Telluride Ski Resort may not have the name recognition of Vail and Aspen, but it’s been voted as the #1 ski resort in North America in Conde Nast Traveler’s annual reader survey six times in the last seven years. That’s saying a lot.
Located on the southwestern corner of Colorado, the resort came about in 1970, though what's known as Mountain Village – the main area on top of the mountain, filled with hotels and restaurants – didn’t appear until 1987.
Surrounded by the San Juan Mountains, part of the spectacular Rockies range, it offers top-notch slopes combined with beautiful scenery and an active calendar on Mountain Village and in the town of Telluride. Over the years, the resort has grown into a world-renowned destination that’s received high accolades from the best ski and travel magazines, like "SnowPak," "Ski Magazine" and "Travel & Leisure."
Here, we break down exactly why this ski getaway has become so popular with critics and travelers alike...and why it's time for you to consider booking a visit.
Telluride is a major bucket-list destination for the avid skier. While it offers a range of beginner and intermediate trails, it’s by far best-known for its challenging courses and steep slopes, with vertical drops that can reach 4,425 feet. There are 148 trails and over 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, all serviced by 19 lifts.
Experts can enjoy double black diamond trails, chutes with unique terrain and thrilling mogul courses. The Plunge, Revelation Bowl and Gold Hill are perhaps the best-known courses for more advanced skiers. Intermediate skiers and snowboarders, meanwhile, like the See Forever and Prospect Bowl. Beginners shouldn’t fear trying out Telluride, either; the resort has great beginner trails and some of the best instructors around, including Annie Savath, one of the first female ski directors in the U.S., who has been teaching at Telluride since 1972.
Don’t forget to check out the hike-to-terrain skiing options and the Nordic ski trails here, too.
A Restaurant in the Clouds
At 11,966 feet, Alpino Vino is the highest-elevation restaurant in North America. The only way to access it is to ski down a black diamond slope during the day or to catch a snow coach for dinner.
The restaurant offers Italian Alpine gourmet food for lunch and dinner and an exquisite wine collection. While lunch is a la carte and a laid-back affair, with diners enjoying a meal or snack on the outdoor patio, dinner is more intimate, located inside a rustic cabin-like space with a cozy fireplace. Dinner spaces are limited with reservations that fill up as soon as the ski season begins.
A Free Gondola from the Resort to the Town
The Telluride Mountain Village gondola is the first public transportation gondola of its kind among ski resorts in the U.S. – and it costs absolutely nothing to enjoy.
The lift transports guests 2.5 miles between Telluride Ski Resort’s Mountain Village and the town of Telluride, lasting 13 minutes and offering 360-degree views of the San Juan Mountains – all powered through wind and solar energy. Completed in 1996, this $19 million gondola (sometimes referred to as a “chondola”) has a single stop on the top of the mountain where those riding can get off to eat at Allred’s or head to a ski or hiking trail.
At the highest point, it reaches 10,540 feet, allowing for stunning shots of the ski resort and town and of skiers gliding down the mountain.
As the second-highest ski resort in Colorado, Telluride is surrounded by some of the highest elevation points in North America, and for some expert skiers this offers a unique opportunity: heliskiing.
Planned with Telluride Helitrax, which has been operating for 35 years, expert skiers are flown by helicopter to the San Juan Mountains and Uncompahgre National Forests, where they take on the challenge of traversing untouched, unadulterated slopes.
While heliskiing is only for the best of the best, it’s a special opportunity for those seeking not only amazing skiing, but some of the most memorable views around.
Colorado’s Largest Spa
Telluride is all about being the biggest and the best, so perhaps it's no surprise that it contains Colorado's largest spa.
Located at Peaks Resort & Spa, Peaks Spa is 42,000 square feet and offers everything you could imagine for a relaxing experience. There’s an indoor lap pool, an indoor/outdoor heated pool and a hot tub showcasing views of the Rocky Mountains.
Kids will love the indoor waterslide that leads to the pool. For adults, there’s a state-of-the-art fitness center that hosts fitness classes, as well as men’s and women’s locker rooms that offer steam rooms, saunas, and massage and beauty therapies. If all that wasn’t enough, there’s also a salon, a boutique and even an oxygen lounge to help combat altitude sickness.
Celebrities Love It
Celebrities have long been fans of Telluride Ski Resort. Not only does it offer a beautiful atmosphere, but its secluded location makes it difficult for paparazzi to access.
Oprah Winfrey has a $14 million, 8,700-square-foot lodge in Telluride, not too far from Jerry Seinfeld’s $18.3 million mansion. Both Jewel and Ralph Lauren have homes in Telluride as well. Robert Redford and Tom Cruise are frequent visitors to Telluride, and Cruise once owned a home in the area, too.
Telluride is a place where A-list celebs can get away from Hollywood to relax and ski, so don’t be surprised if you see actors and actresses from your favorite Hollywood blockbusters walking through Mountain Village.
You’ll find mostly five- and four-star hotels at Telluride, all providing exquisite service.
One standout is Madeline Hotel and Residences, an upscale five-star boutique hotel complete with a spa and outdoor heated pool and hot tub. Lumiere may only be a four-star hotel, but it has received top rewards in the past, such as being named the fifth-best small hotel in America by TripAdvisor in 2016 and the #1 hotel in the West by Conde Nast readers in 2015. Thanks to a 2018 makeover, it's now even more enticing to guests.
As we mentioned before, Telluride Ski Resort is also home to Peaks Resort & Spa, which not only boasts an impressive spa, but is a ski-in, ski-out luxury retreat.
A Food and Drink Scene Unlike any Other
We’ve already mentioned Alpino Vino, but that's just one of many fabulous restaurants at Telluride.
Allred’s, the second-highest restaurant in Mountain Village, is a world-class steakhouse with unsurpassed views of the mountains and a wine list that routinely earns top honors. Another favorite is Scratch Kitchen & Cocktails, the newest restaurant at Lumiere Hotel, where every item on the menu is made from scratch.
If you head into town on the resort’s gondola, be sure to check out The Tunnel, Telluride’s newest speakeasy, which requires a password. Or head to one of many breweries, like the excellent Telluride Brewing Company.
Don’t forget to eat at The Chop House at The Sheridan Hotel, and have a drink in the city’s oldest bar, the Historic New Sheridan Bar.
Winter Activities Galore
Skiing and snowboarding may be the main draw at the resort, but they aren’t the only winter activities you can experience at Telluride.
Guests can also challenge themselves by ice climbing with a guide at Bridal Veil Falls, pedaling up the mountain on a fat-tire bike or gliding down a slope on a snow bike. There’s also more laidback winter fun to be had with snowshoeing, sleigh rides or ice skating in the middle of Mountain Village. And if thrilling adventure and high speeds is your cup of tea, there’s always snowmobiling, sledding and horseback riding in the snow. Those who love to fish might want to take the opportunity to try winter fly fishing.
Stellar Women’s Ski Programs
Telluride Ski Resort saw a need to create programming for women in the ski realm, so 37 years ago, it launched Colorado’s first women’s-only ski event. During Women’s Week, women from around the world are invited to participate in a 3- or 5-day program in which they improve their skiing skills via in-depth instruction and video analysis. Attendees also participate in lectures, yoga and dinners.
The event welcomes women with adaptive needs and of all ages and backgrounds, and provides an all-women crew of instructors. From the Women’s Week ski program came Telluride’s SheRide Snowboard Camp for adults, a similar program that encourages adult women to improve their snowboarding skills.
A Few Airports to Choose From
Telluride Ski Resort has long had a reputation for being difficult to get to, but this is far from true. It is serviced by two different airports – Montrose Regional Airport and Telluride Regional Airport.
Montrose is about an hour-and-a-half drive from the ski resort, but offers a lot of direct flights in the winter season from places like Denver, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Charlotte, Newark, New York City, Atlanta, Salt Lake City and San Francisco.
Telluride Regional Airport is much smaller but also closer to the resort. This year, the Telluride Regional Airport introduced new flights with Boutique Air, which falls under the United network, allowing for more tourists to use their miles to visit the resort. Travelers can now book a one-way Boutique Air flight between Denver and Telluride for about $150.
Christmas is a Big Deal
If you love to celebrate the holidays, you’ll be amazed by Telluride’s holiday cheer. Every year in mid-December, Mountain Village transforms into the North Pole, complete with colorful lights and Christmas trees, for a two-day event called Holiday Prelude. The resort shows holiday movies, brings in Santa, offers holiday crafts, and provides popcorn and hot cocoa for kids and a cash bar for adults.
On December 24, the resort participates in a special Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade, during which skiers and boarders speed down the mountain with red torchlights in hand and meet in the town of Telluride. It’s a stunning sight that celebrates the holiday in a truly unique way.
Events Throughout the Ski Season
Telluride Ski Resort is well-known for its summer programming, with festivals and events like the Telluride Film Festival, the Bluegrass Festival and the Balloon Festival. Perhaps more surprising is that it continues the festival cheer even during ski season.
Be amazed by fire art and performances at the Telluride Fire Festival in December, a three-day event with workshops and stunning sights for the family to enjoy. Celebrate LGBT equality at the inclusive Telluride Gay Ski Week during the middle of ski season. Hotels at Telluride Ski Resort offer discounts for Gay Ski Week, and host events like a pool party, drag show, dinners and more.
Finally, don’t miss out on a chance to laugh your socks off at the Telluride Comedy Festival, an event showcasing nationally known and local comedians that's been around for 20 years.
Epic Pass Partnership
In 2018, Telluride partnered with Epic Pass, a move that will add to the overall skiing and snowboarding experience.
Epic Pass is an international ski pass that members can use in 64 different ski resorts found in places around the world, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria. Telluride Ski Resort offers three different packages: a Full Epic Pass, Epic 7 Day Pass and Epic 4 Day Pass. However, all these pass holders will receive up to seven days of skiing in Telluride with no blackout dates or restrictions. Plus, they get to bypass a ticket window and just hit the lift.
Once the seven days have been used, pass holders can receive 50 percent off lift tickets to ski or snowboard at the resort, offering even further savings.
We’ve mentioned it multiple times – Telluride has astonishing views, thanks to the San Juan Mountains that surround it.
There’s a variety of popular places to get great shots of the landscape, such as from the bar or dining room at Allred’s, on the gondola ride to/and from the town of Telluride, and on the pool decks at the Madeline Hotel and the Peaks Resort and Spa. One of the most Instagrammable spots in Telluride is in the middle of the historic downtown, with the mountains framed in the background.
As you study the enrapturing mountains around Telluride Ski Resort, you might notice that one looks quite familiar. It’s called Wilson Peak, and it’s featured on every can of Coors.