Friend 1 was having a really stressful week. Friend 2 loves to ski and will go skiing anywhere at anytime. I was craving some steeps. Time for a “Big Day Out” at Telluride.
Telluride makes for a perfect escape — the ultimate Big Day Out. For us, it is just far enough away that we have to commit to the entire day. None of this go up and take a few runs, then come back down and get to work. Nope. Skiing at Telluride means a full day of skiing at Telluride and nothing else. Telluride is also a perfect escape in that it is off the beaten path. We live in Western Colorado which means we often drive I-70 to go skiing (thankfully, driving I-70 from west to east, not east to west as in Denver). Getting to Telluride doesn’t involve an interstate or much traffic at all. It does involve driving through farmlands and some spectacular mountain scenery. Whether driving, or flying in, It may take a bit more time and effort to get to Telluride. But once you’ve arrived, you’re in another world: a mountain nirvana.
As you’ve probably heard and may have seen, the views from Telluride are incredible. The town itself sits in a box canyon and is closely ringed by the northern San Juans. From the top of the ski mountain, the views of the Wilson Peak Group, comprised of three peaks over 14,000 feet, and the distinctive upcropping known as Lizard Head, will blow you away. The vistas extend west to the La Sal mountains of Utah, but closer in skiers are confronted with the breathtakingly rugged rock walls of the Bear Creek drainage. No matter where you look, the San Juan Mountain scenery is gorgeous.
The San Juans are relatively young Colorado mountains and among the most rocky, steep and craggy of the Colorado peaks. As you might expect, there is amazing extreme terrain at Telluride. With hike-to chutes along Gold Hill and the long steep decline from the top of the mountain into the town, Telluride sees plenty of expert skiers. But the mountain also has a wealth of intermediate and beginner terrain.
It’s Not All “Scary”
Beginners coming to Telluride should start their day at Mountain Village. Preferably, beginners should start their day in the ski school, because proper instruction makes skiing so much more fun! Ski school or not, beginners can take runs off of Lift 1, Lift 4 or Lift 10. (These lifts do have names but as long as I’ve skied at Telluride, no one ever uses the names. They always use the numbers. To avoid getting lost, you may want to learn the names and the numbers.) Even better is the terrain in Prospect Bowl which runs the gamut from beginner to expert and gives beginners an excuse to go almost to the top of the mountain and check out the views without getting in over their heads.
Skiers of intermediate level and above can enjoy the breathtaking mountains from the long groomer, See Forever, which progresses along a ridge line from the top of Gold Hill and provides access to terrain on both sides of the mountain. Fun intermediate terrain is also found off of Lifts 4, 5, and 6, as well as some blue and double-blue runs which drop back into the town.
Warming Up, The Hard Way
On our Big Day Out, Friend 1 was skiing only her second day of the season, so she wanted to warm up on some groomers. From the center of Mountain Village, we rode up Chair 4 and fooled her by taking her down the double-blue Humboldt Draw. She didn’t need groomers. She was just fine in these medium size bumps. Another run off of Chair 4, this time in some bumps on Pick ‘n Gad and then onto some well-groomed corduroy, and we were ready for the big time. Off we went to Lift 14, the Gold Peak Express, at the top of which we dropped over the edge into Revelation Bowl.
A Revelation, Indeed
This was the first time I had skied Revelation Bowl. Like most good bowls, the drop-in looks steep and scary, with the world falling out beneath you, but it really isn’t. The bumps were in good shape, and the bowl is steep, but not extreme steep. Revelation Bowl is mostly east- and south-facing. Since Telluride hadn’t seen any new snow in about a week, we wanted to let the snow warm up a bit in case it was crusty. I don’t know if we timed it perfectly or if the conditions were just surprisingly good (probably the latter), but the moguls weren’t too hard and, especially on the south-facing aspects, the snow was actually soft and light. There were a few rocks here and there, but then, that is just part of bowl skiing.
Pretty soon we were hungry. Being hungry is one of the best parts of a Big Day Out. Because part of being on a Big Day Out means indulging. When I mentioned to Tom Watkinson, the PR and Communications Manager at Telluride, that we were coming to Telluride, he immediately grasped the need for indulgence. While he, of course, offered some great suggestions regarding where to ski, he also included suggestions on where to eat, all of which we ended up ignoring (sorry Tom!).
Breakfast? He suggested The Butcher and The Baker in town, or at The Peaks, a large ski-in, ski-out hotel in Mountain Village. We opted for energy bars and water in the car. For lunch, he suggested Alpino Vino, which looks absolutely charming and has a great deck with more killer views. As you might guess from its name, wine is a primary focus at Alpino Vino. While we all like wine, we also all agreed that we can’t ski what we want to ski with wine on board, so we gave it a pass and went to Guiseppes at the top of Lift 9.
I don’t think we could have made a better choice. The food at Guiseppes is freshly made — nothing is congealing under a heat lamp — delicious and unique. The spaghetti and meatballs looked amazing, as did the shrimp and grits. Despite our penchant to indulge, we all chose the vegetarian black bean, potato and corn saute served over fresh spinach with an egg on top, a half-portion of which is plenty of food and goes for $5.99. This is ski area food? No way. Too delicious, too healthy and way too reasonably priced. One caveat however: Guiseppes is tiny. On a bluebird day there is plenty of room to dine al fresco. On a cold, snowy day, you may have a hard time finding a table.
Getting Down to Business
Post-lunch we took it to the steep bumps off of Lift 9. We started with a tree run called Satisfaction, was pretty darn satisfying, despite the lack of new snow. But the big draws at Lift 9 are the famous, marquee runs: the Plunge, Spiral Stairs, and Mammoth. These three, as well as Kant-Mak-Em, which is under the lift, are steep and long and bumpy. Recognizing that not everyone wants to ski steep moguls until their legs first turn to cement and then degrade to jelly, Telluride thoughtfully grooms half of the Plunge and grooms all of Bushwacker (but beware, just because these runs are groomed they are not “easy” — you can quite rapidly approach speeds greater than you might want).
Stuck in the Bowl
Once we had reduced our legs to gelatin, we headed back over, rather late in the day, to take a couple of runs in Prospect Bowl. As I mentioned above, Prospect Bowl has something for everyone and is served by two lifts, Lift 12, the Prospect Express and Lift 14, the Gold Peak Express. From green cruisers to the extreme hike-to chutes off of Gold Peak, Prospect Bowl has enough, right there, to keep skiers and riders busy all day. Shaky legs notwithstanding, we chose the closest and easiest of the Prospect Bowl chutes, a run called Confidence, and then took our last run through the Prospect Woods trees. Whoops.
Prospect Bowl closes at 3:15 with both lifts shutting down simultaneously. We mistakenly thought that the Gold Peak lift ran until 3:30 and that we could catch it up to get out of the bowl. Wrong. We were stuck. Luckily, we were stuck with about 15 other people, including some locals, one of whom who had been local for 30 years. That made us feel better. When the ski patrol came to sweep the mountain, they let us load and then made sure we took the long, green Galloping Goose trail back to the Meadows base area.
It wasn’t quite how we had pictured ending our day, but for Friend 1 and Friend 2 and me, it didn’t matter. Between the surprisingly good snow, the challenging terrain, the fabulous food and the bluebird views, our Big Day Out to Telluride was a success. We’re already planning to return.
And maybe this time, we’ll allow ourselves another indulgence — Tom recommends apres at Allred’s, high atop the mountain at Station San Sophia off of the gondola. Flatliner cocktails and an order of truffle fries — a Big Day Out at Telluride gets even bigger…and better.
When You Go…..
For more information on skiing and riding at Telluride, the Telluride Ski Resort website has all the information you will need. In addition, for specific skiing, lodging and dining information from a family perspective, check out my friend Joel’s recommendations in the Brave Ski Mom post “Why My Family Loves Skiing At Telluride, Colorado.”
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