Like a fly-fisherman reluctant to reveal his favorite secret fishing hole, Telluride was conspicuously absent from my list of ski destinations to write about. But an email from a Telluride-based pilot and AOPA member caused me to re-think that omission. As he pointed out, Telluride Regional is surely one of the most beautiful airports to fly in to, and super friendly, with low fees. If a pilot’s skills and equipment can handle the 9,070-foot elevation and surrounding terrain, Telluride is also one of the most convenient resort destinations for general aviation pilots—no car needed. The town, tucked into a box canyon and home to about 2,500 of possibly the luckiest residents anywhere, is blessed with pristine mountain scenery in every direction. And Telluride’s city leaders intend to keep it that way. The town and resort are intentionally small, the result of environmentally responsible zoning and ski-loving resort owners. So go ahead—visit Telluride for the winter skiing, the summer festivals, the vast array of really good restaurants at every price range, the Wild West ambiance—you can’t spoil it.
Like Aspen, Crested Butte, and Steamboat Springs, Telluride is a former mining town, although it’s nestled in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, not the Rockies. Butch Cassidy pulled off his first major heist here in 1889, robbing the San Miguel Valley Bank of $24,580. The landmark New Sheridan Hotel (the “old” one burned down) was built in 1895. One of the many great things about Telluride is how city planners located the contemporary and pedestrianized Mountain Village, where you’ll find the ski resort, spas, and golf course, up on a mountain and away from town. Thus, downtown Telluride retains its Victorian Old West architecture and vibe. Yet the two areas are connected by a free gondola that runs from 6:30 a.m. to midnight.
Ah, the mountain. The Telluride Ski Resort offers 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, a ski school, and 148 trails that go from beginner to double black and double black extreme, as well as hike-in terrain, sledding at Firecracker Hill, and Nordic skiing on the mountain and at Valley Floor, just outside of town. Of 19 lifts, nine are high-speed. Lines? Fuggetaboutit—they're nonexistent. And if you really want to get away, try heli-skiing with Helitrax. But Telluride’s ski genius is the balanced assortment of terrain: long, interesting beginner’s trails; intermediate glades; great mogul runs; plus extreme skiing, so everyone can have a great ski experience. And for breaks or overnight, rather than lugging your gear, just store it safely at the Telluride Ski Resort’s ski valet.
With a variety of ski-in restaurants and rest areas, it’s easy to take a break. Ride the gondola or ski down to Telluride to refuel with tuna carpaccio tacos at Taco del Gnar. Warm up with a soba noodle bowl at Tomboy Tavern. Relax with a massage at the Madeline Hotel’s spa in Mountain Village and be back on the slopes in no time. To venture further afield, try a snowmobile or horseback ride. And great fly-fishing is available year-round.
When the lifts stop at 4 p.m., it’s time to kick back and raise a glass to your good fortune. The Madeline Hotel is literally steps away from the chairlift. You can “après ski” in the rooftop pool and hot tub and gaze at the Milky Way or catch snowflakes on your tongue, depending on the weather. Meet the locals at the New Sheridan’s historic bar or at There, known for its global fusion snacks and jam cocktails.
Telluride offers great food at every price range, too. Favorite eateries include pizza and brew at High Pie (really good gluten-free crust!), Floradora Saloon, Smuggler’s Brew Pub, Brown Dog Pizza, and The Butcher and Baker. For Asian, try Siam in town or Siam’s Talay Grille in Mountain Village. Fine dining can be had at the New Sheridan’s Chop House, 221 South Oak, Telluride Bistro, Cosmopolitan, and Sidework. Ride the gondola to Allred’s for great views, or, hop on a snow cat to the mountaintop Alpino Vino for a five-course Italian feast. Additional great lodging choices include home and condo rentals from Silver Star and the Peaks Resort and Spa Hotel.
With its gorgeous runway approach; convenient transportation; lack of crowds; and quality of skiing, lodging, and food, Telluride may be the perfect mountain getaway for pilots. There. I said it.
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