Unpretentious and remote, Telluride ski resort in Southwestern Colorado is located at the end of an imposingly narrow box canyon amid dramatic mountain backdrops, spectacular views and some of the world’s best ski terrain.
The opening of Palmyra Peak and Revelation Bowl make the attractive historic mining town of Telluride an increasingly popular ski destination. Telluride offers something for all-from beginner through to expert and non-skiers alike.
During the Gold Rush the gold and silver mining camp of Telluride once boasted more millionaires per capita than New York City. The town’s wealth attracted Butch Cassidy, who made his first bank heist here in 1889. Telluride eventually replaced its picks, shovels and hammers with skis, sticks and boots in 1972. Thirty plus years later Telluride is a one of the world’s premier ski destinations. With Victorian architecture cradled under majestic peaks, Telluride has stayed true to its historic mining roots and has a sense of authenticity rarely found elsewhere.
Of course history isn’t the only draw for this old mining town. Telluride also has some of North America’s best skiing and most beautiful scenery. A modern lift network and a lack of crowds means lots of time on Telluride’s famous ski slopes.
The opening of Prospect Bowl (which almost doubled Telluride’s skiable acreage) marked the beginning of a decade long renaissance at this remarkable Southwestern Colorado resort. Building upon the tremendous success of Prospect Bowl, the resort has continued to add lifts and expand expert terrain. Intermediate skiers will enjoy being able to ski most everywhere throughout the ski area, but advanced skiers and above are definitely be Telluride’s biggest fans.
The ski resort is split between two towns – Mountain Village and the town of Telluride. The two are connected by a free pedestrian gondola. Mountain Village is a modern planned unit development while Telluride is the historic downtown area. The town is home to the best restaurants and bars, while Mountain Village appeals more to families and those looking for a more luxurious experience.
Photo Credit: Telluride Resort
Located in the Uncompahgre National Forest, under towering 13,320 foot (4,060 m), Palmyra Peak, Telluride is truly one of the world's most beautiful destinations. Skiers and boarders really have ample space to enjoy themselves on the mountain and its corduroy, bowls, glades, trees and chutes, and world-class views. Telluride has recently added some of Colorado's best expert skiing. After just a short hike, skiers can access the Gold Hill Chutes, offering enjoy unparalleled scenery and steeps in the shadow of Palmyra Peak. For the slightly more adventurous (and fit) crowd, the hour and a half hike to Palmyra Peak itself is not to be missed.
Prospect Bowl links two sides of the mountain and bridges the gap between experts and novices. From serene to extreme, this inviting stash of intimate glades, open slopes and no lift lines has enhanced Telluride's charm as an "off the beaten path" destination. Of the 84 trails, 33 are for advanced and expert, 32 intermediate, and 19 beginner; and the mountain is naturally laid out, forcing runs to be segregated and preventing beginners from crossing over into expert terrain. The Telluride Ski Resort has 204 snowmaking acres (82 ha) located on most major lifts, with partial snowmaking on the other remaining lifts.
Telluride Gondola at Sunset (Photo Credit: Telluride Resort)
There are a total of 18 lifts at Telluride, which are capable of transporting 22,386 people per hour: two high-speed gondolas, seven high-speed quads, two triples, two doubles, one platter, two magic carpets, and one surface lift, plus a couple of T-bars. The lift system on the Telluride Ski Mountain has drastically changed within the last couple of years. Lifts 4 and 5, which used to be triple and double lifts, have been transformed into high-speed quads, and now three new high-speed detachable quad lifts operate on the open bowls and trails of Prospect Bowl. In the coming years it is hoped to add two more lifts in Prospect Bowl, plus an additional on-mountain restaurant. The lift system uses the latest hi-tech chip technology and operates from 8:45 am to 4:00 pm.
Regular season day rates (2010/11) are US$98 for adults, US$61 for children (6-12 years) while children aged five and under ski free. Seniors (65+) pay US$87. Adaptive passes (for physically and mentally challenged skiers) are US$31, and Nordic passes allowing two rides on Lift 10 cost US$20. Multi-day tickets are offered at reduced daily rates and can be purchased in advance at the two ticket offices in Telluride, one at the base of Coonskin Lift 7, another at the base of the gondola, and there are also two ticket offices in the Mountain Village, one in the Activity Center and the other in The Golden Door Spa at Wyndham Peaks Resort.
A green beginner trail at Telluride (Photo Credit: Telluride Resort)
Beginner skiers at Telluride have more limited options than some other Colorado resorts. The majority of the green runs are confined to near the Mountain Village base area or off the Sunshine Express Quad. Beginners cannot ski down into the town of Telluride, so if you’re a novice staying in Telluride (as opposed to Mountain Village) plan on uploading and downloading using the gondola.
Telluride’s learn to ski terrain is located near the Peaks Resort and serviced by a chondola (combination chairlift and gondola). The pedestrian streets of Mountain Village provide a welcome rampart against better skiers who would otherwise schuss down from above. These several gentle green slopes provide a great place to practice technique and improve skills before progressing on to more interesting green trails away from the village.
Moving beyond the chondola area, beginners can also take the Village Express Quad to ski the double green Village Bypass run. This is the main artery into Mountain Village and can be crowded at peak times. On the other side of Mountain Village, the Sunshine Express Quad whisks skiers almost 1,700’ up. The runs off the Sunshine lift were cut as much to service Telluride’s massive real estate development as for their merit as actual ski trails. However, runs like Galloping Goose and Bridges are long green trails that most novices will find enjoyable. The views of the multimillion dollar mansions isn’t bad either…These double green trails are long in distance, allowing for more skiing and less lift riding.
Atop the Sunshine lift, beginners will find a small set of very gentle trails serviced by the Ute lift. So long as a beginner is comfortable descending the double green trails back to the Sunshine lift, the Ute lift is a fantastic area to spend a little time. After a few runs on the Ute, beginners can slide down to the Prospect Express Quad from the top of the Ute lift. Here, a handful of long green trails slither gently below the breathtaking steeps of Black Iron Bowl and the Gold Hill Chutes. These trails are as high as a beginner can ascend the mountain and worth the trip for strong novices.
Photo Credit: Telluride Resort
Telluride has plenty of intermediate trails (38 percent of the terrain) and lift 5 is the perfect hideaway, offering a variety of rolling terrain, wide chutes with moderate pitches, and a handful of open tree runs. The longest and most challenging trail for intermediates is See Forever, which is three miles (5 km) long. It starts at the top of Gold Hill Mountain and stretches all the way down to the base of lift 4. The run affords intermediates sweeping views of the valley below, particularly near the top where the view into and below Revelation Bowl is in a word "breathtaking."
For the intermediate skier or snowboarder there is a lot of terrain to cover in order to get the true Telluride experience. For instance, all the Lift 4 and 5 trails are spectacular areas to hit. These two lifts primarily consist of double and single blues, but provide a variety of terrain. Misty Maiden on Lift 4 is known for its fabulous corduroy and speed, and Palmyra on Lift 5 is good for moguls. Also, Telluride's new Prospect Bowl has plenty of tailor-made trails-check out Magnolia and Sandia.
Photo Credit: Telluride Resort
For those wanting to enjoy Telluride's renowned steeps and bumps, Lifts 9 and 6 provide the advanced skier with plenty of thrills. These two lifts are an advanced skier's paradise on powder days. The Plunge, located on Lift 9, is the must-hit trail. This black diamond bump trail descending 3,140 vertical feet (958m) from the top of the Mountain into Telluride is like an "upside-down egg carton turned vertical", but the trail is made less formidable by split-grooming, which leaves one side of the trail bumped up, and the other half groomed.
Bushwacker, Mammoth, Joint Point, and the testing Kant-Mak-M and Spiral Stairs, also located on Lift 9, provide a variety of steep trails and moguls. Also, the thrills of the bumps and trees can easily be found on Lift 6, which is heaven for advanced skiers on powder days. Apex, located on Lift 6, is a great place to do some tree skiing while the aforementioned Plunge, located on Lift 9, is a great combination of bumps and corduroy.
For powder hounds in search of the "sweetest powder shots," Gold Hill is the place to go and find Colorado's renowned "Champagne Powder," and the terrain under the new Gold Hill Lift provides experts with steep chutes, open bowls and leg-burning bumps. Telluride also offers a variety of inbound hikes to expert terrain off Bald Mountain in Prospect Bowl.
If you're willing to hike an hour and a half, Palmyra Peak will reward you with some of the best in bounds terrain in the Rockies. Don't be lulled to sleep by the spectacular views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains the skiing from the peak is steep. Also due to both the narrow window of time the Palmyra Peak gate is open each day and the long hike which scares many away, the runs are usually only lightly tracked,
Black Iron Bowl offers the best "bang for your buck" when it comes to hike-to ski terrain at Telluride. Less steep and more open than Palmyra Peak or the Gold Hill Chutes, the terrain in Black Iron Bowl is only a 5-minute hike above the Prospect Express and offers a good introduction to Telluride "in bounds backcountry" terrain.
One of the best features of Telluride is its abundance of hike-to expert terrain. The ten Gold Hill Chutes, numbered #1-10 from left to right on the trail map in ascending order, offer a little bit of something for everyone. Take the Revelation Bowl list to the top and traverse over only a few hundred feet to the top of the Gold Hill Chutes. The shortest hike is to #1 and the longest hike is #10, so if you're looking for a quick drop in, plan on a lower numbered chute. Even for those in good cardiovascular condition, the hikes to the farther chutes can be an ordeal. At 13,000 feet, you'll be wishing you had pressed the incline button a few notches higher on your treadmill before you arrived.
Chute #1 is more of a cat-track pole than a hike. Stick to skier's left where a small cornice usually builds up.
Chutes #2-5 opened for the 2009-2010 season and are generally wider and less steep than their higher numbered neighbors farther uphill (i.e. a longer hike)
Chutes #6-10 (oddly enough the first of the Gold Hill terrain opened by the resort in the mid 2000's) are narrower and more technical than Chutes #2-5. In February 2010, the resort installed iron staircases to speed hikers' final ascent to Chute #10.
Chute #9 is Ultimate-Ski's favorite. While everyone is pulled in by the allure of the sexy European-esque stairs, stop at the bottom, where all the locals do. In addition to foregoing another ten minutes of climbing, Chute #9 is steeper, narrower and less skied (read: POWDER) than Chute #10.
For the ultimate backcountry experience, the San Juan Hut System beckons. It's a 45-mile (73-km) expanse of trails from Telluride to Ouray with intermediate and expert trails up and over the Sneffles Range. Guided trips are available for day-trips and longer. The huts provide shelter and overnight accommodation (padded bunks, wood-burning stoves, chopped wood and a kitchen) and are spaced every 6-9 miles (10-15 km). And if that isn't enough to challenge you, heli-skiing is also an option here. Helitrax-the only helicopter skiing in Colorado-will whisk you from Mountain Village to the secret stashes of the San Juan Mountains.
For snowboard and trick skier enthusiasts Telluride provides some of the best riding in Colorado. The Air Garden Terrain Park, the largest in the southwest United States, has more than 8 acres (3 ha) of terrain and 23 hits of berms, banks, tabletops and pyramids as well as new sliding rails. And there's Ute Park with its freestyle terrain with halfpipes and other features.
For free riders, Telluride's slopes are freeriding par excellence-check out the steeps, cliffs, and chutes on Gold Hill. A no-nonsense way up is to take Lifts 8 and 9 rather than the gondola, and then hike up to find your preferred chute, glade or open meadow. East and West Drain are two natural pipes with great tree riding.
All in all, Telluride is snowboard friendly, making it easy for snowboarders to cruise around and with only a few cat tracks, boarders do not usually have to worry about navigating long, flat areas. However, due to Prospect Bowl's natural, rolling terrain snowboarders may find it difficult to maintain speed in certain areas.
The European-inspired Alpino Vino (Photo Credit: Telluride Resort)
Telluride offers a variety of on-mountain restaurants and cuisine. Gorrono restaurant, located mid-mountain on Misty Maiden, is an historic ranch-style building that offers American favorites and barbecues on a huge, sunny deck with great views. Whether it is spending just a few minutes here to grab a quick bite or staying hours to soak up some sun on the deck, Gorrono is a big hit with locals and visitors alike. Be sure to checkout the converted smokehouse adjacent to Gorrono which is one of the funkiest and coolest on mountain bars anywhere in ski country. In the spring, the deck often hosts live music and sun-worshiping ski bums.
Big Billie's at the base of Lifts 1 and 10 also has American favorites, barbecues, and Southwestern fare. The Pizza Chalet offers pizza, salad, sandwiches, espresso drinks, and ice cream. Guiseppe's, located way up at 11, on the top of Lift 9, features quick Italian fare in a cozy setting.
For a more formal dining experience, Allred's offers haute cuisine and spectacular views to boot. At night, it becomes a glittering après-ski gem. Hop off at the mid-station of the gondola connecting Telluride and Mountain Village and enjoy fine cuisine, elegant mountain décor and some of the best elk in Colorado. And if you think we're kidding about the elk or have never sampled this local delicacy, try it. You won't be disappointed.
Don't miss Alpino Vino, the new European-style hütte, which offers fine wines, cheeses, soups, and fresh appetizer plates. If the sun is out be sure to take in the views on Alpino Vino's deck, constructed almost entirely of wine bottles. Take the Gold Hill Lift to See Forever Run for fastest access.
If you're in a hurry and looking for something quicker, try the High Camp Warming Hut at the top of the Prospect Express for a no frills lunch.
Downtown Telluride (Photo Credit: Telluride Resort)
The ski resort of Telluride is divided into two separate and distinct towns, Victorian-era Telluride and modern Mountain Village.
Just eight blocks wide and twelve blocks long, and at a base elevation of 8,750 feet (2,668 m), the town of Telluride offers visitors restaurants, bars, small stores and galleries, historic charm, and mountain spirit. Just over the ridge-via Station St. Sophia at 10,535 feet (4,027 m)-lies the Mountain Village at 9,540 feet (2,910 m), which is a 92-acre (37-ha) purpose-built condo-dominated alpine enclave with luxury hotels, stylish boutiques and a few, select eateries. You won't find fast-food outlets, strip malls and chain stores in either Telluride or Mountain Village, and there is no need for a car as everything is within walking distance.
The main town and the resort are connected by a free gondola-roughly a 13-minute up-and-over-ride - and it's open from 7:00 am to midnight. As well as fine restaurants, Mountain Village also has a bank, post office, a market, antiques, galleries, jewelry, and gift stores. Telluride's bed base is not large enough to create lift lines, and because Telluride is a destination resort, it is not bombarded by day traffic. Wide-open slopes and no lift lines are the norm.
Between them, the town of Telluride and the Mountain Village have approximately 60 restaurants and several of them, including The Cosmopolitan, Harmon's, Rustico Ristorante (for Italian wines), Campagna, and Allred's, are noted for their wine lists. Nestled on top of the mountain and accessible only by the gondola, Allred's gives diners spectacular views of the massive peaks that frame Telluride.
For the late-night younger set there's live music at Fly Me to the Moon Saloon, the only nightclub in town. The bars in Telluride and the Mountain Village close at 1:30 am.
The nightlife in Mountain Village tends to shut down a little earlier than in the village, but there are a few places worth frequenting. The Hop Garden serves up a variety of German beers in a relaxed atmosphere. With good beer, dart boards, and the best pretzels we've had anywhere, you might just find yourself spending more time here than you thought.
There are around 20 bars in Telluride, including the historic New Sheridan Bar and swank, hip Blue Point's Noir Bar.
There are around 20 bars and many more restaurants, and after a day on the slopes, locals and visitors can be found enjoying a late afternoon drink in many of Telluride's favorite après spots, such as The Wildflower or Leimgruber's for beer, or sipping a margarita at Swede Finn Hall.
After hours Telluride veers more to quiet sophistication and family-friendly restaurants. Cocktail hour at the historic New Sheridan Bar, with a turn-of-the-century hand-carved wood bar and a billiards room, has a great social atmosphere and is located on Main Street. A new cool venue is Blue Point's Noir Bar, a swank and hip martini bar, replete with leather sofas, faux fur bench seats, and leopard-print spotted carpets. For those who prefer a drink in a quiet and cozy place, Allred's and the New Sheridan Bar are also great hangouts.
The new Station Recreation in Telluride offers nighttime tubing in the Mountain Village. You can also take a spin around the ice or even join in a hockey or broomball game at the ice skating rink. Ice climbing, indoor climbing, Nordic skiing, and sleigh rides are available and there are snowmobiling, snowshoeing and dogsled tours too. If none of that appeal, or if you need to soothe those aches and pains, the resort has plenty of spas offering relaxing massage, saunas, and steam rooms-Condé Nast Traveler magazine put Telluride in its Top Five for pampering. For shopaholics, the variety of the stores is amazing for such a tucked-away resort and includes boutiques, clothing stores, sports stores, art galleries, and bookstores with coffee shops.
The best place to rent or buy ski equipment is Telluride Sport, with six locations between town and Mountain Village each providing ski and snowboard equipment. Easy Rider Sports and Slopestyle are must-stop shops for board enthusiasts, and Jagged Edge Mountain Gear, Paragon Ski & Sport and the Telluride Mountaineer all offer a variety of outdoor gear and equipment. Also, Boot Doctors is a great place for custom boot fitting, and rental ski equipment.