|The San Joaquin Couloir, one of 'Telluride's gnarliest chutes - ski instructor Vince Boelema's favourite tipple on his day off!|
Possibly the most talked about secret resort in the US, Telluride has been calling me for decades. But like many skiers, I tried the more accessible resorts first, opting for direct flights and short transfers. But this season I finally capitulated to the compelling call in late Jan, persuaded by a new direct American Airlines flight to Montrose from Charlotte, my nearest hub airport.
|Bon Vivant, Telluride|
|Bon Vivant, Telluride|
I’ll be writing extensively about this authentic and unspoilt ski area over the coming months, but here are a few tips and tales from my Telluride trip to get you hooked:
|Telluride's free gondola station, linking historic downtown to Mountain Village|
Tale: It’s not worth trying to beat the system and ride the free gondola from downtown for a sneaky run. I saw one older gentleman in rather obvious ski regalia attempting to dodge the lifty at the top. No chance! He had to put his skis back on and ride the gondola of shame back down!
|The latest non-stop flights to Telluride from all over the USA|
Tip: Get to Telluride quicker with American Airlines direct routes to Montrose Airport (from Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Newark, Atlanta, Chicago and Charlotte) followed by a scintillatingly scenic 90min bus ride.
|Chris Branch (left) and Tony Plampton (right) at Bon Vivant, Telluride|
Tale: If you’re from Arizona and love driving, Telluride is less than eight hours from Scottsdale. Tony Plampton did the drive in January and really enjoyed the easy journey. “It was only the last half hour or so that was more difficult due to winding mountain roads,” he told me. “Well worth doing as you can just throw everything in the car and not worry about luggage allowances. And by the time you factor in getting to an airport in advance, waiting around for takeoff, getting luggage and then waiting for a shuttle or rental car, it is probably about the same timing.” There’s considerable rubber tire traffic coming into Telluride each winter from Texas, Arizona and other parts of Colorado. But once they are there, they park up for the duration of their stay due to the thoughtfully linked lift and bus service.
|View over Town of Telluride - courtesy of Telluride Ski Resort|
|Skiing down into the town of Telluride is a bit of a |
surreal vertiginous experience!
Tip: If you fly in, get the Telluride Express Shuttle from Montrose Airport – you will NOT need a car once in the resort! The Mountain Village is connected to the 19th century mining town of Telluride by free Euro-style gondola and it is an enchanting experience to descend through the star-spangled darkness into the beautiful box canyon where downtown Telluride has snuggled in the shade of the Bridal Veil Falls (the longest free-falling waterfall in CO) since 1878 when miners discovered gold and other valuable minerals.
|View from gondola over downtown Telluride - courtesy of Telluride Ski Resort|
Tip: Get Ski Butlers to home or hotel deliver your skis and any other rentals. I arranged an 11:30am delivery, arrived at The Peaks at 11:26 and Dessa from Telluride Ski Butlers was there within 2 minutes with all my equipment. By 12 I was on my way on the chairlift to meet friends at Bon Vivant for mouthwatering mid-mountain munchies.
|Dessa from Ski Butlers Telluride fitting my Rossignol rentals in the ski valet area at The Peaks|
|Telluride - courtesy of Telluride Ski Resort|
|CEO and partner, Bill Jensen - courtesy of Telluride Ski Resort|
|Martha Lenihan at The Peaks, Ski Host for Telluride|
|The ultimate White Winter Wedding at Telluride - courtesy of Telluride Ski Resort|
|Rudy and Linda, married 27 years after meeting at|
|Wintry wedding at Telluride - courtesy of Telluride Ski Resort|
|Dr Kim Hewson, Telluride|
Tip: Unique to Telluride, try Dr. Kim Hewson’s Biomechanics Ski Camp to learn techniques only available to ski instructor professionals until now. Find out, from an Orthopedic Surgeon and veteran ski instructor, how to improve ski stance, maximize performance while minimizing effort, and creating careful skiing longevity without injury. For every age group, intermediate and above, the Biomechanics Camp focuses on body awareness, understanding your own unique anatomy and body movement in relation to efficient skiing techniques. The biomechanic progression starts in the feet and follows with a natural postural response in the legs and upper body. Intrigued? Book now for next season as the camp fills up quickly.
|Chris Branch (left) learning the lie of the land with Dr Simon Hudson, author of Winter Sport Tourism, who|
was researching for a blog on Telluride
|Instructor Vince at work|
Tale: Don’t expect to be satisfied with one visit to Telluride – most people come, fall in love, and add it to their regular ski circuit. Chris Branch, Oscar-winning producer of The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, visited in January on a boys’ driving jaunt from Scottsdale to stake it out for future family trips: “It’s an amazing resort. I don’t think as a family we’ll ever ski anywhere else.” He also loved our day-long lesson with New Zealand ski instructor, Vince Boelema: “The classic Kiwi that you meet in London, all cricket and rugby – a great character straight out of central casting,” quipped Chris, staying in character himself!
Tip: Although Telluride has all the attributes and activities of a world-class ski resort, it is not about fur coats and matching dogs, but more a question of having the right skis for the day ahead.
Tale: On pow days, Lift 8 has a unique etiquette, according to Vince: Locals know to arrive early, park their skis in the lift line and then go for a coffee until chair opening time, in the happy knowledge that no-one will buck the system. Goodness knows what happens if a European turns up without being briefed!!
|Telluride Ski Instructor, Vince Boelema|
Tip: Unlike most resorts, you are welcome to visit the Ski Patrol huts dotted around the slopes. There are t-shirts for sale, raising money for the avi dog service and the dogs themselves love to be petted by passersby.
Tale: My first time at Telluride and I was totally awestruck by the sheer variety of the encircling San Juan Mountains - and remember I have been skiing since 1973 at resorts all over the world! A serendipitous 17-inch dump at the weekend had set the scene for widespread wintry whiteness and, with a second 2-inch layer, helped open up lifts 12 and 14 for the first time this season during my four-day foray in January. I was also lucky enough to go on a heady helicopter ride to get an eagle's perspective of the area. By the way, for those on a sightseeing heli jaunt or heli ski trip, the Telluride Helitrax pilot picks you up right outside The Peaks.
Tip: Ski Telluride’s corduroy carver, See Forever (a popular hike in summer). It is named for the 100 miles of shimmery vista visibility stretching as far as Utah’s La Sal Mountains on a clear day. Groomed every day, you can access it from Lifts 6,9,14 and 14, overseen by iconic Wilson Peak (of Coors beer fame).
|I also bumped into Joe Basta from the Thunderbird Ski Club at High Camp, another charismatic cabin on the mountain|
Tale: While sipping hot choc and munching on a macadamia cookie at New Orleans-inspired Giuseppe’s, I happened upon a group from the Thunderbird Ski Club (named for its affiliation with Ford Motor Co rather than the cartoon TV series!) “There are 37 of us staying at Mountain Village,” 70-year-old skier, Joe Basta told me. “I’m having a great time. This wide open terrain is ideal for me and it’s neat how they are using snowguns to make these big piles of snow and then move it around where it’s needed.” As well as eating at the cute mountain cabin favoured by locals and ski instructors, the group was also enjoying discovering downtown: “There’s so much charm that many ski towns just don’t have,” Joe said. “It’s not too posh and glitzy. And the Historic Bar at the Sheridan is a really classy place.”
|Allreds mid-mountain dining at Telluride|
Tip: Plan some on-mountain dining. Try the gondola ride to Allreds for après ski from 5pm or, later, contemporary American cuisine, fancy cocktails and top wines in a grand and glamorous setting – I recommend the potato croutons and the sticky toffee pudding if you're craving carbs.
|Snowcat dinner at Alpino Vino, Telluride - courtesy of Telluride Ski Resort|
And the snowcat excursion to Alpino Vino, right at the pinnacle is a must. At 11,966ft it is North America’s highest fine-dining, featuring European-themed snowcat-accessed dinners with whimsical wine pairings. Jump in the snowcat first so you can bag best seats: Facing uphill the same way as the driver going up and facing uphill, with your back to the driver, on the way down. This will ensure you won’t have to brace yourself to keep from slipping off the seats the whole way! Greeted with champagne on the patio, it is an evening of cute cabin culinary finesse, with professional sommeliers recounting the stories behind the hut, the Northern Italian food, and the wonderful wines, many exclusive new arrivals from Portugal. It’s also open 11-3:30 for leisurely lunch and libations.
|New Sheridan Hotel - courtesy of Telluride Ski Resort|
|Daniel Davenport at The New SheridanChop House, Telluride|
Tale: “The New Sheridan Chop House is my favourite restaurant,” said ski instructor Vince as we sailed up The Plunge chairlift after a teaching tour of the mountain. “It’s where I go when I take my better half out to dinner.” And he was right to recommend the four-fromage mac cheese to go with the succulent beef and elk – I also added the truffle fries. Try and get Daniel Davenport as your waiter – he’s polished and professional with a prolific memory for ingredients, but, best of all, a personality.
Tip: When exploring the historic downtown, turn left at the gondola station and explore the residential district (most people turn right). The houses are as cute as those in Charleston, SC and eventually you will come upon There Bar, a lively locals’ cocktail hangout specializing in the trendiest tapas with Asian overtones – menus tied with ribbons - and a ‘blacklist’ of decadent drinks. The décor is funky, too, with the ritziest restrooms. Make an arrangement to meet someone (preferably in the know), so you can legitimately say “I’ll meet you there” without specifying the location. Get the grapefruit martini, curried mussels and patatas bravas.
|Playful menus at There Bar, Telluride|
Tale: This remote canyon deep in the San Juans in Southwestern Colorado has attracted camera-shy celebs like Oprah Winfrey and Tom Cruise to buy and build homes in the area and many film producers to shoot movies there. “When they were filming Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, the actors and crew were all stuck in town waiting for the right weather window,” said Vince, who incidentally has been instructing at Telluride for 20 winters. “It was amazing to see Kurt Russell or Samuel L. Jackson just hanging out in bars and restaurants around town and not really being bothered by anyone.” Other films shot in and around town include Christopher Nolan's The Prestige (2006), Scrapple (1998), Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (1979); and True Grit (1969).
Tip: If you’re lucky enough to score a bottle of Telluride red when shopping downtown, transport it home safely by putting it in your ski boot and stuffing socks around the top – trust me, it will survive the plane!
|Great room into Altezza Bar at The Peaks Resort & Spa, Telluride|
Tale: Mindful skiing has reached Telski. Level 3 instructor in alpine, Nordic and telemark and supervisor of training at the Telluride Ski School, Deb Willits is an advocate of mindful meditation. “By being able to have almost laser focus on my students and their feelings, a side effect is great relationships and success as an instructor/trainer,” she told me over a glass of Happy Hour Prosecco at Altezza. “If an instructor has the ability to quiet their self-talk it allows them to be aware of all the elements of the environment including the weather - windy, snowy, low visibility or sunny – temperature, cold or comfortable, snow conditions (hardpacked, powdery, deep powder, cold snow, icy), ability and feelings of your student, others on the hill and of your own intuition about them. Putting all that gathered information together allows the instructor to make a decision of where on the mountain to go that would be the most helpful and safe, physically and emotionally, what information to give the student and how to present the information to them so it is received the best. This allows for a true connection between the instructor and the student as people.” She gets lots of repeat customers and that day had been teaching three returnees from North Carolina. Maybe they caught the same direct flight as me?
|Skiing into downtown Telluride|