One Perfect Ski Day in Telluride
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On an early April day just before the end of the ski season in Telluride, Colorado, we were the only guests enjoying a leisurely breakfast spread at a six-room bed-and-breakfast. Then we picked up our skis, strolled onto the town’s free gondola, skied straight onto the chairlift and spent the day enjoying the mountain without a single minute of waiting for a lift (interrupted only by a sunny lunch of salad and rosé on the top of the mountain). After a few failed ski trips this season, this late season ski day was perfect.
At TPG we talk a lot about how to get somewhere and where to stay, often with points, but the beauty of travel usually lies in what you do during your time on the ground. We only had one day in Telluride — I highly recommend a longer trip to this box canyon — but even one full day can be a perfect trip. Here’s how to make the most it.
Stay at Dunton Town House
Dunton Town House is much more than a place to sleep and shower. At Dunton, you start your day feeling like you are staying with good friends who lay out a breakfast of berries, yogurt, meats, pastries (from Baked in Telluride), fresh juice, hot coffee and more.
This included breakfast left our bellies full and our minds ready for fun. Try to book your stay here using your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card via Hotels.com/Venture to earn 10 miles per dollar (rates start around $300–$350).
If you aren’t staying at Dunton, grab a cup from Cowboy Coffee (131 East Colorado St.) to pair with a quick and affordable-for-the-area bite from Baked in Telluride (127 South First St.).
For a more expansive breakfast or brunch, grab a seat at the New Sheridan (231 W Colorado Ave.).
Gear Up at Boot Doctors
Part of the goal of this trip was to get some new ski boots at an end-of-season price, so I made an appointment with Boot Doctors on Oak Street to have my feet measured and boots molded to my feet. We took care of this process the night before, so my new boots and an included day of performance ski rentals (free when you buy boots) were sitting out ready to be picked up on our short stroll from Dunton to the gondola.
Owning and traveling with ski gear does add to the logistical challenges of a family ski trip but after just one day with my new boots, I am 100% certain that lugging at least your own boots is worth the effort.
Enjoy the Free Ride
At many mountains, it can cost $20–$30 for a scenic gondola ride, but in Telluride where the gondola serves as a lifeline for locals and visitors to travel from the historic town to the Mountain Village and back again, it’s free. Regardless of the season — or whether you want to ski, hike or just sit and enjoy the view — take the gondola up (and down) for a breathtaking view of the city and beyond. (The gondola is closed for roughly a month each spring and fall.)
In my case, the gondola got me to the base of the mountain and the Village Express lift to start a day of spring skiing in virtually perfect conditions.
Use That Epic Pass
This was the first season where an Epic Pass can be used to ski at Telluride — though note that discounted passes, such as the Epic Local, Military, etc. do not work at Telluride. However, if you have one of those passes, you may score a discount of around 20% on your Telluride lift ticket if you ask. Epic passes that you buy by the day are also eligible for skiing at Telluride if you purchase four or more days for the season. Here are the best credit cards to use for skiing and boarding, whether buying a season pass or just need one day of skiing. Note that lift tickets at Telluride code as entertainment.
What’s a Lift Line?
While Telluride can experience lift lines during super-peak days, it isn’t a mountain known for crowds. It is relatively remote, isn’t home to mega-chain hotels and has a number of different areas of the mountain that can help disperse skiers and boarders.
On our ski day, lift lines simply didn’t exist. In fact, about 50% of the time I had the chair up the mountain all to myself because no one else was in line. The times when I did have a companion, it was almost always a local who was a great source of tips for the mountain or après-ski.
Contrast this to the 30-minute lift lines that were standard on our early January ski trip to Breckenridge and Telluride was ski heaven.
Lunch at the Top
The most consistent Telluride tip I received was to enjoy lunch at the top of the mountain at Alpino Vino. I’m not one to ignore dining recommendations, so I timed my trips to arrive at the top when breakfast would likely be wearing off. You can’t get to lunch at Alpino Vino if you aren’t skiing or boarding, but if you can make it to the top (you need to be able to ski at least blue runs to get down), you will get an Italian-themed meal with an extensive wine list while you are comfy in sheepskin throws at almost 12,000 feet. They even have loaner sunglasses available in case all you have are ski goggles.
On this spring day there was no wait for lunch, but on busier days you can put your name on the list and take a few more runs while waiting for a table.
The signature grilled cheese and organic tomato soup gets high marks ($26) but I needed to conserve my appetite for happy hour and dinner plans, so I went with the Insalata Alpino ($16) and a glass of rosé ($14).
While lunch here is an a la carte menu, Alpino Vino is open for dinner with a set $150 menu — the meal includes non-skiing transportation to the top, reservations required.
Ski All the Way Home
When you finish at Alpino Vino, your dessert is some sweet skiing, like a run down See Forever, where you can, indeed, see forever — all the way to the La Sal Mountains in Utah on a good day. See Forever is a groomed blue run, and one of my favorites. Other great intermediate runs include Polar Queen and Silver Tip, the latter of which had some gentle moguls that had been created from the recent powder.
At Telluride you can ski all the way home — even if you are staying in town. After enjoying See Forever, you can ski the Telluride Trail right to the town. You’ll end up across the street from Boot Doctors, making for a very short walk to return rented gear. If the kids made the trip with you and went to ski school, you’ll need to retrieve them at the Mountain Village and then you can all cruise the rest of the way home or just hitch a ride on the gondola.
If you ski a full day, by 4pm you are probably ready for a seat, a drink and maybe even a snack — hence, the ritual of après-ski. The best post-ski spots are right on the mountain, maximizing the view and minimizing the snow-to-seat distance. One of my favorites is Allred’s in Telluride, right off the gondola with a great view.
The service, quality of the food and view are worth every penny you spend here. If you want to save some room for dinner, I recommend the red pepper hummus and ahi tuna poke bowl to share. You almost can’t go wrong with the drink list, but I can give a personal rec for the pamplemousse rosé with fresh lime and a nice amount of “sparkle.”
Farther from the mountain, grab a spot at There Bar, a few blocks from the gondola in town (627 West Pacific). It’s tiny and popular, so get there when they open at 4:30pm or you might be waved away when the joint is packed later in the evening. Happy hour runs until 6pm.
Enjoy the free popcorn and a jam drink for happy hour or be sure to make an online reservation well in advance if you want a seat for dinner.
Save Room for Dinner
Considering the small local population and remote location, Telluride has some surprisingly good restaurants, so save room for dinner (and bring a credit card that gives you a nice bonus on dining). If you forgot to make dinner reservations, or just want some authentic Thai food, walk across the street from There to Siam. Siam does not take advance reservations, though you can call or walk in to put yourself on a list for same-day dining beginning when they open at 4pm. Whatever you do, don’t skip the coconut soup.
Another wise choice for dinner is 221 South Oak located at, you guessed it, 221 South Oak (right across from the Dunton Town House). This charming and stellar restaurant takes online reservations and has both a vegetarian and regular menu — both with lots of options.
If you want to save some money for more ski days, an affordable and casual dinner option can be found at Taco Del Gnar (123 South Oak) that includes two tacos, smothered Tater Tots and a side of beans for about $10.
Walk It Off
You’re likely to do a lot of eating in Telluride, so be sure to walk it off around historic Colorado Avenue. Many of the shops on this main street close by about 6pm but it’s a fun walk virtually any time of day. If you have time, pop into Telluride’s Historical Museum at 201 W. Gregory Ave. If you happen to be strolling at sunset, you are in for a treat as mountain sunsets are some of the best — spring sunsets happen as late as 7:30pm, allowing you time to make the most of your day.
If you don’t make it to Telluride during the ski season, the longer days in other seasons give you plenty of time for walking (in the form of hiking) at places such as Bear Creek (you can start from town), nearby Bridal Veil Falls or Alta Lakes, a personal favorite of mine a few miles down the road.
Telluride is still a special place and is likely to remain that way with its secluded location. As you start thinking about which ski pass to buy for next year before the 2020 prices increase starting next week, consider booking flights via United to fly directly into the Telluride airport, grabbing some skis in town and creating a perfect ski day of your own.
While Telluride has now shut down the ski lifts until next season, here are some ski resorts that will be operating into the summer.