Skiing in Telluride



         Our trip to Telluride, Colorado was primarily a skiing trip, but it also provided the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the extraordinary panorama of the spectacular San Juan Mountains.   These mountains were originally named by the Spanish as they were crossing these lower Rocky Mountains trying to find their way to the Pacific Coast.   The trip had been planned by a friend who had arranged so many of our previous ski trips over the last twenty years, where we visited other major ski areas across this country and Europe.

            Lila’s brother and sister-in-law, Harry and Diane joined us for this vacation.  Lila and Diane are non-skiers, so they had time together investigating the town’s facilities, while Harry and I were able to enjoy the slopes.    Also, our friends, Pete and Sandy visited Telluride with us from their Colorado home, enabling  Pete the opportunity to ski this great mountain with me.             

The weather was unusually cold for Telluride.... minus four degrees in the morning when we would set out for the slopes... the nighttime temperatures dropped down to the minus single digits and daytime temperatures would rise to about twenty degrees.   Though the mornings were cold, as the sun came up and we skied hard, the weather was certainly quite tolerable.  And, then there was always the opportunity to duck into one of the nearby slope side restaurants for a cider, hot chocolate or some other form of warm nourishment.   

Telluride has one main street which included a hotel, stores and a number of restaurants which serve the visitor to this town as well as the locals.  There is a neat little coffee shop (not a Starbucks), where the locals gather every morning as well as many of the visitors to the town ....including me.   Though the town lives off its tourist trade, it remains a tight community that is proud of its heritage and small town environment. 


Al on the Slopes

Harry and Al

Diane, Sandy and Lila

Telluride's Main Street


History tells us that Telluride was not always as we would see it today...the town was settled by the Ute Indians, a nomadic tribe who made their summer camps along the San Miguel River. Later, the Spanish who made their way north through Mexico searching for an overland route to their landholdings on the Pacific coast, passed through the region, but apparently never stayed in this rugged high-altitude environment to put down roots in Telluride.   The discovery of gold in the middle 1800's finally put Colorado on the map.  Prospectors, who had flooded to the northern Rockies, headed south to this region to seek their fortune.  The discovery of gold in the San Juan Mountains introduced a whole new era for what up until then was a desolate mountain range. 

One of the first claims registered in Telluride, during this mining boom, was called the Sheridan Mine. The town of Columbia was thereby established in the Telluride valley in 1880, but then later renamed Telluride. This name was probably derived from tellurium (ironically, not found there), a nonmetallic element often associated with rich mineral deposits of gold. The other story, however,  is that the town was named for the famous send-off, “To-hell-u-ride!” given to fortune seekers heading to the mountainous region. 

With the arrival of the railroad in the late 1800's, the town flourished and Telluride’s population soared to 5,000. Many made the arduous journey over the Rockies and traveled south in search of wealth. Telluride became a melting pot of Finns, Swedes, Irish, Cornish, French, Italians, Germans and Chinese, all of whom were supported by mining. The town boasted all the amenities of a thriving community plus saloons, gambling and a much-heralded red-light district (I searched for that district every luck).  The wealth of Telluride attracted the likes of Butch Cassidy and his “Wild Bunch”, who began their brazen bank-robbing career at the San Miguel National Bank in 1889.   

Silver prices crashed, followed by the First World War which marked the end of Telluride’s mining boom.  Men left the mines to join the armed forces or work in war-related industries and by the 1960s, the place was barely more than a ghost town, and the population had dwindled to less than 600 residents.  Telluride was resurrected in the 1970s by another kind of gold—snow.  A small group of hopeful locals joined forces to create a ski area near the Gold Hill ridge.



Telluride from the Gondola


Today, the new ski resort reshaped the town’s economy, revived the Telluride community and essentially put Telluride back on the map. In 1978, a new vision included a mountain village along with a first-class ski area and a year-round destination resort.  Snowmaking equipment was installed, lifts were added and new terrain carved specifically for beginner skiers. In 1996, the Gondola purred into operation. This free transportation system, the first of its kind in North America, links the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village and has become one of the area’s most popular attractions. In 1998, the ski area opened an 800-vertical-foot terrain park and then the Prospect Bowl was added some years later.   

Telluride’s summer season includes a wide range of events and activities. As outdoor enthusiasts shaped Telluride’s winter scene, artists and culture lovers created a vibrant and diverse range of summer festivals, and Telluride has today evolved into a year-round resort.  It currently has a population of about 2000 people, half of what it was in its mining days, but the spirit of the Old West remains just as it did back in that era.  However, prices are very different today, with median homes prices costing well over one million dollars. 


Al and Pete in Telluride


As to my skiing prowess.....I provided this little bit of history because it is no doubt more interesting to you than my tales about how well I skied down these magnificent slopes, but I should at least try to impress you anyway.   I do not consider myself to be an expert skier, but then let me assure you that no one else considers me to be an expert skier.   But, without great form and grace, and without killing myself, I do ski down most any groomed slope ...especially those with snow on it.  And, Telluride offers some of the most wonderful skiing adventures with runs for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers.  

Together with the fabulous views of the San Juan Mountains the skiing experience at Telluride on such runs as “See Forever”, is unique.  But, even more so is the fact that there are “no” lift lines and only skiers can appreciate that reality.   Just consider being able to ski down through a vertical height of 3,000 or 4,000 feet and getting right back onto a hi-speed quad lift to do it once again...imagine no waiting...just great.   

One morning, Pete and I were skiing was snowing quite hard and we headed over to Prospect Bowl.  I think about that morning in the the bowl where we skied without seeing anyone else...Pete and I just going up and down the runs in the Bowl ...and, then we took a Puma lift to get out of the was desolate, it was beautiful and it was just there for the two of us to use....what a great day! 

During the trip, I had the pleasure of meeting someone on the lift early one morning, who asked me to ski along with him.   It was immediately apparent that Mark.... a far better skier that I was.... was quite familiar with Telluride.  Mark provided me with a tour of the slopes and introduced me to runs that I am sure I would not have experienced without his guidance and tutelage.  With the added opportunity for some great conversation, skiing with Mark was a terrific skiing experience.


Looking down at Mountain Village


The ski runs at Telluride are located between the town of Telluride and Mountain Village and then back into the Prospect Bowl, which was opened only just a few years ago.  Mountain Village was specifically designed to service the skiing community with resort hotels and some restaurants...and the town and Mountain Village are connected with a hi-speed Gondola run that is free for all to use. 

Most of the restaurants are found in town of Telluride rather than at Mountain Village, as are most of the facilities and accommodations for the winter and summer visitors.  Our hotel, The Victorian Inn, was ideally located to the downtown section of Telluride as well as near the Gondola that took us up to the ski slopes and/or Mountain Village.   Nice rooms, with a continental breakfast each morning and tea, hot chocolate, coffee and cookies available all day long...great service. 


Another great run


But, the best part of skiing Telluride is the absence of ski lines at the lifts, the seclusion of the runs in and amongst the most spectacular scenery imaginable.   Easily, Telluride is a ski resort that I would love to return to one day and enjoy the local hospitality, great scenery and the friendly slopes.


Great Mountains/Great Skiing