THE LEGENDARY TELLURIDE — MINING TOWN, WILDERNESS MECCA, UNPARALLELED TOURIST DESTINATION — CONTINUES TO INSPIRE.
Telluride, Colorado. The name inspires visions of a winter wonderland, world-class skiing, snow-capped mountains, and cozy evenings before a roaring fireplace. Telluride does not disappear during the summertime, however, nor does its scenic beauty take a single step back. As perhaps the single most scenic area in the Rocky Mountain High Country, Telluride attracts legions of visitors year round. If you’re in the market for a summer destination that includes world-class food, shopping, outdoor activities, and truly jaw-dropping natural beauty, Telluride should rise to the top of your list.
A former mining town and veritable place of legend, Telluride was founded in 1878 under the name of Columbia. Confusion with Columbia, California forced an early name change, though no one — even then — could possibly have confused Telluride with any other place. Located within a box canyon and surrounded with 13,000 to 14,000-foot high walls, Telluride has an “in your face” variety of beauty. The town itself sits at 8,750 feet above sea level, has no traffic lights, and basks in the glory of the highest concentration of 13,000-14,000 foot peaks in North America.
“When speaking about Telluride, you always have to start with the scenery. The San Juan Mountains are different than the rest of the mountains in Colorado, and are much more rugged,” says Bill Jensen, Partner and CEO of Telluride Ski Resort. “Our box canyon contains two National Park-quality waterfalls, and by the end of the summer the entire area is green and lush, with a high alpine lake within hiking distance. The vistas are just breathtaking.”
A walk down Colorado Avenue presents Victorian-era structures, clapboard storefronts filled with gourmet restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries, all set against the backdrop of rugged, tree-encrusted peaks almost close enough to touch. This natural bounty was matched early on with a material bounty, afforded through the various mines that won the town the nickname “City of Gold.” Telluride’s wealth attracted miners, businessmen, and Old West characters, not the least of whom was Butch Cassidy. The famous outlaw actually made his name in Telluride, as he netted over $24,000 in his first large-scale heist at the San Miguel Valley Bank.
Today, you don’t have to rob a bank or mine the mountain to extract joy from Telluride. The town and its surrounding area practically feel like a heaven on earth, a sensation apparent to visitors across the span of centuries. For decades before the miners arrived, the Ute Indians summered in the area, doubtlessly drawn by its natural abundance. In 1970, nearly 40 years after the mine went bust, skiing first arrived in Telluride. The early entrepreneurs who charged $12 a day and provided a sack lunch quickly got replaced with the arrival of Joe Zolline, founder of Telluride Ski Resort. The earliest iteration of the ski resort included five lifts and a day lodge. Today, the ski resort has become a world-class destination with over 2,000 skiable acres. It encompasses advanced, intermediate, and beginners terrain, and includes the Mountain Village, a contemporary community with luxury hotels, condos, and high-end shopping and dining.
The town and the ski resort have become essentially inseparable, and any visitor to Telluride will naturally gravitate to the resort and Mountain Village as a large part of their experience. Thankfully, the resort more than lives up to the town’s history and character, along with the area’s natural bounty. Visitors will find themselves confronted with a massive wealth of entertainment and outdoor options, especially throughout the summer months. When people describe Telluride, the one word that keeps appearing is “authenticity.” From its history as a rough-and-tumble mining community, to its evolution into a skiing mecca, Telluride has always preserved its idiosyncratic character, lack of pretentiousness, and sense of welcome.
“Telluride is a very authentic community and destination,” says Bill. “It’s not over-commercialized, and there are no fast-food restaurants. A single Starbucks opened, and it caused consternation for years. The real place to go for coffee is Cowboy Coffee on Main St., which is located in a trailer. We’re a mining town, and we’ve preserved our community character.”
Visitors whose travel gets centered around the world-class resort — which Conde Nast awarded number one rankings in 2013, 2014, and 2015 — will find themselves nearly overwhelmed with the wealth of entertainment, shopping, dining, and outdoor options available. It’s impossible to mention the resort without an acknowledgement of the Telluride Golf Club. This 18-hole par-70 course presents a one-of-a-kind experience, with a 6,574 yard course set amidst 13,000-14,000 foot peaks, and the splendor of a verdant mountain valley. With an altitude of over 9,400 feet, Telluride Golf Club allows visitors to tee-off at one of the highest golf courses in the world.
Most visitors to Telluride find themselves immediately attracted to the wild surrounding scenery, and flock to the hiking and jeep trails that surround the town.
“Because of the mining history, there are many great dirt roads,” says Bill. “You can come here and rent jeeps, or take advantage of the businesses that organize jeep adventures, and tour Imogene Pass, which is 13,000 feet high right out of town.”
Aside from the dirt roads, visitors can choose from among 17 bike trails that explore mining pathways in the San Juan Mountains, or the popular hiking trails that provide the summer’s most popular activity. Among the various exploratory options, you could choose a different hiking trail every day, and never reach the limits of abundance contained in the San Juan Mountain’s natural bounty.
As for dining, the singularity of Telluride’s character and beauty have also attracted some of the greatest chefs in the country. After a day spent exploring the wilderness, you can sate your appetite at any number of stellar restaurants, both in Telluride or a short gondola ride away in Mountain Village. At the top of gondola, you’l find Allred’s Restaurant, generally considered the flagship dining experience for Telluride. Chef Mike Regret consistently creates an innovative menu that features sustainably-sourced lamb, elk, steak, seafood, and steak entrees.
Throughout the summer, practically every weekend serves as a special occasion in Telluride. In particular, this July 8th and 9th will see Telluride host the Ride Fesitval. This one-of-a-kind event brings rock and roll to one of the world’s most stunning outdoor venues, with headliners Ben Harper and Beck.
If you’ve never been to Telluride, this summer presents the ideal opportunity to explore one of the most beautiful places in the world. If you’ve visited years ago, there’s never a better time than the present to immerse yourself once again in Telluride’s golden ambience.
“People who visited before will find that it has maintained all the attributes they loved,” says Bill. “The character, for example, and the authenticity. At the same time, the retail and food selections have evolved. We pride ourselves on our community, which has the mindset to preserve what’s special about Telluride. Whatever you loved a decade ago, you’ll love even more today.”