TELLURIDE, Colo. -- I can’t get enough of this place.
That’s why, on my last day at Telluride Ski Resort, I’m reveling in Revelation Bowl, racking up as many laps of the big, white, bump-covered expanse as possible, before I absolutely, positively, definitely have to head back over to the front side of the mountain and report for a guided ride to a beer brewery on a fat-tired bicycle.
Not that that’s such a bad thing, but with a liberal coating of fresh snow, it’s a frosty version of heaven back here, with steep terrain and moguls that vary from pint-sized and puffy to monstrous and gnarly. Because it’s a wide-open, treeless expanse, there’s everything in between, too, which makes it a perfect training ground for folks like me honing their technique.
We log six or seven laps before we finally acknowledge we’re out of time. Then it’s one final cruise down See Forever, a blissfully long intermediate run that offers views all the way into the La Sal Mountains of Utah.
Other ski resorts may boast easier access, but Telluride definitely wins the scenery contest. It’s really two places in one — a historic old mining town, with rows of colorful Victorian homes in a picture-perfect box canyon, and a glitzy new Mountain Village, tucked on a mountain shoulder just up the ridge.
That division’s a good thing. It means new development is focused in the newer village, leaving the charming old town down below mostly alone. The original town’s funky flavor is what lends Telluride its character.
Take the famous Telluride Free Box. Since the 1970s, people have been leaving perfectly good (and, yes, sometimes cruddy) stuff they no longer want in the racks on North Pine Street, just off Colorado Avenue. Locals and tourists alike sift through the castoffs for hidden treasure — and often find it.
And that’s not all.
You might bump into the guy who strolls around with a pet rat balanced on a pet cat balanced on a pet dog. Or Roudy, the town character who once walked his horse right into a downtown bar. (That was 10 years ago, during another trip. I think they’ve got rules against that now.)
When we’re finally off the mountain, my husband and I discover a man and woman practicing their fly-fishing technique in the middle of Main Street. “Have you guys caught anything yet?” a cyclist calls out as he buzzes past.
Depending on who you ask, Telluride earned its name either from the non-metallic element tellurium, sometimes found with deposits of gold and silver, or the phrase “To hell you ride!” hollered by friends and family when loved ones galloped off to the boisterous mining town long ago.
Either way, the place thrived during the gold rush of the late 1880s, when it claimed more millionaires per capita than New York City and Tomboy Mine was one of the world’s greatest gold producers. Butch Cassidy pulled off his first bank heist here in 1889, spiriting away nearly $25,000 that was never recovered.
After the turn of the century, though, Telluride fizzled steadily until the mines closed in the 1950s. It struck gold again when a ski resort opened in 1972. Suddenly, shiny boots and skis replaced rusting picks and shovels.
We spent four nights in Telluride, spending half our time at the famous New Sheridan Hotel on Colorado Avenue and half at the Ice House, a retro-vibed condo snuggled against the mountain. The Sheridan’s creaking wooden floors, freshly renovated rooms and inviting lobby bar make you feel like you’ve stepped back into the Old West, minus the inconveniences. The Ice House scores big points for a huge breakfast buffet featuring locally baked pastries, functional rooms and proximity to the town ski lift.
The slopes are the big draw for most winter visitors. The ski area covers more than 2,000 acres. About 40 percent of the trails are for advanced skiers, 25 percent for beginners and 35 percent for intermediates. You can fly down Galloping Goose, a 4.6-mile groomer that allows beginners to access the highest spot on the mountain. More experienced skiers and snowboarders can drop down the Plunge, the resort’s signature expert run, or they can dive into one of those dreamy, whipped cream bowls.
Since we’re not yet millionaires, we didn’t get to try one other local specialty: heli-skiing. Telluride is one of the Colorado resorts that offers whirly-bird rides to pristine slopes. The day-long copter experience, which includes six drops plus lunch, costs $1,000 per person. It’s not just for risk-taking jocks, either.
“It’s not an extreme sport — it’s an adventure getting to ski virgin snow,” says Tom Watkinson, spokesman for Telluride Ski Resort. “If you’re a strong intermediate to advanced skier who is comfortable in powder, you can go heli.”
Non-skiers don’t get left out in the cold at Telluride, either. They can go snowshoeing, dog-sledding, snowmobiling or take a yoga class on the mountain.
And the culinary scene? It’s more big city than mining town.
We lunched at Bon Vivant on the mountain, where waiters wearing chapeaus and peacoats deliver bowls of steaming lamb-and-Chimay stew and French onion soup to diners gathered outdoors under a 40-foot retractable umbrella.
In town, we love Siam, a cozy Thai restaurant tucked into a bungalow a few blocks from the center of town. (A second location called Siam’s Talay Grille is now open inside the Inn at Lost Creek, a boutique hotel in Mountain Village.) And for the signature Telluride experience, ride the gondola to Allred’s, where you can watch the sunset and refuel with rack of lamb or elk loin.
Then get some sleep, because you'll want to be back on the slopes as soon as the lifts open.