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In the gondola with Telluride CEO Bill Jensen

jensensnipBill Jensen reveals big plans for Telluride ski resort’s future.

Fox News: Telluride is easier to reach than ever before

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The bike rack at the Telluride gondola is full with snow-dusted bikes, as well as a stroller or two.

No wonder. Tiny Telluride is a popular place. Nestled in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, the mountain range has the highest concentration of 13,000 and 14,000 foot peaks in North America. That means much of the historic town — at 8,750 feet above sea level — has been designated a National Historic Landmark District. And the snow resort seems to offer something for everyone whether you’re on the slopes or off, starting with spectacular views everywhere you look.

Did I mention that the town is connected to the snow resort via the free gondola? It’s the only one of its kind in North America. At an elevation of 9,500 feet, Mountain Village, Colorado, is a pedestrian-friendly community and home to the Telluride Ski Resort. No need for a car once you are here. Let’s not forget either that Telluride averages more than 300 inches of snow annually and 300 days of yearly sunshine.

This year, Telluride is also far easier to reach with unprecedented air service — 14 direct flights from 11 major hubs, including new flights to the Telluride Montrose Airport from New York’s LaGuardia, LA, Chicago, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Incredibly, this out-of-the-way box canyon, about an hour from the airport, now has some of the most direct air access in ski country.

Assuming you don’t have a private jet, of course. Yes, Telluride has its share of celebs, though Tom Cruise’s $59-million ranch and Jerry Seinfeld’s $18-million house reportedly are on the market. But in ski helmet and goggles, you can’t recognize anyone anyway. Noah Sheedy, the director of the ski school, and eight-year resident, opines that celebs are treated like everyone else. It’s not the see-and-be-seen crowd you might find elsewhere.

For the rest of us, what this place offers, my gang discovered last winter, is a winter playground, whether you are a skier like my daughter Mel, who likes nothing better than to hike to expert terrain like Bald Mountain and Black Iron Bowl, my nephew Chris, who had his pick of places to ride with terrain parks offering more than 100 features or my husband and me, who can’t keep up with the kids anymore.

I loved that while there is plenty to challenge the younger members in my family, nearly 60 percent of the mountain is devoted to beginner and intermediate trails, including the mountain’s longest run, which is some 4.6 miles long. It was fun watching the littlest riders at the Ute Park Terrain Park with nearly 50 features to keep them amused for hours. For those wanting a serious adventure in the snow, there’s heli-skiing and even the chance to back-country ski hut to hut in the San Juan Hut System where you get water by melting snow.)

I was especially pleased that there were no lift lines, that ski school classes were small, locals were friendly and there was a commitment to keeping women on the slopes (the women’s program is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year). I was also glad that there was plenty for my non-skiing sister-in-law to do — free yoga at the library, snowshoeing, art classes, shopping, horseback riding, the chance to try fat bikes in the snow and, of course, a spa (The Peaks Resort has the largest spa in Colorado, complete with an Oxygen Lounge in case you are struggling with being more than 10,000 feet above sea level.)

My daughters and I indulged at the spa where kids love the indoor-outdoor heated pool, complete with water slide, and pampered pooches can enjoy the doggy spa. There’s nothing wrong with a little pampering, especially after days of being outdoors pushing ourselves. It’s also exceedingly nice to spend time with my daughters who live across the country from each other — and me.

There were also plenty of options to linger over lunch or dinner whether you want an elk steak and hand-cut truffle fries (Allred’s is Telluride Ski Resort’s flagship restaurant at the top of the gondola), a burrito or wood-fired pizza, a burger or Colorado lamb, Asian noodles or Middle Eastern grape leaves. USA Today has ranked Telluride one of the top five Ski Resorts for Nightlife, while Fodor’s includes this town of less than 3,000 people in their list of the Top 10 American Cities for Foodies.

There’s plenty for junior foodies too, including at ski school where the menu has been revamped this year to include healthier and locally sourced options.

Truth be told, my sister-in-law was content to mostly putter around in our condo. We stayed in the only ski-in, ski-out lodging in town — the Auberge Residences Element52. It was one of the nicest mountain condos I’ve seen and I’ve seen plenty. Two hot tubs, steam showers and a gourmet kitchen ideal for a family like mine to cook up a storm like they like to do in Colorado. We rode a funicular up to the ski resort and could walk anywhere we wanted in town.

Certainly you have your pick of snow resorts — Colorado alone has more than 20, from small ones like Eldora Mountain Resort to some of the country’s most famous, like Vail and Aspen. Certainly taking your family to the slopes can be expensive and labor intensive, especially when the kids are little. (Look for lift ticket discounts online at sites like liftopia; If you have fifth- and sixth-graders, register for the Colorado Ski Country Passport Program that allows either three free days for fifth-graders and a four-day pass for just $99 for sixth-graders, including at Telluride — a bargain when a single day’s lift ticket can cost that much.) Another tip: Look for deals for rental equipment, like from Ski Butlers, which not only delivers your gear to your condo and will swap it based on snow conditions, but also outfits kids 12 and under free, as long as an adult is renting too.

The benefit of all that schlepping and money, I have now learned, is that my kids and extended family still look forward to our annual fun-in-the-snow trip, though they could easily hit the slopes with their friends, and do.

Too bad they don’t want to ski more than one run with me once we get there.

Eileen Ogintz is a nationally syndicated columnist and creator ofTakingtheKids.com. Her new  Kids Guide to Boston is available online and from major booksellers, along with the Kids Guides to NYC, Washington, DC, Orlando,  LA and Chicago. Coming  later this year: San Diego, San Francisco and Denver.

To visit Telluride Luxury Properties click here

10 Places To See Colorado’s Fall Color

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In the Fall, Colorado is transformed into a natural arena of shimmering colors, with the state’s signature gold Aspen trees serving as the main act. These 10 trip ideas will point you in the direction of shimmering yellows, oranges and reds this September and October.

1. Trail Ridge Road

The highest continuous paved road in North America winds through Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park in the east to Grand Lake in the west. With more than eight miles above 11,000 feet and a maximum elevation of 12,183 feet, Trail Ridge Road is an amazing vantage point for leaf peepers and is a favored spot for photographers. The Rocky Mountain Conservancy offers guided hikes and tours and volunteer opportunities in the park.

2. Photographer’s Favorite: Kebler Pass

Gunnison is home to Kebler Pass, which boasts the largest aspen grove in North America and is one of renowned photographer John Fielder’s favorite places. Ohio Creek Road is a great starting point, as it passes some unique natural landscapes, including a series of ranch buildings marking the abandoned site of Castleton and the spires of “The Castles” — remnants of volcanic ash and mud that erupted from the West Elk Volcano some 30 million years ago. Note: The pass is unpaved.

3. The San Juan Skyway

San Juan Skyway, a breathtaking 236-mile loop through the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, offers visitors an amazing array of fall colors and includes a 70-mile stretch known simply as the Million Dollar Highway.  The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad offers a special Fall Photo Train that coincides with optimal fall foliage. Another unique way to experience Colorado’s fall colors is with Soaring® Tree Top Adventures, home to 27 zip lines that pass by brilliant aspens.

4. Maroon Bells

The iconic Maroon Bells, two towering 14,000-foot mountains nestled in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, are the most photographed peaks in North America. Located in the 2.3-million-acre White River National Forest, the Maroon Bells tower over numerous hiking trails that offer unbeatable views of golden aspen trees. The area is accessible by car, however buses run daily mid-June through Labor Day and on weekends Labor Day through early October from the Aspen Highlands.

5. Western Slope Colors

Colorado’s Western Slope is home to the Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat top mountain, and Colorado wine country. In addition to the reds, whites and rosés made in Grand Junction and Palisade, fall brings with it glorious colors. Powderhorn Mountain Resort‘s vibrant scrub oaks contrast with golden shimmering aspens along the Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway.

6. Buffalo Pass

This dirt road just west of Steamboat Springs, is lined with rows of glowing aspen groves. The pass winds eight miles up toward the Continental Divide and Summit Lake, offering stunning views of the surrounding foliage. As the fall colors become more robust, locals recommend a hike to the pristine Zirkel Wilderness Area’s Three Island Lake Trail, which takes hikers through coniferous forests and high meadows, past glacial lakes and vistas. The 6.1-mile (round trip) trail is moderate in difficulty.

7. La Veta Pass

Peaking at an altitude of more than 9,400 feet, the La Veta Pass on U.S. Route 160 in southern Colorado (west of the town of La Veta) is one of the most scenic drives in the state during the fall season. Gold aspen trees mixed with dark green pines line the pass, while the magnificent Spanish Peaks and Sangre de Cristo Mountains tower over the foliage of the San Luis Valley. The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad (May through October) passes through mountain meadows, canyons and colorful foothills otherwise inaccessible by cars.

8. Free Gondola Ride

The Telluride Free Gondola is one of the most popular ways to view Telluride’s amazing fall colors. The aerial views include the town of Telluride, its box canyon and colorful valleys lined with aspens and evergreens. For yet another way to see Telluride’s foliage, several trailheads are located right in town. Locals suggest the Jud Wiebe Trail, a three-mile loop that winds through large aspen groves and passes by Comet Falls.

9. Dallas Divide

Colorado Hwy. 62 over the Dallas Divide represents an epic fall Colorado drive. Starting near Ridgway, visitors can get an amazing view of Mount Sneffels, one of Colorado’s 58 14ers, and the expansive Sneffels Wilderness Area, which offers several hiking trails for those wishing to venture out further. The route eventually connects with Hwy. 45 and Lizard Head Pass, which offers views of Wilson Peak, the very mountain that inspired the iconic Coors logo. Read about other famous Colorado mountains.

10. Front Range Foliage

Peak to Peak Scenic and Historic Byway is Colorado’s oldest, having been established in 1918. The byway starts in Boulder and offers unmatched views of the Continental Divide and its dramatic fall colors. Though the byway is less than 60 miles in length, there are numerous stop off points along the route, including Rocky Mountain National ParkGolden Gate Canyon State Park, the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, and the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, all of which offer their own unique vantage points for leaf peepers.

– See more at: http://www.colorado.com/articles/10-places-see-colorados-fall-color#sthash.h93naYw3.dpuf

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