Somehow this didn’t seem out of place in Telluride, Colorado, a town founded by miners who were infamous for their independent attitudes and unruly ways. In fact, there are two versions of how the town got its name. One account says that when men left to make their fortunes in the gold and silver mines honeycombing the hills around Telluride, families bid them farewell saying, “to hell you ride.” More likely, although less colorfully, the moniker derived from tellurium, the nonmetallic element connected with rich deposits of gold and silver.
The Tomboy Mine alone produced $360 million in gold, one of the riches deposits in the world. By the turn of the 20th century Telluride boasted more millionaires per capita than New York City. Its wealth inspired Butch Cassidy to pick this locale for his first robbery, where in 1889 he withdrew $24,500 from the San Miguel Valley Bank.
After the population boomed to almost 5,000 inhabitants, the mines slowly petered out and the town nearly followed suit. Today about 2,200 folks call Telluride home, many of them living and working in the Victorian homes and clapboard storefronts scattered in an area eight blocks wide and 12 blocks long at the end of a box canyon.
Miners cursed the more than 300 inches of snowfall that blanketed the area every winter, but this turned out to be the treasure that would return prosperity to Telluride. Chairlifts were installed on the slopes above town, skiers started arriving, and Telluride became one of the premier winter destinations in North America.
Variety of Runs
Uphill conveyances have proliferated until there are now 16 ways to access the 84 trails that entice snowsliders. Runs were designed so that most of the easiest ones are clustered at the western side of the resort and they become more difficult as you progress east.
While legs are fresh, I pop a couple of runs down The Plunge, both for the incredible views of town and the self-congratulatory “I did it.” It feels as though a tumble on this 3,140-foot-vertical wall will deposit me either into the San Miguel River at the bottom, or bounce me across it into the town’s old Red Light district. Neither will actually happen, but the exhilaration makes me feel I am flying.
I work my way to the Gold Hill Lift for a cruise along See Forever, winding its way across the spine stretching from 12,319-foot Palmyra Peak. Along its three-mile path are 360-degree views embracing Ballard Mountain, three Colorado fourteeners including Mt. Wilson, familiar for its appearance on the Coors beer label, and a panorama all the way to Utah’s La Sal Mountains.
Telluride has countless options for those who relish mammoth bumps, double-fall-line trails carving a path through the trees, chutes and couloirs, bowls and drainages. Folks like me, who love the steeps but whose knees protest the bumps, appreciate Telluride’s thoughtfulness in grooming one side on many of their black diamond runs, leaving the other side for the incurable hardcore.
Further masochism on Bushwacker still leaves me the strength for a few more turns, so I yo-yo a few more runs up and down Boomerang and Peek-a-Boo. When I can stand no more, I treat myself to a gluttonous barbecue lunch on the deck at Gorrono Ranch, a mid-mountain restaurant situated on the site of a Basque sheepherder’s homestead. The original structure, dating from the 1800s, is closed except for special occasions, such as when Tom Cruise is in town and savors the privacy it allows him and his pals while dining.
Having now challenged my legs nearly to the max, and stuffed myself until I can barely breathe, I head back to Prospect Bowl for some easy cruisers on Sandia and Magnolia. This 733-acre bowl opened in 2002 and is serviced by three high-speed, detachable quads.
Intermediate-level trails rule in Prospect Bowl, but even the front side above town offers a less-challenging option. Throughout the resort are short chutes, corduroy-groomed cruises, and less-overbearing bump runs that the non-black-diamond snowsliders will find delightful. Beginner trails dominate the area below Mountain Village and the Sunshine Lift, where Galloping Goose meanders for four-and-a-half miles down the mountain.
Mountain Village is situated in a valley 800 feet above the town, separated from Telluride by 10,535-foot St. Sophia. This European-style, alpine pedestrian village encompasses luxury hotels and spas, restaurants, shops and a conference center. Ski runs meander through the village and the lavish homes scattered throughout the area.
Access to Mountain Village is by a free gondola. If you leave your vehicle in the Station Village parking lot, a transporter gondola will carry you across to the village from 7 a.m. to midnight. From Telluride, it’s a 13-minute ride. If you have your skis and a lift pass, you can unload at Station St. Sophia and ski on down into Mountain Village, or stay in the gondola and ride the backside down to the village.
Skiers and snowboarders test their mettle in the Air Garden Terrain Park, where more than ten acres of tabletops and jibs, quarterpipes and halfpipes, rails, boxes and numerous natural hits lure freestylers. Other sliding choices such as snowbiking, tubing and a snowskate park are available at Thrill Hill, open Wednesday through Saturday from 2:30 to 8 p.m. at the base of Chair 2 in the village.
A respectable selection of eateries can be found in town, in the village, and on the mountain. All the expected winter resort amenities are offered, including complimentary mountain tours, ski and snowboard lessons, equipment rentals, and nursery and childcare for those not ready to partake of the slopes. For a change of pace you can enjoy snowmobile tours, horseback rides in the snow, ice skating, ice fishing, ice climbing, and dog sledding.
Let’s see… tomorrow morning I have a 9 a.m. snowmobile tour to the mining ghost town of Alta, then an 11 a.m. start on the NASTAR racecourse. My massage isn’t until 3:30 p.m., which should leave me time for another chance to self-destruct on Kant-Mak-M…
Base Elevation: 8,725 feet (base of Coonskin Lift)
Summit Elevation: 12,260 feet (top of Gold Hill Lift)
Vertical Drop: 3,530 feet
Lifts: 16 including 2 high-speed gondolas, 7 high-speed quads, 2 triples, 2 doubles, 2 surface lifts, 1 magic carpet
Lift Capacity: 21,186 riders per hour
Terrain: 84 runs, 1,700 skiable acres; 24% beginner, 38% intermediate, 38% advanced/expert
Nordic: 30 kilometers of trails
Snowmaking: 120 guns cover 204 acres
Lift Operation: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through April 3.
Information: See www.TellurideSkiResort.com
Telluride Central Reservations: (866) 287-5015
Snow Phone: (970) 728-7425
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