By Neill Pieper
Find your way on to U.S. Highway 550 in the southwest part of the state and take time to admire the mighty Cimarron Range before turning on to Colorado Highway 62. The rugged San Juan’s, snowcapped and austere, frame the skyline. Coast past Miller Mesa, John Wayne’s iconic True Grit set, and turn back up the valley. The San Miguel River, partially frozen, flows slowly past.
Follow this route and discover one of Colorado’s mountain gems. Telluride has been made famous from a rich mining history and Columbine-filled glades, an idyllic setting that inspires. For those lucky enough to visit Telluride, they’ll tell you that outdoor activities reign. But when the sun dips and skiers, snowmobilers, snowshoers and sightseers return to town, a vibrant nightlife can be found.
If you find yourself longing for adventure this winter, consider Telluride as your destination. Below are some of the activities that locals and visitors alike have come to love in the area.
Downhill Skiing/Boarding – Lift towers poke out of snow-covered peaks, which are as much a part of the Telluride landscape as the quaking aspen. The skiing in Telluride is world class but don’t tell anyone. This southwest gem remains hard to get to for most, but those that do make it here are forever enamored. From beginner slopes like Meadows to backcountry steeps off Palmyra Peak, Telluride has varied terrain. Pristine views of towering Wilson Peak can be seen from Mountain Village, while high atop lift 14, the La Sal Range in neighboring Utah, can be glimpsed against the skyline. Head up lift 9 and keep an eye out for local legend John Cooper. Cooper aims to ski Kant Mak’M beneath lift 9 up to 1,000 times a season. Take a break or finish your afternoon shred session by stopping off at Gorrono Ranch beneath lift 4. The “beach” at Gorronos features live music, cold brews and one of the best views in Colorado.
Cross Country Skiing – Trout and Priest Lakes, a mere 15-minute drive from Telluride, provide a beautiful setting for a cross-country ski venture. Just off Lizard Head Pass there is a system of trails that are groomed throughout the winter. Rent a pair of skis from the Telluride Nordic Center and spend a day beneath mountain peaks and snow-clad trees.
Snowmobiling – Visible from the top of lift 12 at the resort, Alta Lakes sit beneath Palmyra Peak. The frozen lakes can be accessed by snowmobile in the winter. Several guided companies offer tours from town. The trail is ingrained with history as it passes old mining structures and the ghost town of Alta. The Alta Lakes are iced over in winter, yet provide a great area for finding fresh powder and views.
The Perfect Ending
Telluride Brewing – Telluride Brewing has produced beers that mirror the unmatched vibe of Telluride since 2012. Check out the cozy taproom just outside of town, or grab one of their beers at almost any Telluride bar on or off the slopes.
Beers to try – For hop lovers, try the Fishwater DIPA. On the maltier side, grab a Face Down Brown (three-time GABF winner).
Smugglers Brewpub – Located near the bottom of the town’s Gondola, Smugglers is a perfect spot for lunch after a few hours of skiing. Award-winning brews and locally sourced foods provide a top-notch, yet low-key dining experience.
New Sheridan – The historic New Sheridan Hotel was built in 1895 and retains ample character despite being renovated in 2008. You can either grab a cocktail and soak up some history in the bar, or take a brew with you to the back to unwind with a game of pool or foosball.