“Hard to get to and harder to leave” is how many skiers describe the incredibly charming town of Telluride, high in the San Juan Mountains and set apart from Colorado’s other major resorts, thanks to its location in the Southwestern part of the state (the Four Corners region near the Utah, New Mexico and Arizona borders). If you haven’t visited recently you might be surprised because major changes have been afoot here and even the old slogan is growing stale as Telluride becomes increasingly easy to get to, but it’s still painfully hard to depart.
The mountain changed hands a decade ago and since has embarked on a massive terrain expansion. Telluride was always known for incredible mogul skiing, maybe the nation’s best, with long steep double black bump runs all the way down to the streets of town. But numerous additions in the past 10 years have made it perhaps the most perfectly balanced ski resort in the country, with not just something for all abilities but plenty for every ability. Most resorts skew toward experts (Jackson Hole, Squaw Valley, Taos) or beginners and intermediates (Beaver Creek, Deer Valley, Okemo); but Telluride does it all — there is an entire section just for advanced intermediates that’s full of double blues, something you won’t find many places. Black Iron Bowl and Palmyra Peak were opened during this initiative giving Telluride hike-to terrain as challenging as you will find anyplace, while Revelation Bowl, also part of the expansion, sits off the backside (similar to Vail’s back bowls), and is full of wide-open single black powder shots. For this winter, the big on-mountain news is the completion of resort-wide snowmaking upgrades and expansion, which will enhance early season conditions, opening more terrain earlier. In addition, all of Telluride’s terrain parks have been completely overhauled, expanded and modernized for this season.
But when you’re heading to a top-notch ski town such as Telluride, you’re going to want a place to rest and fuel up before and after hitting the slopes. Luckily, there are some upgrades in these categories as well.
Hotel Madeline Telluride (formerly a Capella property) is a ski-in/ski-out, luxury boutique hotel in Mountain Village that is unveiling many changes this season. The Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel added 12 all-new queen guest rooms, and updated all its suites and condos with new HDTVs and sound systems. The lobby was redone with a new “arrival experience,” an entrance flanked by fire pits, along with a new public art collection and a few new retail outlets, including Telluride Truffles, Paladin (an upscale furniture and décor shop), the town’s first Starbucks — if you consider that a good thing — and, in a village full of condos and condo-like hotels, a much-needed gourmet food and wine store. The hotel’s hipster and very popular SMAK bar, famous for putting a slider on a toothpick in its Bloody Mary, has expanded its always-crowded outdoor seating area.
Inn at Lost Creek has long been one of skiing’s top luxury hotels, but this year TelSki (the owner and operator of Telluride Ski Resort) bought it and will begin making some subtle changes in addition to offering some more user-friendly ski vacation packages. The very Coloradoan boutique hotel is ski-in/ski-out with ski valet and large suites and condos, many with kitchenettes and steam showers. The hotel now contains Telluride’s newest restaurant, Siam’s Talay Grille. Its owner, Jeff Badger, operates popular sister eatery Siam, with a focus on Thai seafood and fresh fish, down in the town of Telluride; but this new spinoff brings some much needed culinary diversity to pedestrianized Mountain Village up on the slopes.
In other food news, pizza fans (and really, who isn’t?) should absolutely not miss the unique Detroit-style pizza at the town’s Brown Dog Pizza (they also deliver). Brown Dog has been serving fairly ordinary pizza for almost a decade, but its Michigan-centric owner, Jeff “Smoke” Smokevitch only added the pan-cooked-but-not-quite-deep-dish Detroit-style option the winter before last and hit it out of the ballpark — this is some of the most unique and delicious pizza you will find anywhere, let alone at a ski resort. Another hidden gem is the extensive selection of rare and small edition bourbons at Oak, The New Fat Alley, Telluride’s surprisingly excellent barbecue eatery, which used to be Fat Alley BBQ but moved to a much more prominent slopeside location, still with the same owner and great ribs.
We mentioned Telluride was getting easier to reach, thanks to several new flights debuting this season — including new, twice-weekly service (beginning on December 21) to Montrose on Allegiant Air from Los Angeles, starting at just $80 each way. There are increases to already scheduled air service from Chicago (United) and Atlanta (Delta), and additional Saturday flights from Dallas (American), which already offers daily non-stops. Most visitors opt to fly into Montrose, about an hour away (shuttle service widely available) because it takes large planes (it also has non-stop service from Denver, Newark and Houston) and is much more reliable in spotty weather. But Telluride has its own very convenient if somewhat weather-erratic small airport, the highest commercial airport in the nation at more than 9,000 feet above sea level, mainly for private planes but with several connecting flights to Denver daily on Great Lakes Airlines.
Photos Courtesy of Telluride Ski Resort and Hotel Madeline Telluride