by Rob Story
Photos: Courtesy of Brett Schreckengost
No Colorado ski resort sits farther from Denver and its international flights. Situated 8,750 feet above sea level, the town is reached via a winding, two-lane blacktop instead of a fast, sleek superhighway.
I first visited in 1991 during a storm that dropped 36 inches of light powder. By 1998, I lived in Telluride. Why? That snow, for one thing. Telluride’s snow is as good as any ski area’s, even rivaling the champagne powder of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains.
The range surrounding Telluride – the San Juan Mountains – is the steepest in Colorado. Even jaded experts tingle at the classic Telluride experience: staring through ski tips at the town thousands of feet below while preparing to tackle mogul-infested pistes.
Still, split grooming is prevalent on many Telluride slopes, allowing skiers to sample the bumps while providing a graceful exit onto smooth terrain if necessary. And though steep and challenging terrain is plentiful, the majority of the pistes rate as intermediate or beginner, allowing families to ski together at speeds that are right for everyone.
WINTER OR SPRING?
Once a gentle, spring warm front blows in, Telluride becomes a kinder, gentler place. Its snowpack sheds any traces of a nasty disposition. Ice fields become puddles; moguls that have rebuffed your advances all winter permit carving. The combination of warm rays, fragrant woods, and hero snow can make any nature-lover lose composure.
My previous residencies in sunny Laguna Beach and Chicago’s leafy Lincoln
Park hardly lacked for charm, yet Telluride is far and away the prettiest place
I’ve lived. The cozy, Victorian town sits on the National Register of Historic
Places – and more than two hours from the nearest interstate. It’s
surrounded by the highest concentration of 14,000-foot summits in the lower 48 states.
There’s a rainbow of mountain scenery: alpine white, riparian green, and
Telluride is ridiculously gorgeous to begin with. Then comes summer, when wildflowers emerge in all their Technicolor glory. Snowmelt streams gurgle musically down their beds.
Stores go alfresco, and patrons linger an hour or two at Cowboy Coffee’s picnic tables, a mere soy chai away from criminal loitering. This is summer as it should be, where cars and neckties aren’t required and air conditioning bills don’t exist. Our days are warm, our skies clear, our humidity scant, and our insects bashful.
Not that life here is effortless. I’ve seen locals obey bankers’ hours. I reckon there’s as much hustle and strife in Telluride as in Chicago. We just try not to waste our ambition and elbow grease on work.
Instead, we bust our tails to mountain bike the sadistic inclines of Eider Creek
trail or lead climb the 5.11 pitches of Ophir Wall. We haven’t escaped the
real-world’s clichés – they just mean different things. Here,
we achieve “synergy” by bringing a dog along on our sunset hikes.
“Closure” happens with the resumption of resting heart rate.
STUNNING IN THE FALL
It’s common for tourists to go leaf-peeping during the day before returning
to Telluride’s eight city blocks of brick hotels and clapboard storefronts.