Christie Brinkley and Billy Joel famously ended up in a heli ski accident and Tom Cruise built a mega home behind the airport. Film director Oliver Stone bought an entire mesa (that’s a whole hill top in American).
In the ensuing years I’ve watched Telluride grow. Each season the town, although under strict building laws, creeps a little further into the hill, or a new building pops up closer to the river. The mountain village though has more freedom to expand and has been growing like topsy. At night from the gondola its glittering lights resemble a large town instead of a tourism settlement.
Although Oprah and Oliver sold up long ago, Tom’s still around and Jerry Seinfeld retains a mansion nearby. But thankfully, despite all the development and hand wringing that went on in the early growth days, Telluride still retains a wild charm alongside its incredible natural beauty. And that’s what has made Australians Telluride’s number one overseas market despite the fact that it is not exactly the easiest or most inexpensive place to visit along with its quirky nature.
Telluride maintains the same funkiness that saw it become a hippie haven in the 70s and beyond. When the Grateful Dead rolled into town in the summer of 1987 followed by a bevy of fans many of the tie-dyed clad crowd liked what they saw and stayed. What the dead heads saw was the same thing that’s since drawn everyone else: a dramatic box canyon, surrounded by the steep snow capped peaks of the San Juans, flanked with extraordinary ochre rocks, and a magical wild west style town filled with gorgeous Victorian homes and buildings.
Telluride has definitely fashioned itself along the lines of an upscale resort with many lodgings and restaurants more suited to investment banker budgets than that of the every day skier. But it’s been careful to keep affordable condominiums and hotel packages in the mix, the Camel’s Garden among them and a real favourite with Australians who stay here in droves. It famously says on its flyer: “No hotel in the world is closer to a ski lift”. It’s a hard claim to dispute when it took less than 10 steps to reach Chair 8 from the door of our ground floor hotel room.
Which brings us to the skiing. Telluride has long had a well-deserved reputation for fierce slopes – super steep long bump runs that leave you breathless as best and thigh muscles beaten to a pulp at worst. Over the years though the resort’s developers have raced to provide enough intermediate and beginner runs to keep what forms the majority of snow riders happy. The result is a magic carpet ride of super smooth groomers starting with See Forever and winding down to the village runs under Lift 4 and across to the glorious Prospect Bowl, much of the terrain affording stunning views stretching all the way to Utah. New last year was the Bon Vivant Restaurant right in the middle of the intermediate area, atop the Polar Queen Express, Chair 5. In typical Telluride style this pit stop is done with flair, offering not just a café but also top tipples, superb crepes and deluxe hot chocolates (plus amenities more like five star hotel rooms). Another quirky feature is Colorado’s highest wine bar, Alpino Vino, which sits at 3647m just below Gold Hill. Aside from the wine you can enjoy the same fare here as a French bistro, plates heaving with delectable cheeses and antipasto. Or inhale pasta along with gulps of air at the nearby 3622m high Giuseppe’s cabin, and later listen to a live band over an après ski ale on the deck at the historic Gorrono Ranch right under the Village Express.
For the more adventurous there is more than enough above these runs to test your mettle. Gold Hill offers some serious chutes off to skier’s left, the sort of runs where at times you can only see a few turns ahead they’re so steep. Same goes for Black Iron Bowl, fabulous fun for expert skiers who want to head to the double black diamond La Rosa and Genevieve. And then there’s Chair 9 and it’s must-ski trifecta of sheer bump runs Kant-Mak-M, Stairs and Plunge. Looping these huge runs with a Mammoth or two in between deserves a beer in the Last Dollar Saloon below in town. Want some more? Jump into Mine Shaft or Jaws on the lower hill, but make sure you’ve got a buddy in case you come a cropper.
Telluride is easily one of my most favourite places to ski, simply because it’s hard to match the steep exciting runs, the atmosphere of the historic town and the natural beauty that comes at you from every direction. Returning every 12 months or more, it’s one of those places that is prettier than you recall, and while still a long way from Sydney, has easily slipped into the role of a home away from home.
Telluride [the ticket]
getting there Telluride 10 mins, Montrose 70 – 80 mins
to stay town – The Camels Garden Hotel camelsgarden.com
on mountain – Mountain Lodge MountainLodgeTelluride.com
to eat, apres The Cosmo ain’t cheap but it will be one of the best meals you’ve ever eaten. The Colorado lamb is to die for. The bar next door to Allred’s Restaurant inside the 3211m Station St Sophia (half way along the gondola) affords you one of the world’s prettiest alpine views from the rim of a wine glass.
stats snowfall 7.89m top lift 3,831m base 2659m vert 1172m terrain 810+ha • 41% adv/exp
• 36% int • 23% beg lifts 18 (2 gondolas, 7 express)