The new service this season into Telluride is tempting, with regional connections on a United partner through Denver, making it a one stop from just about any U.S. city, with almost no driving. Montrose also significantly increased its winter flights for the third straight year, with non-stops on all three big carriers from major cities coast-to-coast including New York, Atlanta, LA, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Chicago, and Denver. Montrose is just 68 miles away, closer than the airports serving many other major Colorado resorts, and there is easy ground shuttle service—visitors don't need or want a car in Telluride.
T&C Travel Guide: The Best of Telluride
Where to stay, eat, and drink at America's top (secret) ski resort.
From outlaw Butch Cassidy to longtime homeowner Oprah Winfrey, Telluride has always been the ski town of choice for those who can afford to go anywhere but prefer to keep a low profile. It combines Old West ambiance with understated luxury, fine dining with casual, rugged terrain with corduroy, and more than any other mountain in this country, offers truly great skiing for every ability. Telluride is arguably the country's best all-around ski vacation destination (Ski Magazine readers just ranked it number one in North America for Overall Satisfaction, and top marks in Scenery and Character), but it has long been knocked for being remote and hard to reach. That was always an exaggerated and unfortunate myth, but with the reopening of commercial service into the town's ultra-convenient airport, it's easier than ever to get here.
WHERE TO STAY
Looking for a hotel that feels more like a friend's sumptuous vacation home? Check into this European-style residential boutique with high-touch personal service. Lumiere features apartments rather than rooms, most with enormous walk-in steam showers, Wolf and SubZero appliances, and wet bars. The hallways are filled with the scents of complimentary fresh baked afternoon sweets daily and delicious breakfasts are included. It's also ski-in/ski-out.
118 Lost Creek Lane, 970-369-0400, lumieretelluride.com
Madeline Hotel & Residences
With an unbeatable location in the pedestrianized heart of contemporary Mountain Village, the Madeline is a small scale take on a full-service luxury resort, with spa, pool complex, and multiple bars and restaurants. It's as close as understated Telluride comes to an après ski "scene." It was also expanded and completely renovated for this season.
568 Mountain Village Boulevard, 970-369-0880, madelinetelluride.com
New Sheridan Hotel
One of the few Colorado hotels dating to the mining era, the 125-year-old, four-diamond New Sheridan is just four years younger than Telluride itself. In the heart of the older village, two blocks from the slopes, this is where Butch and Sundance would stay, a historic cowboy hotel that doesn't rest on its history. It's got a classic "Chop House" and three bars for just 28 rooms–an enviable 1:8 après ratio–including an iconic watering hole that dates backto 1895.
231 West Colorado Avenue, 970-728-4351, newsheridan.com
Dunton Town House
The newest accommodations in town just opened for the 2016-17 season. It's a spin-off of ultra-luxury Dunton Hot Springs 70 miles away, a world-class Relais & Châteaux boutique resort created out of a ghost town. Both are owned by German billionaire Christoph Henkel, who also has the Four Seasons Santa Fe and Utah's Amangiri. But while Dunton Hot Springs is living, breathing, over-the-top Old West, the Town House is Tyrolean chic, a historic 19th-century mining home converted into a five-room slice of Europe, celebrating the immigrants from the Austrian-Italian border region who moved here to work the mines. It is full of custom furnishings, Tyrolean antiques and fabrics, Austrian ceramics, and discreet elegance.
210 South Oak Street, 877-288-9922, duntontownhouse.com
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
221 South Oak
Telluride's gourmet scene flies under the radar, with just one celebrity chef, but 221 owner Eliza Gavin was already running the local fave when she competed on Bravo's Top Chef. She returned better for it, and in a charming Victorian townhouse in the old village offers a finessed game-rich menu teeming with boar, bison, elk, and local lamb.
221 S Oak Street, 970-728-9507, 221southoak.com
COURTESY OF VISIT TELLURIDE
One of Telluride's more upscale restaurants perfectly captures the ski vacation aesthetic with updated French alpine fare, and a menu featuring dishes such as coq au vin and beef tartare that are hard to come by on this side of the Atlantic. It has been so popular here for so long that it just spun off a sister restaurant in Denver to meet Coloradan demand.
150 West San Juan Avenue, 970-728-6232, lamarmotte.com
A true hidden gem, this trailside chalet at 11,966 feet is perfect for a decadent Alpine-style lunch or an excuse to get an early jump start on après. It serves exquisite charcuterie and Italian alpine fare with great wines and great views, and is open for gondola-served dinners a few nights weekly.
12100 Camels' Garden Road, 970-728-7560, tellurideskiresort.com
Brown Dog Pizza
Telluride has some of the finest "normal" food of any ski town in the country, and there is no better example than Brown Dog, quite simply the single best pizzeria in skiing. The sports bar feel belies the unexpected quality, with a menu anchored by its house specialty, the suddenly trendy Detroit-style pan pizza. Both the ambiance and cuisine are explained by the fact that the owner played college football with Tom Brady at Michigan.
110 East Colorado Avenue, 970-728-8046,
Not unlike Brown Dog is to pizza, Oak is the best barbecue joint in skiing, period. Its Alabama-born pit master does superlative slow smoked southern barbecue (especially ribs), plus winners like house cured bacon–try the deconstructed BLTs washed down with a bourbon from the restaurant's extensive collection.
250 West San Juan Avenue, 970-728-3985, oakstelluride.com
New Sheridan Bar & Chop House
Telluride excels at saloons, but it's hard to top this straight-out-of-Westworld, 19th-century gem in the historic New Sheridan Hotel for cocktails. Follow drinks with red meat in the atmospheric Chop House, which also has a surprisingly long wine list with by the glass offerings carefully stored in a nitrogen preservation system.
231 West Colorado Avenue, 970-728-4351, newsheridan.com
WHERE TO SHOP
Wagner Custom Skis
There is no more coveted winter sports hardware than a pair of Wagner skis. A decade ago, computer scientist Pete Wagner conceived a better way to make skis, and today his company is the world's most renowned truly custom manufacturer. Many "custom" skis are merely variants on stock molds or fancy paint jobs, but every pair of Wagner skis is totally bespoke from the ground up to meet its user's needs. For this season, Wagner, which was based 15 miles outside of town, opens its first Telluride showroom in pedestrianized Mountain Village.
The biggest complaints among skiers are sore feet and cold toes, and both can be solved through custom fitting. Boot Doctors is perennially ranked among the nation's best ski boot fitters, and is so popular that reservations come recommended–even though they have two Telluride locations, one in town and one in Mountain Village.
Black Bear Trading Company
If you like cowboy boots as much as ski boots, there's no better brand than Lucchese, and these are stocked, along with top outdoor apparel labels like Filson and Rand Hats, at Black Bear.
218 West Colorado Avenue, 970-728-6556
WHAT TO SKI
Just about every big resort sells itself as all things to all skiers, and while this is rarely true, Telluride is the happy exception. It has it all: bowls, chutes, cliffs, glades, cruisers and groomers. Advanced intermediate skiers—and there are a lot of them—are often the hardest customers to please, caught between too challenging and not enough. Here there is a mid-mountain canyon area full of double blue advanced intermediate trails, served by the Apex and Polar Queen Express chairs, a feature you would be hard pressed to find anyplace else. The Village Express serves a sea of single blue intermediate terrain, while beginners have plenty to choose from, and unlike most resorts, where they are relegated to the base area, novices can enjoy the stunning vistas from some of the highest spots with good options to ski down.
Telluride excels at the high end, with a ton for experts and beyond, from in-bounds blacks and double blacks (lifts 6, 9, and 14) to a vast array of chutes and hike-to terrain (lifts 12 and 15). If you cannot be challenged here you cannot be challenged anywhere, and in recent years Telluride has facilitated the growing big mountain crowd by installing permanent metal stairs and rails so the extremes can be accessed more easily. On top of all this, bump fans know the resort has long been home to some of the best and most infamous mogul runs in the world, like double blacks Spiral Staircase and Kant-Mak-M off of lift 9 (they even offer multi-day instructional "Making Friends With Moguls" camps).
If somehow you run out of things to ski (you won't), or just want a different kind of adventure, it is one of the few U.S. resorts with a daily heli-skiing operation, accessing an additional 250 square miles of powder. If there is a type of terrain you like to ski or ride, Telluride has lots of it.
HOW TO GET HERE
The new service this season into Telluride is tempting, with regional jet connections on a United partner through Denver, making it a one stop from just about any U.S. city, with almost no driving. But don't overlook Montrose, the old alternative, which was never nearly as bad as it was made out to be, offering more flights and better reliability in winter weather. Montrose also significantly increased its winter flights for the third straight year, with non-stops on all three big carriers from major cities coast-to-coast including New York, Atlanta, LA, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Chicago, and Denver. Montrose is just 68 miles away, closer than the airports serving many other major Colorado resorts, and there is easy ground shuttle service—visitors don't need or want a car in Telluride.