Steeped in a romantic, yet tragic past, Telluride is a town that retains its historic buildings amid a dramatic backdrop of the San Juan Mountains. Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank here, and apparently forgot to do the research first. Telluride is set in a box canyon, meaning there is one way to come in and only one way to go out! In the early days, it was filled with miners from cold countries like Finland, Sweden, and Croatia in search of gold and the mineral tellurium. Women were brought in for prostitution and you can see the original brothels on Pacific Street, dubbed “popcorn alley” because the doors opened and closed so fast it sounded like popcorn! (Those miners were not very passionate!) The men brought flat wooden planks called skis and flew down the steep mountain. Suicide was high among miners and prostitutes, as the mining wasn’t as lucrative as reported, and as the women got older they couldn’t make a living in the cold climate. If that didn’t kill you, then a mining accident or a snow slide would!
All that changed when Billy Mahoney had a vision of a ski area in the 1970’s that helped transform Telluride into a town full of art galleries, restaurants, and fancy shops. I learned all this from the Telluride Historical Museum which I highly recommend. The houses are all Victorian, the building and painting code is strict, but you might be surprised at how vibrant the Victorian era was by the brightly painted houses. Chain stores and restaurants are not allowed here.
I flew United Airlines from LGA in NYC to Denver and then took a Turboprop to Montrose, Colorado where I hopped on the van to Telluride. The ride was as colorful as our driver – Pete “Roma” Waldor, who also runs a fly fishing and 4×4 tour company in the summer. He pointed out Ralph Lauren’s fence at the edge of his million acre ranch, and told us that it was made with the wrong side out for “aesthetic” reasons. If it was built that way for cows, the slats would be pushed out by the cattle. The snaking road made me a little car sick but I slowly acclimated to the 10,000 ft elevation which is the base altitude of Telluride Mountain. The peak is almost 14,000 and it was suggested that the next time I get a prescription of Diomax because I am so affected by altitude.
Skiing at the Resort
Forget bringing your skis; rent them at Neve Sports where I got K2 “Lottaluv’s” premium skis, boots, poles and a seriously important helmet for $64 per day. Telluride is hands down, the best resort I have ever skied. Sure, the ticket is expensive ($98) but it is totally worth it. The views are incredible, 360 degrees of mountains and open terrain, totally different than skiing in the east; it should really have a special name. I was skiing at the end of February, and there was only a dusting of powder, but the mountain is meticulously groomed, and I doubt if there is ever much ice. Corduroy to deep powder, and a complimentary mountain tour every morning at 10 for intermediate to advanced skiers from the top of Lift 7. There are great places to have lunch on the mountain like Gorrono Ranch, a former sheep station turned casual dining lodge, and also offers free chair massage! The outside has tables, lots of sun, and live music. The wine bar – Alpino Vino, can be accessed by snow cat for dinner or ski in and out for lunch, but watch the wine! High altitude makes the alcohol hit the brain faster and more intensely. For high-end dining (yet casual, you never have to bring anything more than your jeans) we went to Allred’s at the mid point of the Gondola. Named Allred’s after the founder of the all important free Gondola, which connects the town of Telluride to the ski area and Mountain Village. The fare is new American, the flavors are intense, and the views to die for!
On my first morning at the resort, I had a ski lesson. Private lessons start at $320, but a group which could be as little as two people is $75 for two hours. It helped me get my bearings and since I had learned to ski in the 60’s, I now need to relearn the new techniques which are completely the opposite of everything I had been taught. Skis apart, poles dragging! Weird! My instructor was Jeff Winship, and right off the bat, I called him Jeff Bridges. He looked like Bridges from the movie “Crazy Heart”, and he laughed because he said he has taught his daughters. Telluride has that mixture of gritty history and celebrity status, but I am sure nobody bothers the celebs while they are here. Everybody is having too much of a good time and feeling like a celebrity themselves! Did I mention the longest run, Galloping Goose, is 4.6 miles long? We are not in Vermont anymore!
The night life: We had cocktails at the New Sheridan Hotel, a newly renovated historic hotel that retains its original integrity. The bar is lots of fun, filled with local color. Dinner that night was at Rustico where we enjoyed an Italian feast with owner- Paolo, pairing a different wine with every course. Afterwards, we went to the Bubble Bar, where I was the only one to partake in colorful, flavored Oxygen. I did feel quite nauseous and felt like a 200 lb octogenarian every time I climbed the stairs. The oxygen relieved the nauseous feeling and I had a nice buzz afterward! (But I was relaxed and my head was clear – strange!) I am now an oxygen fanatic!
The free Gondola from the town of Telluride to Mountain Village runs every day from morning until 12 pm. After midnight, you turn into a pumpkin or have to take the taxi back to Mountain Village. It is a fantastic service and the best way to get to and from the two places. If you are afraid of heights, it is a bit frightening on the way down! At the mid point, you can get off at Allred’s restaurant for a wonderful meal or drink at the bar with infinite views .
Mountain Village has a totally different vibe than the town of Telluride. It is “new mountain chic” as everything has been created in the last twenty years. Hotel Madeline, formerly Capella Telluride, was relaxed luxury. The lobby is a rustic, yet elegant Colorado Lodge, with friendly reception people, and a candy bar, indicating it was child friendly. My room had a long hallway to a mammoth bathroom with a tub for two and a tumbled limestone shower. The hallway continued to the bedroom, which was small, yet had a California King bed with down comforter, feather bed, down pillows, and white cotton Italian Pratessi sheets. It faced a tall bureau with a large flat screen TV and complimentary soft drinks fridge. I did wish there was a door attached to the hallway, I think it would have been cozier. The view was of the mountains. On the second floor of the hotel is a slate patio with recessed pool and hot tub. The greatest thing about being in Mountain Village is that it is a short walk to the first chair lift and instantly, you are the mountain! Their spa – Linnea, is where I had my first Oxygen treatment, and relaxed in the steam room afterward. The hiker’s heaven massage is $125 for 50 min.
Still up on Mountain Village, I checked out Colorado’s largest spa at The Peaks Resort. I had a massage with Marissa who was spiritual and healing. Beforehand, I had a soak in their rock hot tub and time in their large sauna. They also have oxygen treatments and an enormous pool with waterslide. Their restaurant – Palmyra, is named after the Palmyra peaks and has floor to ceiling glass walls with amazing views. Lunch of grilled shrimp Caprese salad was delicious and there is live music most sunny afternoons on their large deck. Après ski is quite a popular pastime in Telluride!
NOTE: This trip was sponsored in part by Visit Telluride.