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NEW YORK TIMES: 36 Hours in Telluride

There are steeper ski resorts than Telluride. There are ski resorts that get more snow. But few places are more friendly and prettier than this town at the end of a box canyon in the tall San Juan Mountains, a place so cinematic that Quentin Tarantino was here last winter filming his forthcoming western, “The Hateful Eight.” Beauty and great skiing keep pulling the money here, and that keeps refreshing the scene. But it’s the people who make this place interesting — a quirky stew of Patagonia-clad men who look as if they came straight from base camp; flushed women direct from their 10-mile runs; still others reciting poetry in bordello-wear at a Colorado Avenue bar; and gray-ponytailed hippies who play “Sugar Magnolia” so often you’d think Jerry Garcia never went to that great jam fest in the sky. Telluride isn’t just a ski area; it’s a way of life.



A dozen years ago, Pete Wagner, an engineer who designed better ways to fit golf clubs to golfers, wondered why skis were basically an off-the-shelf purchase. So in 2006 Mr. Wagner opened Wagner Custom Skis, in Placerville, a rough little mining burg 15 miles downstream from Telluride. (“We’re the only ski factory that’s located in a trailer park,” he quips.) During tours of the house-size factory, Mr. Wagner demonstrates how his company customizes everything from a ski’s base material to the central core — maple? white ash? — to the graphics you see in the lift line. Tours are free (weekday afternoons by appointment), but skis start at $1,750. They’re said to be worth every penny.


Mountain Village, the affluent stepchild of Telluride that sits above town, at 9,540 feet, has never achieved liftoff; despite its amenities, the place remains as beige as its name. The best thing about this second base area is that the gondola to town runs until midnight. A bright spot has been the opening last winter of Siam’s Talay Grille, offshoot of the popular Siam-Telluride. Dip into the alpine pagoda-décor bar when the lifts shut down for a quick hand roll and an elk steam bun, or a small Sapporo, a thimble of sake and a crispy duck hand roll (snacks generally under $10).


Follow the locals to La Cocina de Luz on the main drag, Colorado Avenue. This casual joint with sunshine-colored walls housed in an old bank, replete with vault door, uses mostly organic ingredients and also offers some vegan and gluten-free options. Step up to the counter and order the combo with a chile relleno ($16) — order it “Christmas” (with both red and green chile) — with a side of refried Anasazi beans. The food here is simple, fresh and bright, and the margaritas are strong.



4.FUEL UP, 7:30 A.M.

There is nothing extravagant about the Butcher and Baker Cafe, a locals’ favorite. It’s a clean, well-lighted place, a one-time pool hall with worn wood floors and big storefront windows through which floods the morning sun — so welcome on a winter morning in this deep, dark valley. They make their own breads here, and pastries, sauces and pickles. Place your order at the counter. Take a billiard ball as your number. Feast on the good, simple fare — a huge breakfast sandwich, or eggs just as sunny as ordered, beside a track of deeply tanned bacon. Breakfast: $4.50 to $12, plus coffee.


“Telluride really is a skier’s mountain,” the ski-maker Pete Wagner recently told me. “Great terrain, and there’s never anyone on it.” In good snow conditions, experts often head for the billy-goat descents in Prospect Bowl; those who want a mellower day shouldn’t miss See Forever, a meandering ridgetop groomer with views into adjoining Utah. Once you’re warmed up, try Bushwacker, a black diamond that is groomed almost nightly; divebombing the run is vintage Telluride. You can rest those oxygen-deprived legs on Chair 9, one of the few lifts that aren’t high-speed.

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