Tales From Telluride
In a world where the best ski mountains are becoming increasingly commercialized, Telluride, Colorado is a fresh breath of mountain air.
Technically, my first visit to Telluride was when my mom went snowmobiling while pregnant with me. Since then, I’ve been visiting with my family annually. Despite growing from relative obscurity to being one of the most desirable destinations in the U.S. over the past few decades, Telluride’s personality continues to remain the same.
Telluride’s Unique Personality
Maybe it has to do with the fact that there is scarcely a chain restaurant or shop to be found on the town’s Main Street. Or perhaps it correlates more to Telluride’s relatively out-of-the-way location in the southwestern corner of Colorado. And it probably has quite a bit to do with its position in the cradle of a box canyon, tucked away with only so much valley floor available to further develop.
Whatever the reason, Telluride feels like a vestige of the past. You can imagine the miners of old carousing in your stead at the historic bar on Main Street, the Last Dollar Saloon (or as the locals call it, the Buck). On the ski slopes, the hype feels just as high as it must have when the town’s first lifts were introduced in the 70’s.
The residents of Telluride have fought to preserve the soul of this town. My favorite story: In 2007, the town raised $50 million dollars to secure the Valley Floor as public space, swooping in on plans to develop the space with resort-like structures. As you drive into Telluride (on the only road into the town other than the precarious, high-altitude Imogene Pass), you’ll pass alongside the 550+ acres of untouched land, with only herds of elk or the occasional mountain biker in sight.
Small Town, Big Dining Scene
For such a small mountain town, Telluride hits well above its weight in terms of dining. You can’t go wrong starting your day with a donut (or something more substantial) at Baked in Telluride– a beloved establishment in the town since 1977. Even after an infamous fire in 2010 that reduced the red, tin-roofed building to ash, they rebuilt and continue to thrive.
After a long hike, there’s no better place to carb-load than Brown Dog Pizza. The National is home to the town’s buzziest cocktail scene. Cosmopolitan hosts an epic happy hour menu of sushi and, you guessed it, discounted cosmos. And no Telluride vacation is complete without an indulgent dinner at 221 South Oak, which offers a rotating seasonal menu bursting with creative, local flavors.
Just be careful what you pack up in your to-go box, as I once found myself caught one night with a bear in my driveway between me and the door to my house… and a box of takeout salmon in my hands.
Ski Season in Telluride
Telluride is constantly lauded for its ski mountain, and rightfully so. The slopes are extensive, with something for everyone. The Mountain Village side of the mountain features mostly green and blue cruisers, perfect for beginners, while the Telluride side mostly consists of technical black diamonds. To top it all off, the lift lines are short and the snow is notoriously good.
During the winter, the dining options only increase with the opening of the mountainside, apres ski haunts. Nosh on charcuterie and chilled rose at Alpino Vino in a cozy setting with a distinct Swiss Alps atmosphere. And don’t you dare leave the mountain without sampling the pastry-encrusted bowl of mushroom soup at Bon Vivant (alongside a spiked hot chocolate, perhaps). Pro tip: ask to add braised brisket to the soup!
Adventures in Telluride (Other Than Skiing)
When the snow melts, Telluride’s activities only increase. Plan your trip around one of the many acclaimed festivals, such as the Film Festival or Blues and Brews Festival.
Hiking, mountain biking or rafting down the San Miguel River are just a few ideas to get you started as you explore the beautiful San Juan Mountains. Challenge yourself by summiting a 14er like Mount Sneffels or cruise up the popular five-mile out and back trail to Bear Creek Falls. Enjoy the therapeutic babble of the river while fly-fishing or enjoy the roar of the rapids while white water rafting.
For the adventure-seekers, there are plenty of thrills to be found in the surrounding mountains. Not for the faint of heart, Telluride’s Via Ferrata will have you clinging to metal staples on the side of a 500-foot cliff. On a Jeep trip up Imogene Pass (the highest mountain pass in the San Juan mountains), you’ll be sweating some of the tight turns and steep drop-offs, but the access to Telluride’s defunct Tomboy Mine and ghost town at the top makes it more than worth it.
By Mary Cate Long, All Roads North Marketing Manager and lifelong Telluride visitor