Telluride Ski Resort

Telluride Ski Resort is one of the three best-known ski areas in Colorado, along with Aspen and Vail. Vail is a mega-resort, a crowded destination ski area sprawled over several mountains; Aspen is a multi-mountain playground of the rich and famous. Telluride Ski Resort, on the other hand, is a relatively small resort (it has 16 lifts and 1,700 skiable acres) bordered by a historic town and nestled in an isolated and picturesque canyon.

There is enough terrain at Telluride Ski Resort to satisfy any level of skier or snowboarder, the nightlife here is vibrant and varied, and the town is charming and unpretentious. A Telluride ski vacation is great for families or groups of any age.

When Telluride Ski Area was founded in the early 1970s, Telluride was a dilapidated mining town in an isolated area of the San Juan Mountains. Nevertheless, the resort quickly established itself as a skiers' paradise. The primary reason for this was Telluride Colorado's famed expert terrain.

Two steep bump runs in particular put Telluride Ski Area on the map: The Plunge and Spiral Stairs. After decades, they remain as challenging as ever. Advanced tree skiers should head to the Gold Hill area. Gold Hill lift rises to 12,500 feet above sea level, so there is some great wide-open snow above the timberline before you drop into the glades. The view from the summit is spectacular, too.

Prospect Bowl, which opened in 2002, has some more extreme drops for experts, but there are also some groomed blues and greens so its worth a visit whatever your ability. The intermediate runs here were much needed, other options for the average skier are somewhat limited. The best — Humboldt and Peek-a-boo — are off the Village (lift 4).

What it lacks in easy blue runs, Telluride Ski Area makes up for in beginner terrain. Trails from the top of Sunshine (lift 10) are long and gentle. Other good novice trails can be found in the Ute area of Prospect Bowl.

Uniquely, Telluride Ski Area has six ratings for its trails, in order of difficulty: single green circle, double green circle, blue square, double blue square, black diamond, and double black diamond. This makes it easy for skiers and snowboarders to find runs that correspond to their ability or energy.

A Telluride ski vacation is about more than just the skiing, however. Telluride Colorado is 340 miles from Denver, so it does not get many weekend or day skiers. Most people arrive in the town by Telluride's tiny airport, which has flights to Denver, Phoenix, and other cities, or through the larger Montrose Airport, 60 miles from Telluride.

The town's isolation makes it a great retreat. Choosing to stay in the historic mountain town on a Telluride ski vacation is like staying on a movie set for a Victorian-era mining community. Telluride Colorado has many upscale restaurants and nightlife ranging from the energetic to relaxing. If your primary focus is on skiing, get a place in the Mountain Village at the base of Telluride Ski Area. This is less charming but more convenient. A free gondola connects the town with Mountain Village.

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