Welcome to Telluride!
Dec 7, 2021 at 7:00 AM in Things to Do by
Some say that the glory days of Telluride, Colorado are gone. According to the 2020 census, there are now as many women as men in this rugged mountain town. So it’s no longer as easy to snag a stud-ly guy and if you do, he will likely pay you even less attention than he would have back when the town was primarily populated by rad dudes who came to rip up the steeps. The few ladies that made it to town back then had their pick of some of the best-looking he-men in the country. Real estate prices have soared to nosebleed heights, an unfortunate situation for the worker bees that have been squeezed out of affordable housing, the same peeps that not only keep the town going but also create much of its authentic vibe. And yes, there are days when you see more California, Texas, Arizona, Florida and all kinds of other out-of-state license plates than a Tellurider could ever have imagined would appear in this remote locale. Suddenly, everyone is flocking to Colorado!
But Telluride is still drop-dead gorgeous. Its natural beauty leaves visitors and locals alike bedazzled. Day after day. Stand on Main Street, a thoroughfare built wide enough to allow an ox cart to make a U-turn in the middle of the street, and your jaw drops. It feels like you can just reach out and touch that big, amazing mountain, the awe-inspiring Ajax, that soars before you. It stands tall and proud, seemingly in defiance of the throngs of tourists that have recently “discovered” Telluride; its magnificence is everlasting no matter how many people pour in at its feet.
And what a cute little town! Beautifully preserved, much of Telluride is made up of a National Historic District filled with Victorian homes trimmed with gingerbread, storefronts replete with false fronts like those seen in westerns and splendid public gathering places such as the Sheridan Opera House, an historic gem with a jewel-box interior built in 1913. Talented and illustrious people from Sarah Bernhardt to Jackson Browne to Jewel have performed there, making it a beloved 238-seat theater for artists and attendees alike.
Next door you’ll be wooed by the Old World elegance of the New Sheridan Hotel Chop House Restaurant & Bar, a destination property established in 1895, that has been the hub of Telluride since the town’s early mining days.
It’s true that iconic institutions such as these along with Telluride’s eclectic mix of boutiques, galleries, dining and drinking establishments are more populated by out of towners than locals these days but an undercurrent of T-ride hippy-dom remains. (Not to be confused with hipster although there’s more and more of that these days.) On the mountain, whether you’re enjoying snowsports in the winter or mountain biking and hiking in the summer, you’ll still be interacting with some of the coolest and friendliest lifties, ticket checkers and mountain ambassadors around.
From the renowned Chair 9 (the Plunge Lift), you’ll witness some of the best bump skiing you’ll ever see. (There won’t be many posers on this oh-so challenging terrain.) And if you’re here for one of T-ride’s many world-famous music festivals, you’ll marvel at how well this town of only about 4,300 year-round inhabitants (combined with Telluride Mountain Village) pulls off putting on surely the best-run concert you’ll ever attend. This, like Telluride’s plethora of other world-class festivals, is made possible due to a handful of festival organizers that really love and care about the town, the extraordinary number of volunteers that work at these events and, of course, the stunning backdrop of Telluride, Colorado. Many performers long so much to stand on the main stage of Telluride Town Park, which faces scenery akin to that found in a national park, that they choose to come to this epic locale over other venues that accommodate much bigger audiences.
Plus, there’s KOTO, one of the most beloved community radio stations in the U.S. KOTO still ranks as the heart and soul of Telluride and if you amble up to their “little purple house on Pine,” just above the Freebox, another Telluride institution, you’ll still find a good ‘ole crunchy granola deadhead beat–along with lots of other great programming including fabulous jazz, bluegrass, Native American music and more. On KOTO, you can listen to NPR, local news, the avalanche report, a unique travel show and special community announcements such as lost-dog sightings and more. Tune into KOTO.org from all over the world. You will especially want to do this during Telluride’s big music festivals when this little radio station broadcasts many of the shows live along with stellar interviews of the musicians. Throw down your tarp and have fun!
You’ll discover that Telluride has been careful about its development. Located within a box canyon, the historic town has not made room for any type of sprawl. Instead, most of the larger buildings and homes have been erected about 1,000 feet up from Telluride in Telluride Mountain Village. There, along with a village core peppered with shops and eateries, you’ll also find the bigger hotels such as Mountain Lodge Telluride, The Peaks Resort & Spa and The Madeline where you can enjoy terrific ski in/ski out access to the slopes.
Another advantage to staying in Mountain Village during the winter season is that that’s where you’ll find the heart of Telluride Ski Resort. Here you can best access the mountain and most importantly, sign up for lessons with the renowned Telluride Ski & Snowboard School. Know that lessons are by no means just for beginners; spend time with an instructor to learn how to better stack your body over your skis to achieve good balance, which allows you to turn better. Remember it’s all about the turns! It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing on the slopes if you’re hacking down the mountain doing inside-ski/in-the-backseat turns.
The gondola stands out as one of the most extraordinary amenities of Telluride, or rather throughout all of America. It is free here because it also serves as public transportation. For the price of a smile (not even actually but do smile because that’s what folks do in T-ride), you can enjoy a 13-minute ride (plus another 4-minute ride on the intercept gondola) that offers some of the most spectacular mountain vistas in the world. What an ingenious way to connect Telluride with Telluride Mountain Village, how delightful to sail graciously from the old to the new. When in town, you can either walk, pedal (yes, you still see ski bums riding down the street in winter with skis balanced on their shoulder and their pooch running alongside of them) or take the Galloping Goose. Named after some of the most original railcars ever built that long ago circulated within these dramatic and often treacherous San Juan Mountains, today’s Goose actually refers to The Galloping Goose Transit System that travels around a Town Loop 365 days a year. Hop on, especially since it’s free. Make sure though to not refer to these buses as geese; if you do, you’ll really give yourself away as an outsider.
In Telluride and Telluride Mountain Village, there’s little need to have your own vehicle, a real luxury in life that hopefully visitors will embrace soon enough as well.