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5 Great Reasons to Ski Telluride this Winter

Telluride Ski & Golf Resort
Larry Olmsted Senior Contributor | ForbesLife
Town of Telluride in Winter
With a charming town and awesome mountain, Telluride is one of the world's great ski destinations. VISIT TELLURIDE
Two years ago I wrote a feature here at Forbes about why Colorado’s Telluride is one of the world’s best ski and snowboard resorts, and having been to just about every major destination ski resort in the country, it’s tied only with Jackson Hole atop my personal best list.
But now it is even better.
To summarize, Telluride’s two main strengths are its ski terrain and towns. I say towns, because unlike almost any other resort, the ski mountain links two distinct ones, Telluride proper at the bottom, a charming, authentic, Old West flavored 19th century mining town, and Mountain Village up on the slopes, a modern, pedestrianized ski resort village in the style of Beaver Creek. You can stay, eat, drink, shop or live in either, and both are fully connected to the slopes, ski-in/ski-out. They are also directly connected to each other by a free gondola running well into the after dinner hours, extremely novel public transportation.
This choice of two “municipalities” is unusual in skiing, but so is the skiing itself. Telluride Ski Resort has what I believe to be the best selection of terrain for every ability of any U.S. resort. Some major mountains are weak in beginner terrain (Aspen, Jackson, etc.), some in expert/extreme (Vail), but here there is plenty of green, blue, and black for everyone, But on top of this, there is also a wealth of double blue terrain, great news for a huge but generally under-served ski and snowboard audience - advanced intermediates. There’s also a ton of double black expert terrain, but beyond this, a lot of double black EX - extreme - runs, and the small but devoted percentage of skiers who seek out mountains like Jackson, Squaw Valley, Crested Butte and Big Sky for ultra-steeps, cliffs and chutes will be right at home here.
Couple Skiing
Great skiing and snowboarding for every ability is Telluride's strength. VISIT TELLURIDE
As I said, I’ve never seen such a perfect dispersion of options for all abilities, as well as all tastes: trees, bowls, in-bound hike to, out of bounds lift served sidecountry, long groomers and of course, bumps, the area in which Telluride is perhaps the very best American ski resort. For this season they added 44-acres of north-facing expert glades. Yet despite this almost embarrassing wealth of terrain and variety, the very large mountain is well laid out and extremely easy to navigate - you can often get from one end to the other with a single run and lift ride. As an added bonus, just about every lift, no matter how high or daunting, serves at least one groomed intermediate trail, so it’s virtually impossible to get into the wrong place or over your head.
So that’s the Telluride advantage in a nutshell, two great towns, one great ski area. But there are other compelling reasons - some of them very new - to choose Telluride. Here are five of them (for more info see the town’s excellent official tourism site).
Denver Air Connection jet in flight
New this winter, Denver Air Connection (and United) makes it easier than ever to ski Telluride!
1. Easier to Get To Than Ever: After years without decent commercial service into Telluride’s uber-convenient yet weather challenged airport (the last time I was able to fly directly there was on now extinct US Airways), jet flights have resumed, courtesy of Denver Air Connection. These are sold through United with baggage sharing, and since Denver is a major international United hub, you can now fly one-stop right to Telluride from most major cities in the country and many throughout the world. The 40-minute flight to Telluride followed by a 10-minute ride to town makes it one of the smoothest commutes in skiing. If weather shuts the airport down, DAC automatically reroutes to Montrose, the airport you would otherwise fly to anyway, and adds ground shuttle, so you are still protected.
Beyond that, flights on all the major airlines into Telluride’s main gateway, Montrose, CO, less than 90-minutes away, have increased significantly, and you can fly non-stop from lots of cities, as far flung as Newark. American added a weekly flight from LaGuardia and increased capacity from its Dallas hub by 27%. Both American and United increased service from Chicago O’Hare and Delta expanded its non-stops from its Atlanta hub by 33%. Overall there are 15 different non-stops to Montrose from 11 major US airports. With easy connecting shuttle services, Telluride, long lamented to be “hard to get to,” is now faster to reach from a lot of big cities than many of the big Denver-served Colorado ski resorts.
The rooftop pool at The Madeline Hotel
The rooftop pool at The Madeline Hotel (an Auberge Resort) is one of the hot spots in Telluride's Mountain Village. TONY DEMIN
2. Mountain Village Improvements: Widely considered Telluride’s top full-service luxury hotel, The Madeline was taken over by prestigious Auberge Resorts two years ago, has already improved, including revamped dining, and is undergoing a major renovation including the common areas and all rooms. Some rooms have been done, and the whole thing will be finished by next season. The Madeline is a centrally located Mountain Village ski-in/ski-out resort.
One of my very favorite Telluride hotels has long been the 18-suite boutique Lumiere, a luxury residential property with European flair and sumptuous apartments in Mountain Village. But last winter Lumiere partnered with luxury destination club Inspirato, undertaking a top of bottom renovation including every unit, with brand-new appliances and furnishings. Now known as Lumiere by Inspirato, it’s still open to the public and residences feature gourmet commercial-style kitchens, dining rooms, gas fireplaces, decks, laundry rooms and oversized bathrooms with soaking tubs and steam showers.
A very notable addition for this winter is the bar and retail shop for Telluride Distilling (the actual distillery is offsite), which produces the most awarded artisanal schnapps in the world, as well as a full range of gin, vodka, whiskey and a surprisingly good tequila-like agave spirit. But the real wow factor here is the prices, with signature cocktails from $5 all the time, plus a great ambiance that has instantly made it THE place for après in Mountain Village, so it is always hopping. Equally importantly, its owner helped transform Mountain Village into a legal “common consumption” street party, and with various events, live music and such, it has a great afternoon/evening scene.
The National Restaurant
The National is the latest addition to Telluride's dining scene - and instantly popular. VISIT TELLURIDE
3. Food!: Telluride was already one of the very best food ski towns in the country, but it keeps getting better. Where it has long excelled is at comfort food - while every major ski resort has some good fine dining choices, people on a budget or looking for simpler fare are often forced to settle. Not here. Brown Dog Pizza is THE best ski resort pizzeria in the country, period, Oak is probably THE best ski resort barbecue/Southern restaurant in the country, Tacos del Gnar is probably THE best ski resort taqueria in the country, and Steamie’s won Best Burger in Colorado. That’s an unbelievable slate of value-focused causal choices.
But the fine dining scene is also impressive - and expanding. 221 South Oak is the town’s flagship, run by cookbook author and former Top Chef star Eliza Gavin, and besides great food she now teaches a 12-course instructional cooking demo with wine pairing just about every Friday (sometimes Thursday) during ski season. I’ve seen nothing rivaling this at any other resort, you sit and learn cooking tips without lifting a finger, eat great food, and drink great wines, but be prepared to call in sick to skiing as it starts at 11 AM and it’s hard to move afterwards. A food lover’s must!
Most recently, Telluride welcomed an all new fine dining eatery that has proven incredibly popular (i.e., make advance reservations). The National combines great food with an impressive wine list and craft cocktails, featuring lots of small plate grazing options. Like most of Telluride’s best eateries it is small and intimate, and the town is full of these hidden gems, with other can’t-miss choices include cocktail centric SideWork, the New Sheridan Chophouse, and Alpino Vino - an on-mountain eatery that is one of the best replications of European ski dining in the U.S.
Telluride is one of the rare ski resorts with an onsite daily heliski operator, Helitrax. TELLURIDE SKI RESORT
4. Beyond the Resort: Telluride is one of just a handful of ski areas in this country offering onsite daily heliskiing, through respected operator Helitrax, which has been at it for almost four decades. Unlike remote lodge-based trips, where you invest a ton of money and then put yourself at the mercy of the weather with little or no backup for not uncommon cancellations, with day operations if the weather is bad, you just bump a day and still go skiing. I’m a big fan of the onsite concept, but even among its few peers (Jackson, Sun Valley, Snowbird/Park City) there are some advantages here. It’s super convenient, located right in Mountain Village, with no shuttle ride to the helipad. The staff are pros, equipment first rate (I’ve done it), but most unusually, Heltirax and the ski resort offer a unique package for first time heliskiers who are often nervous. These 3-day Heli-Camps feature two days of resort skiing with an experienced ski instructor who focuses on the skills you’ll need, and then he or she accompanies you out for the heli day, so you have your own powder mentor with you. It’s a cool concept!
Otherwise, Telluride has just about every kind of non-skiing diversion you could want, from dog sledding to great Nordic skiing to introductory ice climbing to really fun guided fat tire bike tours. But one of the standout options here, that again, not many other places offer, is a variety of great snowmobile tours, half and full day, visiting ghost towns and natural wonders. I did one with Telluride Outfitters, and like heliskiing, they start right from Mountain Village, use first-rate equipment and great guides, and it was a surprising blast.
Bikers with Dog in Snow
Bonus Points: Telluride is one of the most dog friendly towns in America! ©TONY DEMIN/VISIT TELLURIDE
5. Telluride is Epic (and Empty): While not part of Vail Resorts, last winter independent Telluride launched a partnership offering 7-days of skiing for Epic Pass holders. Since the Epic is the industry’s bestselling pass - over 925,000 were said to have been sold this winter - that helps a lot of people ski for a week at Telluride for free, which is nothing to sneeze at. But while this season has been rife with complaints nationwide about overcrowding and long lift lines from the proliferation of both the Epic and Ikon passes, Telluride has long enjoyed blissfully short lines, and with the exception of Christmas week, this has seemed to remain the case. I skied on a Sunday in January and there several runs where I was the only one on the trail. That’s hard to beat.
View the original Forbes article »

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