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Telluride can be the playground of the rich and famous, but at its heart it is a beautiful former mining town nestled in the San Juan Mountains of western Colorado. Ski season is the big draw but by diversifying its tourism to attract hikers, bikers, and festival goers, Telluride is a tourist destination all year round.
Telluride Regional Airport sits just outside of town but it’s not the most practical option. Flights are at the behest of the finicky weather and, honestly, the runway is terrifying. Your best bet is to fly into Montrose, about an hour and a half north. Allegiant, American, Delta, and United all service through there with a regular schedule, though times will change between the winter and summer schedules.
It’s easy to get to Telluride from Montrose using state routes 145, 62, and 550; during the summertime it provides a gorgeous drive into town. However, during the winter it can be quite dangerous so it’s worth it to use a transportation company with knowledge of the roads. Additionally, if you’re not planning on traveling outside of Telluride during your visit, it’s fairly easy to get around without a car, so a transportation company to get from the airport during the summer is not a bad idea. Parking is notoriously limited in town so it can be a hassle to have to deal with a car but condos in town will generally offer parking or a parking permit that can be used on the side streets.
To help solve the car conundrum, Telluride offers alternatives. They provide a free shuttle service called Galloping Goose that rolls through town on a continuous loop morning to night. Additionally, their innovative electric gondola system carries visitors from Telluride up to the town of Mountain Village and back. The ride is beautiful and peaceful, giving you an unprecedented view of Telluride; those with a fear of heights be warned, as the glass gondola is rather high and does regularly stop during transportation for normal operational reasons. There are four stations on the gondola route; the first sits at the start of Mountain Village and is a decent uphill walk to reach (though there is an hour of free parking allowed). The ride takes about 5 minutes down into Mountain Village proper; there, you can switch to the second section of the gondola (it’s about a fifty foot walk to switch stations). That gondola will take you up to San Sophia station for a brief stop before going down into town and terminating at Telluride Station just off of Main Street for around a 15 minute ride. There is a bonus – gondola carriages are outfitted with bike racks and most allow dogs, making it even easier to Telluride to remain super pet-friendly.
Winter has been synonymous with Telluride for obvious reasons, as visitors flock to the ski slopes all around town. Even with the decent amount of snow that comes in, temperatures are not horrible, averaging in the 30’s. Summertime brings beautiful weather, in the 60’s and 70’s but be mindful of the almost daily rain or thunderstorm activity. Usually it sweeps in and out but can affect transportation like the gondola, so just keep in mind if relying on it.
Lodging in Telluride can be summed up easily – expensive. The area is driven by rentals and resorts; you’re not going to find generic motels here. For families, I would recommend renting one of the plethora of condos, as access to a kitchen and laundry will help keep costs down. There are numerous rental options all around town, ranging from a couple to several hundred dollars per night. We managed to snag two great spots – a condo right off Colorado Avenue (also known as Main Street) for $179 a night and a ‘tiny room’ at the Mountain Lodge in Mountain Village for $189 a night. The room at Mountain Lodge was the second queen bedroom of a condo that was locked off and had its own entrance; without knowing any better, I would have thought it was a normal hotel room and for all intents and purposes, it was.
Telluride is pricey, there’s no doubt about it. As I mentioned before, having a condo with a kitchen can really help. There are two markets in Telluride, Clark’s and The Village Market (Clark’s is bigger and probably the better option but it’s at the far end of town so plan accordingly). If you’re staying in Mountain Village, there is the Mountain Village Market by the gondola station which is the largest of all three.
If you venture out, there is no lack of restaurants to try. From fine steakhouses to a delicious grilled cheese cart, there’s pretty much anything and everything. Try Baked in Telluride just off of Main Street first thing in the morning for a wonderful spread of baked goods and to-go breakfast burritos. For something a little more laidback, hit up Brown Dog Pizza and be prepared to wait for a table – but the Detroit style pizza is definitely worth it. For something quintessential and delicious, there’s The Chop House at the New Sheridan hotel, a historic slice of Telluride’s past.
Since the area is so activity focused, a majority of restaurants and bars offer a decent après ski or happy hour. Look for them to start earlier in the afternoon, between 2-3, and go towards 5 or 6; a favorite was Wood Ear, which offers a great cocktail menu, including a very tasty Moscow Mule with homemade ginger beer. For a cheap drink in a good location, grab a PBR in the Historic Bar at New Sheridan for $2.50.
Telluride is for outdoor lovers. In the winter, take advantage of the pristine snow and lack of Aspen or Vail notoriety to enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and even winter fly fishing in the San Miguel river that runs through town. Telluride Ski Resort has plenty of trails for beginners to advanced and recently added Revelation Bowl for advanced skiers that sits above the tree line. There’s also sledding and ice skating for the less adventurous, as well as lots of shopping along Main Street. A high number of artists who live in and around the area and showcase their work in town or the farmer’s market often offer classes – something for those who prefer to stay indoors.
During the summer, there really is no shortage of things to do. We were there during the Telluride 100 Mountain Bike Race, which brought over 400 bikers from across the country, but there are bikers coming in every day to use the repurposed ski trails and paths in the mountains. Hiking is also incredibly popular with 90+ trails to walk and hike around the area. One of the easier ones with a great view is Bear Creek Falls, which will take around 2 ½ hours from start to finish. Also make sure to see Bridal Veil Falls that’s at the end of the box canyon Telluride sits in, which you can drive up to or take a shuttle to see. There’s a great golf course at Mountain Village, Telluride Golf Club, which sits at 9,500 feet and where you can take advantage of the thinner air for your drive.
It’s known as one of the festival capitals of the country; besides the famous Telluride Film Festival, there’s ones for jazz and bluegrass, Blues and Brews in the fall, the Mushroom Festival, and the list goes on. Theatre lovers will enjoy the full Telluride Theatre season, including Shakespeare in the Park in the summer; the stage is located in Town Park at the end of Main Street. Meander over the river and enjoy wandering through the park, which contains fields that come in handy for baseball tournaments and an aquatic center – sign your kids up for swimming lessons if you’re in town for several days.
About the Author:
Asonta Benetti is based in Phoenix, Arizona. When not at her day job or working on some form of writing project, she is an avid international traveler, with great knowledge and experience in the UK. In addition to The Flight Deal, she’s written articles for Highroads magazine on San Diego, the Oregon Coast, Missouri, and Belgium. You can follow her on Twitter/@AsontaMarie and Instagram/@asontabenetti.
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