Skiing at Telluride
By: Kent Jensen
Telluride, Colorado is known as a skier’s mountain. For me, Telluride transformed from an expensive mountainside resort into a place to which I had to return and explore further the moment I was standing at the top of Lift 12. I was peering down at the ghost town of Alta under the awe-striking teeth of Palmyra’s ridgeline. Tom, a local, retold bits of Telluride’s scrappy history, giving this grand landscape more than raw, commanding beauty, but a genuine Wild West birth. The context of struggling migrants, tycoons and outlaws fill this town’s history. Telluride’s story engaged me like no other ski area has.
Born of the Colorado Gold Rush and exploited for every ounce of gold they could find, miners eventually saw the end looming and in 1972 locals opened the first ski runs while mining held on until 1978. Since then the only goldmine around has been the snow blanketing the mountains. The town site, named a National Historic Monument, actively preserves its Victorian architecture, creating a bit of living history. Framed in the Wild West, every shop in town is locally owned, no franchises or corporate conglomerates – a refreshing break from cookie cutter urban sprawl.
Telluride is literally surrounded on every side by some of the most spectacular vistas – four 14,000 ft and countless 13,000 ft peaks within sight from Lift 12 alone. Furthermore, Lift 12 accesses expert, blue and green runs in the same drainage, funneling you down to the same meeting point, so that a family could enjoy varying terrain and still ride the lift up together. Although it has family friendly runs (over 60%), Telluride is renowned for its advanced terrain that can be seen dropping precipitously from the surrounding mountain cirques. Telluride has aggressively worked to incorporate large tracts of formerly off-limits expert terrain over the last few years. The result: safe couloirs and chutes every few hundred feet circling 270 degrees around the Black Iron Bowl. Because of this terrain, I had fresh turns on Gold Hill Chute #9 even four days after the last snow fall.
When the slopes made us hungry, we decided to sample the mountain top Alpino Vino for a ski-in lunch. We were met by a garden vegetable panzenella, roasted tomatoes hidden in a grilled cheese, asking to be dipped in gorgonzola tomato soup – mmmm. It’s fine dining in a faux Alpen mountain chalet. Another Telluride local favorite is La Cocina De Luz – a garden fresh Mexican experience. After a few days in Telluride we concluded that you don’t have to worry about finding a hot tip on the best food in town – every restaurant will thrill your taste buds. I would venture to say that it’s difficult for your palate to be disappointed here, the bar is set so high, that for a restaurant to survive, mediocrity is not an option.
After working our legs to jelly, a couple’s Mountain Salvation Massage at the Peaks Resort and Spa made my wife and I forget that we’d ever even been in ski boots that day and I learned that nearly constant chatter with the masseuse about the theory of reflexology severely tainted my wife’s experience. Her conception of a perfect couple’s massage consisted of us shrouded in the quiet vicissitudes of ocean waves and Enya music – it’s a good thing the Peaks’ masseuses have magical hands that even I can’t ruin.
You must understand – Telluride doesn’t compete for the low-cost, budget ski destination awards. And therefore, it admittedly carries a healthy price tag – don’t stop reading, it really is worth it. That being said, here are a few tips to help. Active duty military get a generous and rare 30% off at the Mountain Lodge (call for details) and 10 % at The Peaks (even in conjunction with other packages or specials). If you decide on a room with a kitchenette to cook your own meals and save, plan to stop at a grocery store outside the area or at least downtown Telluride while driving in – grocery prices at the Mountain Village grocery store will cost nearly the same as eating out. Telluride Ski Resort offers the T card, which gives 25% off lift tickets for the season, to active duty military year round – other people can only get it before Oct 31st or at key events.
In short, Telluride pairs world-class skiing and backcountry access with luxury accommodations, fine dining and cultural events like the Telluride Blues Festival (June), Telluride Film Festival (Sept) and the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival (Sept). This place of adventure dreams may cost a little more, but what you get is undoubtedly worth it. Definitely check it out, for you may realize that you can’t wait another season before you experience one of North America’s most idyllic mountain resorts.
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