Though mountain towns in Colorado, Telluride and Aspen begin to differ quite quickly once you back-out the ski town factor. I love Aspen and love visiting there, but I'm always happy to get back to our special box canyon here in Telluride. This piece is has some real topics and some fun topics- good balance. Enjoy:
5 Valuable Lessons Aspen Can Learn from Telluride
From sensible architecture to ski-appropriate cuisine, this understated Rocky Mountain idyll tones down the Aspen extreme
Posted February 1, 2017
Telluride, Colorado, at sunset.
Photo: Telluride Ski Resort | Aurelie Slegers
As far as North American ski towns go, Aspen, Colorado, is tough to beat. It has not one but four mountains and a historic yet glitzed-out downtown full of shopping, restaurants, luxury hotels, world-class art, music, and intellectual gatherings. Two hundred miles to the southwest lies a not unknown but more discreet, more remote, more hemmed-in ski hamlet perched some 900 feet higher in the sky. Telluride and Aspen are both mining towns turned ski resorts, but thanks to Telluride’s spectacular setting, wholesome attitude, and homegrown entrepreneurs, it may have a few things to teach its bigger, more famous Coloradan sister.
1. Make your location more inaccessible and dramatic.
A Google Image search of the term box canyon will quickly turn up a photo of Telluride. The town’s population of 2,300 is less than half the size of Aspen’s and is squeezed into an even smaller canyon accessed by a smaller airport (TEX). Most visitors choose to fly into Montrose, some 70 miles to the north. This bite-size valley makes the town feel somehow quainter and more jaw-dropping at the same time.
2. Scale down the architecture.
Downtown Telluride is six blocks wide by 12 blocks long, dotted with adorable pastel Victorian-style houses. The main street is dominated by the courthouse, built in 1886, the New Sheridan Hotel, and the Sheridan Opera House—designed by the same architect as Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House, but at a fraction of the size. The retail boutiques represented in Telluride’s downtown are more Patagonia than Gucci.
3. Less caviar, more tacos.
Taco del Gnar.
Photo: Courtesy of Taco del Gnar
Aspen has a slew of excellent, cosmopolitan dining options, from Matsuhisa to Chef’s Club at the St. Regis. But sometimes after a day of playing hard in the snow, all one craves is a bowl of piping hot, salty/carby ramen, like the dish served at There Bar, a cozy après-ski spot in one of Telluride’s charming Victorian cottages. Or a good taco like the ones at newly opened Taco del Gnar. At $4.50 a pop, try as many as you like; we recommend the lamb and the Korean short rib. Also try: Caravan (a Middle Eastern food truck), High Pie (pizza and “Telluride Mules”), Siam (for Thai staples), or Esperanza’s (a local favorite). Even the truffle French fries at Tomboy Tavern are toned down compared to Aspen’s Ajax Tavern’s over-the-top bouquet of Parmesan and truffle oil.
4. Gondola rides for everyone!
Both ski towns have gondolas that drop skiers off right in town, but Telluride’s is free. Celebrating its 20th birthday this season, the gondola at Telluride takes passengers up and over the hill to the European-style Mountain Village, built in the 1980s with ski-in, ski-out hotels (for example, the Madeline Hotel). The free gondola makes all of Telluride accessible by foot or ski whether you are staying in Mountain Village or in town, and runs until midnight. The silent swoosh of the cabin as it sweeps down the mountain by moonlight, cozily whisking you to your dinner reservation in the twinkling town below, is enchanting.
5. Design your own skis.
Custom skis from Wagner.
Photo: Courtesy of Wagner Skis
There is no denying the equipment involved in the sport of skiing is a hassle. Many recreational athletes swear by having custom-fit boots made to not waste precious vacation time dealing with rental gear. One Telluride entrepreneur has taken this hack one step further and built a bespoke ski factory in Mountain Village. The process for a pair of Wagner skis starts at home with a questionnaire about your physicality and where you like to ski, then moves to a Skype consultation. Once the blueprint is agreed upon, the elves at the Wagner workshop start cooking up your skis—complete with your choice of graphics (the vintage stripes are especially nice). Large windows invite passersby to look in on the magic, making Mountain Village kind of like the North Pole year-round.
Both resorts offer terrain that is the envy of ski destinations around the world. In the end, you can’t go wrong. No you can't. Buy some real estate too from Dan Henschel in Telluride, Colorado.