Skiing in Telluride

Telluride virtually doubled its size with the opening of Prospect Bowl, an inviting stash of intimate glades, open slopes and no lift lines.

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Photo Credit: Telluride Resort

Telluride Ski Area Overview

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.

Beginner Skiing at Telluride

The main beginners’ area at Telluride is Meadows, served by its own chondola, which first-time skiers and young children will find much easier than chairlifts or T-bars.

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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.

Intermediate Skiing at Telluride

Telluride’s intermediate skiing is top notch. Intermediates have a lot of terrain to cover to get the true Telluride skiing experience, including the new Prospect Bowl.

Telluride Intermediate Skiing 660X280

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.

Advanced & Expert Skiing at Telluride

The expert skiing experience in Telluride is amongst the best in Colorado. The Plunge, an “upside-down egg carton turned vertical”, is a must-hit mogul trail. The 10 narrow hike-to Gold Hill Chutes offer a world class off-piste experience.

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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.

Palmyra Peak

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

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.

Gold Hill Chutes

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.

Backcountry Skiing in The San Juan Hut System

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.

Boarding & Freestyle at Telluride

For snowboarders Telluride offers the huge Air Garden Terrain Park; freeriders can find steeps, cliffs, and chutes on Gold Hill.

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.

Mountain Restaurants at Telluride 

From the historic ranch-style Gorrono restaurant, complete with huge sun deck, to haute cuisine Allred’s, Telluride offers a good choice of mountain restaurants.

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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.


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