Freeskier | Amplifying Telluride: The gem of Colorado is kicking it up a few notches
by Paddy O’Connell/ October 27, 2016
Last year, massive early-season storms thumped Telluride. Nearly all of the resort’s 156 trails—spread across 2,000-plus acres—were open before Christmas. As the snow accumulated so did the skier visits. Guests remarked on what locals have known for decades: Telluride is a skier’s paradise. On a scale of one to 10, most anyone will tell you the terrain is an 11. The town itself is home to more remarkable and noteworthy characters than you’d find in an episode of Game of Thrones—that is to say, a lot. The entire experience of skiing and being in Telluride is like free pizza at a Parliament concert: a funky good time that leaves you satisfied, smiling and ready for more, time and time again.
What’s new in 2016-17?
Telluride has joined the ranks of Jackson, Alta/ Snowbird, Mammoth, Aspen Snowmass and others on the Mountain Collective pass. As outlined in detail in this web post, for $419 (limited time), Mountain Collective pass holders receive two “free days” and 50 percent off additional tickets at each of the 14 destinations that fly the Mountain Collective flag. Essentially, skiers can storm chase and shred some of the planet’s finest terrain all winter long without turning the piggy bank into burnt bacon.
Telluride is also now more accessible than ever before. This winter, Allegiant Airlines is offering affordable flights twice a week into neighboring Montrose via Denver International Airport. Great Lakes Airlines (part of the United network) will fly direct into Telluride from Denver. And reasonably priced, direct flight options to Montrose are available daily from nine hubs (including Houston, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago) across the U.S.
Shredding among the massive peaks of Telluride. Photo: Brett Schreckengost
Oldies but goodies
Simply put, Telluride’s terrain is insane. “The mountain speaks for itself,” says Director of Mountain Operations, Scott Pittenger, “and we’re always in a state of improving the goods.” This off-season, the Mountain Ops crew has been hard at work with forest management, cleaning up dead-fall from wintertime wind events. Sawyers have moved in on every glade on the mountain, but their most notable efforts have been in the Little Rose and Gold Hill 1 drains. “It’s a previously untreated area with tons of potential,” explains Pittenger. “The work will allow fluid top-to-bottom tree skiing on a great aspect.”
The five backcountry gates that access Bear Creek and Alta Lakes will continue to allow skiers the chance to experience Telluride’s famous off-piste skiing. But don’t be a dummy. The San Juan Mountains are world renowned for sheer faces, tight couloirs and unstable snowpack. Know before you go beyond the resort’s rope line. Or, take advantage of Telluride’s heli-skiing operation, Telluride Helitrax, to get some guided, untracked, steep and deep blower pow.
The town was designated a National Historical Landmark Site in 1961, which means no chain businesses and no phoniness. It lives up to its motto: “the most Colorado place on Earth.” That old-timey mining shack held up by 1970s-era skis wasn’t built last week by a conceptual artist. That “shack” is somebody’s home. And while it’s true that more of the über-rich have taken a liking to Telluride in recent years, everything that Rasta Stevie said in Greg Stump’s The Blizzard of Ahhhs stands true. Unique, cool and funky, Telluride is a skier’s mountain and a skier’s town. “The mountains are what brings everyone—the rich, the rastas and the ski bums,” says born and raised Telluride shred queen Galena Gleason. “But it’s the community and funkiness that keeps us here.”
Skiing in Telluride is not just a good idea; it’s a rite of passage. The hike-to lines in Black Iron Bowl, the pucker factor atop Palmyra Peak and the local favorite combo of Mak-M-Stairs-Plunge (accessed from Plunge Lift) all test your mettle and provide an unmatched skiing experience.
Telluride by the numbers
Elevation (in feet) of Palmyra Peak, an extreme in-bounds hike-to zone.
Degrees of slope angle at the drop-in atop Palmyra. Seniors “mellows out” to a sustained 37 degrees until you hit Palmyra Basin. It’s all smiles and laid-back windshield wiper turns from there on out.
Number of Gold Hill chutes. Access some of the most extreme resort skiing in the world via a railroad-grade hike? Yes, please.
Square miles of guided heli-skiing terrain in the San Juan Mountains serviced by Telluride Helitrax.
Name of Brown Dog Pizza’s award-winning Detroit-style pie. It’s stupid delicious.
Amount of Huey Lewis and the News songs played on the jukebox at The Buck, the favorite watering hole among residents. Skiing folklore and open-mouth kisses exchanged nightly.
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