As you make the drive from the airport in Montrose, Colorado into Telluride, you pass the remains of old mining operations and wind through the striking San Miguel Mountains. The anticipation continues to build until finally, you drive into the box canyon where Telluride (which was originally named Columbia when it was founded back in 1878) sits.
Part of the allure of Telluride, which transitioned from a mining town to a ski-bunny, hippie haven in the late ’60s and ’70s, has long been its exclusivity. It’s hard to get to, making it extremely attractive for celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and designer Ralph Lauren to buy land in this Colorado ski enclave. Celebrities won’t be bothered by paparazzi or swarming fans here—it’s almost an unspoken rule that you just go about business as usual, similar to other hotbeds for the rich and famous, even if Tom Cruise or Katie Holmes are walking down the street with Suri tagging along.
As opposed to other more glitzy ski towns around the world, Telluride is not a place to see-and-be-seen, and you can leave your outrageous fur coats and Moon Boots at home—there’s no place for them here.
As Lauren explained in an interview, “Colorado was an escape for us. It wasn’t about being in fashion. It was about a life that would be different, that would be freer—that would have nature and trees and animals and big sky.”
Just because Telluride is about understated glamour, however, doesn’t mean it lacks a strong culinary scene, high-end shops, or luxury accommodations. This small town needs to cater to the most discerning of tastes and it does not disappoint on that front. You’ll find impressive local microbrews, wine lists with some of the world’s best bottles, multi-course tasting menus served at the top of the mountain. To help, here are some insider tips to use as your plan your itinerary:
When to Go:
Telluride Ski Resort is a skier’s paradise in the winter months, with everything from a beginner’s terrain to hike-to-ski areas to Nordic-style skiing. In the spring and summer, however, Telluride plays host to some of the country’s top film and music festivals, like the Telluride Film Festival and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. (Summer, for the record, increasingly draws the biggest crowds of all.)
Where to Stay:Madeline Hotel and Residences, situated right on the slopes with ski-in/ski-out access, is a go-to spot for repeat Telluride visitors from around the world. Highlights include the sweeping mountain views from the rooms, the food at Black Iron kitchen (make sure to try the Colorado lamb sliders), an impressive fitness center with the most up-to-date equipment (in case you need to work off a few too many lamb sliders or French fries), and the full service spa with an inspired range of treatments, ranging from targeted ski and mountain recovery treatments to crystal massage therapy. If you want something remote and extra luxe, opt for Telluride Ski Resort’s Tempter House, situated at 12,200 feet up on the mountain. The house was designed in the late ’90s by Anne Eckley, who is registered nationally at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Where to Eat:
For fast and casual bites, the innovative tacos at Tacos del Gnar in town will blow your mind. If you are in need of something to warm you up in between ski runs, Poachers Pub is where the locals go—try the chili and the Ska Euphoria IPA. Other on-mountain dining favorites include Bon Vivant (for French country cuisine like crepes and cheese plates) and High Camp (they have self serve hot chocolate!). For a more gourmet, special dining experience, both Allred’s and Alpino Vino on top of the mountain are a must. Afterwards, if you are still looking to keep the party going, have a nightcap in town at High Pie or There Bar.
What to Do:
Aside from lots of ski and snowboarding, (and eating), do a scenic fat bike (it’s a bike with extra fat tires so you can bike on the snow) tour to Telluride Brewing Company to sample some local microbrews. Make sure to try the Tempter IPA. Also, spend at least one afternoon exploring the charming town of Telluride (just a short ride away from the mountain village), where you’ll find historic landmarks like the 103-year-old Sheridan Opera House (which has hosted more world premiere films than any theatre in the U.S. between New York and L.A. and still acts as a working theatre today), and a slew of specialty boutiques (Two Skirts is a must, along with Swanky Buckle, Picaya and T.K. Imports for home goods) and galleries. There’s also a cannabis walking tour, led by Telluride Green Tours, where you can visit the town’s many dispensaries and explore the cannabis scene, if that’s up your alley.
Telluride is one of the most visually striking destinations in the world. Whether the lush, green summer, the striking gold fall, or the snow dusted frosty winter, the peaks and natural landscape are unforgettable. But don’t let us sway you, discover Telluride winter for yourself from a truly unique aerial perspective.
The latest volume of Art & Home is here! This month, Iyna Bort Caruso takes us to the forefront of design and innovation.
There are architects who design homes. And then there are visionaries who rethink the very definition of what a home is and how it should be experienced.
$6,700,000 USD | Park City, Utah | Summit Sotheby’s International Realty
In certain circles, innovative architecture is a boundary-pushing test of one-upmanship. Architects are juxtaposing styles and exaggerating silhouettes to create what seems like newly invented forms. They’re embracing the element of surprise and a hint of playfulness.
$5,995,000 USD | Austin, Texas | Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty
To be successful, however, innovative design has to do more than break with the past. It has to be functional. It is the architect’s responsibility to create designs that better the lives of the people who inhabit the home, says Dan Brunn, a Los Angeles, California-based architect whose residences have incorporated pivoting walls to display (or conceal) artwork and zig zag-shaped balconies. Bringing shapes and spaces together, capturing volume and light, framing views and choreographing floor plans so that “forms comes alive” are the attributes of great architecture, Brunn says.
3.500.000 € EUR | Saxony, Germany | Berlin Sotheby’s International Realty
In areas like Scottsdale, Arizona, some luxury home buyers are shifting away from traditional Tuscan and Southwest Territorial styles. They’re opting for statement-making properties with striking contemporary lines that “contrast with our Sonoran Desert, yet balance with its natural setting in terms of aesthetics,” says Deems Dickinson, president and principal broker of Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty in Scottsdale. A custom home located on the 17th fairway of the prestigious Mirabel Golf Club community, for instance, is a remarkable example of modern architecture that stands out in the openness of the desert surroundings. The home features an indoor atrium with a bamboo garden, a floating staircase and windows that extend from the floor to ceiling and beyond, becoming full-length skylights.
As far as North American ski towns go, Aspen, Colorado, is tough to beat. It has not one but four mountains and a historic yet glitzed-out downtown full of shopping, restaurants, luxury hotels, world-class art, music, and intellectual gatherings. Two hundred miles to the southwest lies a not unknown but more discreet, more remote, more hemmed-in ski hamlet perched some 900 feet higher in the sky. Telluride and Aspen are both mining towns turned ski resorts, but thanks to Telluride’s spectacular setting, wholesome attitude, and homegrown entrepreneurs, it may have a few things to teach its bigger, more famous Coloradan sister.
1. Make your location more inaccessible and dramatic.
A Google Image search of the term box canyon will quickly turn up a photo of Telluride. The town’s population of 2,300 is less than half the size of Aspen’s and is squeezed into an even smaller canyon accessed by a smaller airport (TEX). Most visitors choose to fly into Montrose, some 70 miles to the north. This bite-size valley makes the town feel somehow quainter and more jaw-dropping at the same time.
2. Scale down the architecture.
Downtown Telluride is six blocks wide by 12 blocks long, dotted with adorable pastel Victorian-style houses. The main street is dominated by the courthouse, built in 1886, the New Sheridan Hotel, and the Sheridan Opera House—designed by the same architect as Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House, but at a fraction of the size. The retail boutiques represented in Telluride’s downtown are more Patagonia than Gucci.
3. Less caviar, more tacos.
Aspen has a slew of excellent, cosmopolitan dining options, from Matsuhisa to Chef’s Club at the St. Regis. But sometimes after a day of playing hard in the snow, all one craves is a bowl of piping hot, salty/carby ramen, like the dish served at There Bar, a cozy après-ski spot in one of Telluride’s charming Victorian cottages. Or a good taco like the ones at newly opened Taco del Gnar. At $4.50 a pop, try as many as you like; we recommend the lamb and the Korean short rib. Also try: Caravan (a Middle Eastern food truck), High Pie (pizza and “Telluride Mules”), Siam (for Thai staples), or Esperanza’s (a local favorite). Even the truffle French fries at Tomboy Tavern are toned down compared to Aspen’s Ajax Tavern’s over-the-top bouquet of Parmesan and truffle oil.
4. Gondola rides for everyone!
Both ski towns have gondolas that drop skiers off right in town, but Telluride’s is free. Celebrating its 20th birthday this season, the gondola at Telluride takes passengers up and over the hill to the European-style Mountain Village, built in the 1980s with ski-in, ski-out hotels (for example, the Madeline Hotel). The free gondola makes all of Telluride accessible by foot or ski whether you are staying in Mountain Village or in town, and runs until midnight. The silent swoosh of the cabin as it sweeps down the mountain by moonlight, cozily whisking you to your dinner reservation in the twinkling town below, is enchanting.
5. Design your own skis.
There is no denying the equipment involved in the sport of skiing is a hassle. Many recreational athletes swear by having custom-fit boots made to not waste precious vacation time dealing with rental gear. One Telluride entrepreneur has taken this hack one step further and built a bespoke ski factory in Mountain Village. The process for a pair of Wagner skis starts at home with a questionnaire about your physicality and where you like to ski, then moves to a Skype consultation. Once the blueprint is agreed upon, the elves at the Wagner workshop start cooking up your skis—complete with your choice of graphics (the vintage stripes are especially nice). Large windows invite passersby to look in on the magic, making Mountain Village kind of like the North Pole year-round.
Both resorts offer terrain that is the envy of ski destinations around the world. In the end, you can’t go wrong.
Telluride might be known for its famous landowners—Oprah Winfrey and Ralph Lauren among them—but this majestic ski town tucked away in a box canyon in southwestern Colorado still maintains its Old West charm. Once a mining town, and where Butch Cassidy started his bank-robbing career back in the 1890s, modern-day Telluride remains the unfussy, more casual ski-town sibling of places like Aspen or Vail. Don’t let the lack of fur coats and big-name chefs fool you—Telluride has world-class dining and lodging to match the outstanding ski terrain at Telluride Ski Resort.
There are Telluride establishments that should definitely be on your list, like Madeline Hotel and Residences (a favorite for its ski-in/ski-out access and après scene), Allred’s gourmet restaurant at the top of the gondola, and the 104-year-old Sheridan Opera House, where some of the entertainment world’s biggest names have passed through over the years. But if you are looking for some of the more under-the-radar spots, either because they are hidden in the mountains or are newer establishments, here are a few local watering holes that shouldn’t be missed on your next trip to Telluride.
Where to eat and drink Tacos del Gnar
Tacos del Gnar might be one of the newest dining spots in town, but news of their mouthwateringly delicious tacos has spread quickly in Telluride. The casual spot is perfect for grabbing a quick bite after a morning spent shredding the gnar. Here you’ll find some of the most unique tacos one could dream up, like the Avo taco with tempura-fried avocado slices on a flour tortilla topped with shredded cabbage and a zippy sauce. This place is so good, you seriously might want to plan a second stop here before you leave town.
New Sheridan Historic Bar
The historic New Sheridan Hotel and its accompanying dining spots—the Chop House and its Historic Bar—are iconic watering holes in Telluride. The restaurant is one of Telluride’s finest, and the Historic Bar—which dates from 1895, is a favorite of locals and visitors alike for its lively atmosphere, games (pool and foosball), and nightly drink specials. But what many visitors don’t know is that the bar also has a limited but very tasty menu of its own. Think elk chili, French fries with truffle oil and Parmesan, French dip sandwiches (arguably the best in town), and more.
Friends With Bennys Food Cart
If you are in need of a quick breakfast in town, head straight to Friends With Bennys (located at the gondola plaza on the Telluride side) for the eggs Benedict sandwiches (they do vegetarian Benedicts and have several options for meat lovers) or the loaded breakfast sandwich, a homemade English muffin topped with a fried egg, prosciutto, cheddar cheese, avocado, tomato, arugula, and red onion. Locals consider it to be the best in the area. Insider tip: You can call or text your order to 970-708-0054 (include your order and your cross streets), and they will either deliver to you or pick a meeting spot nearby.
The Grilled Cheese Cart
Even the most dedicated grilled cheese enthusiast will not be disappointed by the sandwiches at the Grilled Cheese Cart in the Mountain Village Core. It has traditional grilled cheeses, and if you are more of an experimental grilled-cheese eater, go for the grilled Brie and apricot sandwich.
Between the Covers Bookstore
You might think it’s just a cute bookstore, but nestled in the back is High Alpine Coffee Bar, which brews locally roasted coffee beans from Tomboy Coffee Roasters. Find a cozy corner and enjoy your coffee with a good book.
You certainly won’t just stumble upon this place. Alpino Vino, a five-course Italian restaurant in a European-style chalet at 11,966 feet, is only accessible at night via a gondola ride followed by a 20-minute snowcat ride up the mountain. During the day, you can get to it by taking the Gold Hill Express, Lift 14. Ski down “See Forever” and you’ll see it. Chef Nico Peccedi, who hails from the Italian Alps, will wow you with his braised-duck ravioli, cauliflower soup with amaretti crumbles and truffle oil, and his signature tiramisu (his grandma’s recipe). As for the wine, opt for the premium wine pairing (all Italian wines) expertly curated by wine director Andrew Shaffner. Note: Guests must be at least 21 years old to eat at the restaurant at night. Call ahead to reserve your spots.
Head to this tiny local hangout on Pacific Avenue for après-ski drinks and Asian-inspired tapas. There are many inventive cocktails on the menu, but it’s the jam drinks that locals come here for. (Yes, jam!) Just pick a jam—Maine blueberry, red pepper jelly, or pumpkin—and then pick your spirit—vodka, gin, rum, tequila, or rye. The red-pepper jelly and tequila combo is a good bet. As for eats, share the extra crispy brussel sprouts (you’ll find it hard to put your fork down with these), potatoes bravas (both good options for vegans), and the ramen, available with pork tenderloin, prawn tempura, duck breast, King crab, or veggies, plus a soft egg.
Where to ski Plunge Lift (Lift 9)
Plunge Lift is a local’s favorite that gives you access to some of the mountains’ best advanced terrain, like Log Pile and Bushwacker, along with sweeping views of town.
Where to stay Tempter House
If you are looking for somewhere to stay that’s truly off the beaten path, look no farther than Tempter House. Situated at 12,200 feet up and adjacent to Gold Hill, which is famous for its expert ski terrain, Tempter House is one of the highest elevation homes in North America. The Anne Eckley–designed house has sweeping views of the mountain, ski-in/ski-out access, an attendant for turn-down service, steam showers, a hot tub, a credit for dinner for two at Allred’s or Alpino Vino (two of the mountain’s best fine dining options), and a private chef available (for an additional cost). The Winter Overnight for Two package is $7,500 per night. Note: People book Tempter House around six months in advance, so make sure to plan ahead on this one. It’s not likely you will get a last-minute reservation.
Millions of people visited homes all around the world on sothebysrealty.com in 2016. Back by popular demand, we present the 10 most viewed properties from last year.
Number 10 – New York
$75,000,000 USD | Wainscott, New York | Sotheby’s International Realty – East Hampton Brokerage
Built in 2000 and published in Architectural Digest, the house was designed by architect Francis Fleetwood with interior architecture by Brian O’Keefe and interior design by Marjorie Shushan. Built with steel frame construction, the house features a double-height entry hall, 200-year-old antique flooring and wide water views from almost every room. The property features five principal bedroom suites plus three additional bedrooms in a self-contained guest wing.
Number 9 – Switzerland
Price Upon Request | Geneva, Switzerland | Cardis Immobilier Sotheby’s International Realty
The unique property is remarkable for its absolute tranquility, unobstructed view of the Alps and the peak of Mont Blanc, and an exceptional impression of spaciousness. The eight-hectare plot includes a number of leisure areas such as a private nine-hole golf course, a pool with pool house, a tennis court, a bowling court, a playground area in the woods with chalet, a vegetable patch and access to large wooded areas.
Number 8 – Florida
$95,000,000 USD | Key Largo, Florida | Russell Post Sotheby’s International Realty
Pumpkin Key is an extraordinary private island totaling 26 acres in the tropics of Card Sound Bay located in the Florida Keys. Just 10 minutes by helicopter to Miami’s famous South Beach, the island currently features one main home with three bedrooms, two caretaker’s cottages, and a dock master’s apartment.
Number 7 – California
$125,000,000 USD | Montecito, California | Sotheby’s International Realty – Montecito – Coast Village Road Brokerage
The magnificent Rancho San Carlos is an approximately 237-acre estate property that, for nearly 100 years, has been under the ownership of one family. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a unique property of unprecedented grand scale, exceptional architecture, and prestigious historical significance. The sprawling hilltop Monterey Colonial manor was designed by noted architect Reginald Johnson in 1931.
Number 6 – New Jersey
$48,880,000 USD | Alpine, New Jersey | Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty
This gated estate is approximately 30,000 square-feet built of solid granite and steel infrastructure, with 12 bedrooms, 19 bathrooms, indoor basketball court, movie theatre, 4000 bottle wine cellar, fitness center, three exquisite bars for entertaining, elevator, extraordinary details and ultimate privacy.
$50,000,000 USD | New York, New York | Sotheby’s International Realty – East Side Manhattan Brokerage
This home is a five-story red brick and limestone mansion that stands as a superb example of Neo Georgian revival architecture in America. Prominently positioned on the very lovely and quiet, tree-lined block of 69th Street between Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue, the residence has the good fortune of being situated amidst a number of architecturally noteworthy neighboring houses. Erected in 1881 by Charles Buek & Co. and then purchased in 1900 by Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt, the house was redesigned in 1929 for Edwin C. Jameson, a prominent insurance executive, and then finally acquired by the English-Speaking Union in 1956.
Number 4 – Cayman Islands
$39,950,000 USD | Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands | Cayman Islands Sotheby’s International Realty
Without doubt Castillo Caribe is one of the finest beachfront estate homes in the world offering every luxury for modern day life with all the lifestyle options one would expect from the Cayman Islands and the Caribbean. Although the Cayman Islands enjoy year-round sunshine and a temperate climate, this benefit is eclipsed in most people’s eyes by the Islands’ offshore status. The Cayman Islands are well known as a financial center on the world’s stage and provide the highest quality of lifestyle available in a tax neutral environment, making it very appealing to people of high net worth to seek residency here.
Number 3 – France
Price Upon Request | Cannes, France | Côte d’Azur Sotheby’s International Realty
Belonging to a collection of exclusive and legendary properties on the French Riviera, the ‘Castle of la Croix des Gardes’ is at once the largest estate in the area, and unequivocally the most outstanding.’La Croix des Gardes’ is positioned just a few minutes from the port of Cannes and the ‘Palais des Festivals’, and proudly stands overlooking the historic region that resonates with the glorious 19th century heritage of the French Riviera.
Turtle Tail Estate is a dynamic, spectacular compound to completely fall in love with and is without peer on Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands. The newly completed estate combines the personalization of a custom home with the amenities of an ultra-luxury resort, elevated on a magnificent private over four-acre peninsula all its own.
Number 1 – New York
$70,000,000 USD | New York, New York | Sotheby’s International Realty – East Side Manhattan Brokerage
This spectacular 14-room duplex apartment is situated high atop the prestigious Pierre Hotel on Fifth Avenue. Featuring a meticulous triple mint renovation and boasting extraordinary 360 degree views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline, this elegant trophy residence is absolute perfection.
$15,000,000 USD | Massachusetts, USA | Maury People Sotheby’s International Realty
Discreetly nestled in a natural landscape on over two acres, this is one of the most extraordinary and rare waterfront settings on Nantucket. Bordering 68 acres of conservation land, this 10,000-square-foot home exudes warmth, elegance and sophistication, and includes 300 feet of waterfront and private beach stairs. An elevator services all three finished floors, showcasing the outstanding craftsmanship of this gracious home with five bedroom suites, a formal living room with replace, dining room, dramatic cathedral kitchen with replace, large butler’s pantry, wine tasting room, 500 bottle wine cellar, home theater/media room, and a dog bathing room. You can watch all boating activity coming and going from the grounds as well as enjoy magnificent Nantucket sunsets.
$13,000,000 USD | New York, USA | Sotheby’s International Realty – Bridgehampton Brokerage
Steps from the ocean, close enough to feel the ocean breezes, this cutting-edge 12,000-square-foot modern home constructed on three levels features an elegant façade with a glass entrance opening to an expanse of space and light. The house includes eight bedrooms, nine-and-one-half baths, a large home theater, bespoke wine cellar and three-car garage.
$11,742,500 USD | California, USA | Sotheby’s International Realty – San Francisco Brokerage
The approximately 4,600-square-foot Grand Penthouse A is commandingly sited atop the iconic Four Seasons Hotel & Residences in San Francisco. Illuminated by large-walls of glass facing East, North and West, the triple-mint Grand Penthouse features panoramic “sunrise to sunset” views of landmarks such as the San Francisco Bay, SFMOMA, the Financial District, Alcatraz and City Hall. Elegant and thoughtfully designed, the Grand Penthouse oor plan enables elevated daily living and lavish entertaining. A dramatic Foyer and Gallery connect public and private spaces. An extraordinary great room with metropolitan views blends living, dining and library areas. Southwestern views and sunlight ood the eat-in kitchen neighboring a spacious, adjoining family room.
Upon entering this palatial home you will enjoy the ocean view through the double height ceilings overlooking the pool and Dye Fore golf course. From the grand entry foyer and the polished travertine marble floors, to the large open kitchen equipped with the finest appliances and granite countertops, every possible luxury has been thought of and well executed within this refined residence. With a total of six over-sized bedrooms, two of which are master suites and both boasting expansive ocean views and a large private balcony, space is in abundance in this grandiose home. With over 17,222-square-feet of construction set atop a large home site, this contemporary villa is spacious enough for the grandest festivities or intimate enough for the most important of family events. The property combines sophistication, comfort, warmth and spectacular ocean and golf views to create a wholly unique experience.
R 7,000,000 ZAF | South Africa | Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty
Situated just over the hill from Sedgefield, this home is nestled amongst nature on a 37-hectare property and extends right down to the water’s edge. The property is easily accessed by a wide, redbrick road which leads to the expansive north facing home. A beautifully paved parking area, which can accommodate a number of parked vehicles, has access to four extra-large garages. The terraced garden leads down to a central covered courtyard which has a water element and stained glass insets in the ceiling. It is secured with handcrafted and ornate steel perimeter. The courtyard flows out to a separate, gourmet-styled, industrial-sized kitchen with granite counter tops and a serving hatch that gives you access to the dining room through stained glass doors.
Best for: Ages 10-16 and families who want off–mountain adventures
Why we love it: Skiing is a blast for older kids, but so are Telluride’s off-mountain offerings. For example? The roomy residential lodging at the Madeline Hotel, set in its own corner of the mountain village with an ice rink, Dylan’s Candy Bar and the hotel’s supervised kid gaming hangout for ages 5-16; the storied downtown area where Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank; and snowmobile tours with Telluride Outfitters that take you straight into the old Alta Lakes ghost mining camp.
Skiing’s most charming Old West town combines stunning scenery and an awesome mountain for a near perfect ski destination. Photo: Telluride Tourism Board/Ryan Bonneau
When it’s time to pick a ski vacation destination, there are tons of choices, and the industry’s big names immediately leap to mind: Vail, Jackson Hole, Park City, Aspen, Whistler, and so on. They all have great facilities, but Colorado’s Telluride often gets overlooked in this discussion. That’s a huge mistake: not only is it worthy of consideration, I could make a compelling argument that it is the single best ski vacation choice in the country. But no matter how you slice it, it’s near the top, with lots of strengths and very few weaknesses. In fact, in its 2016-2017 reader’s poll, industry leading publication Ski Magazine ranked it North America’s Best for Overall Satisfaction, and what do we want from our vacations if not the most Satisfaction? It also ranked Number One for both Scenery and Character.
While some ski resorts excel at one or two things, like cuisine, lodging, diversity, challenge, charm or convenience, Telluride excels across the board and is a near perfect gem. I say near perfect because it has two notable areas in which it is lacking, flaws to this diamond in the rough for certain customers, so I’ll get those out of the way up front. While Telluride has luxurious lodging options (Lumiere, Madeline, Hotel Telluride, Element 52), it has no true luxury hotel. If staying at a white glove 4-5 Star like a Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton or Fairmont is important to you, this is not your spot (though if swank luxury rental homes are your thing, you are in luck). It is also not a great choice for fans of retail therapy. It is arguably the best place in the country to buy both skis (Wagner Custom) and ski boots (BootDoctors), and there is no shortage of outdoor gear and Western stuff, but if your ski vacation must-do list includes the Prada or Moncler boutiques, scratch Telluride off your list. In general, pretension is not big here, and while the Kardashians are happily followed by cameras around Vail, the many A-list stars who favor Telluride come here to not be seen.
On the flipside, it blows many other resorts out of the water when it comes to what I consider the important stuff: quality of skiing, food, lack of crowds and just like Ski Magazine readers noted, scenery and unrivaled Charm – with a capital C.
Ski Magazine rated Telluride Number One in North America for Charm, and it is easy to understand why. Photo: Telluride Tourism Board/Ryan Bonneau
Ironically, in two decades of covering skiing and ski travel, the number one knock I hear over and over again is not lodging or shopping, it’s “Isn’t that hard to get to?” There seems to be a perception that Telluride is on a different planet than other Western ski resorts. This has always been a myth, and one that is especially odd in light of the three to four-hour traffic jams that routinely clog Colorado’s main ski thoroughfare for accessing other major resorts, I-70, every winter weekend. For years, getting to Telluride mainly meant flying into Montrose, which is considerably closer to the resort than many rivals are to their Denver gateway. But this winter commercial service reopened, albeit on a small scale, into the super convenient Telluride airport after a multi-year absence (on a United regional partner). If you are flying private, there’s no major ski resort other than maybe Aspen that’s easier to get to. Still, most visitors will continue to use Montrose, and as of this winter, it has more flights than ever, on all three major carriers from the largest cities coast to coast (including New York, LA, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Atlanta, Denver and Chicago). On my most recent visit, I tried getting to Telluride from Denver in the middle of major winter storm across Colorado, and while I was rerouted into Durango, the next closest choice after Montrose, the flights to every other Colorado ski country airport I saw on the departures board, including Eagle/Vail, Aspen, Gunnison/Crested Butte, etc. were cancelled. Bottom line? Telluride has always been a great place to visit, but now it is easier than ever to do that.
What makes it so good? The town, the ski mountain and the food.
As a destination, the big differentiator it is its uniquely split personality. Telluride has one of the most singular layouts of any mountain destination in the world, with the ski resort linking two distinct enclaves, Mountain Village and Town. The former is a purpose built, contemporary and pedestrianized village, in the style of Beaver Creek or Whistler, set midway up the slopes, high above town. This is where the bigger resorts, spas, golf course and sprawling multi-million homes are located. Town has the Butch and Sundance vibe – Butch Cassidy robbed his very first bank here – with Victorian Old West architecture and the bulk of the bars, restaurants and stores. The landmark New Sheridan Hotel sits on Main Street and oozes cowboy charm – it’s so named because the old one burnt down and was replaced – eleven decades ago. Zoning and preservation has been so strict that you can walk a two block stretch of Oak Street and pass two of the most beloved restaurants and a new hotel without noticing any of them, all tucked into historic Victorians with minimal signage. Many other western ski towns have mining and cowboy heritage, but today are a hodgepodge of historic buildings and incongruous modern hotels or parking structures. At the other end of the spectrum are towns that have really preserved the charm, like Crested Butte, but are much smaller. Like the Goldilocks story, Telluride is not too big, not too small, just right, the perfect full blow ski town loaded with great bars, restaurants and shops, masquerading as a sleepy historic community. Locating new construction in Mountain Village was a brilliant touch that allowed the town to keep its amazing frozen in time vibe and character, all surrounded with the most stunning mountain views in the nation – you have to go to Canada’s Banff to find better ski resort vistas (though Idaho’s Sun Valley is a close rival). Pretty much all of Mountain Village lodging is ski-in/ski-pout, and so is town itself – I had to walk at least five steps after taking of my boots to have lunch at one of my favorite Telluride restaurants. and the last hotel I stayed at was half a block – half a short block – from the main gondola. By the way, this gondola, built 20 years ago, was and still is the first of its kind in American skiing, a free public transportation system that links the town of Telluride and Mountain Village until midnight – finish your ski day down in town, stay for après, stay for dinner, have a few drinks and be whisked back to your resort in Mountain Village. Or vice versa. You can’t beat it.
With arguably the most balanced terrain for all abilities, you won’t run out of things to ski at the Telluride resort – but that doesn’t mean you can’t also try heli-skiing here! Photo: Telluride Tourism Board
Just by way of reference, since I keep comparing American ski resorts, expressing opinions, and making personal judgments, it’s worth noting that I have been to every true destination ski resort in the country with the sole exception of Taos, NM, most of them multiple times. I have a pretty good working knowledge of the subject.
How about skiing? To put it bluntly, Telluride has the most balanced assortment of terrain I’ve seen. While most big resorts claim lots of terrain for all abilities, they usually lack something – not Telluride. I love Vail, but despite the immensity of its terrain, it lacks true expert challenge. Deer Valley is great for beginners and intermediates – enough said. Alta has excellent terrain and exceptional powder – but doesn’t allow snowboarding, period, end of discussion for many families. Jackson Hole is justifiably world famous for its extreme terrain, and surprisingly, is also a great place to learn, but it’s missing something in between. The most extreme example is Aspen mountain (Ajax), which to the surprise of many visitors each winter, does not have a single green beginner run on it. In comparison, Telluride has it all, taking it even further than the usual array you’d expect to find at a big resort in the Rockies: bowls, chutes, cliffs, and glades. Advanced intermediates are often overlooked, but here there is a self-contained canyon area full of double blue trails, a self-contained Mecca for such skiers and riders, who happily lap the high-speed chair all day. There is intermediate glade skiing, also uncommon. The resort wows for expert terrain, from in-bounds double blacks to chutes and hike-to terrain as challenging as any in the Rockies, accessed more easily thanks to permanent metal stairs and rails. Want to go really out of bounds? Telluride Heli-Trax offers daily beyond the resort heli-skiing. Bump fan? The resort is home to some of skiing’s best mogul runs, famous names like Spiral Staircase and Kant-Mak-M. Skiing for everyone? Yes.
You can ski right into the charming town of Telluride, set in a box canyon and surrounded with stunning vistas in every direction. Photo: Telluride Tourism Board
Here’s the ultimate example of Telluride’s impressive terrain: there is not one lift that bears the sign, otherwise common in Western skiing, “This lift serves only advanced terrain.” At Telluride not only do beginners not have to worry about what chair they ride – there is a groomed easier trail down for every single lift – but they also have plenty to choose from, and unlike most resorts, where they are relegated to the base area, novices can enjoy the stunning vistas from the highest spots with good options to ski down. After all, what’s the point of big mountain skiing if you never get to experience the big mountains? Yet that’s exactly the case for less skilled skiers at many, if not most, other top resorts. Beginner terrain includes a 4 ½ mile run down from just below the summit, a rarity.
I could go on and on about the most charming town in American skiing, the best views, and the immense variety of excellent terrain but I’m running out of room so I’ll cover the final major attraction many travelers seek on their ski vacation: food. For a town this size, locals are spoiled by great choices, and like the terrain, it covers all the bases, not just the fine dining many rivals focus on. In fact, when it comes to “normal” ski town and après grub, Telluride is off the charts and home to the single best pizzeria (Brown Dog), single best barbecue spot (Oak BBQ), and single best taco eatery (Taco del Gnar) in American skiing. That’s saying something. A small hole in the wall burger spot here (Steamies) was rated Number One in Colorado. The ski resort itself has some of the best on mountain dining (Alpino Vino, Allred’s, Bon Vivant) you will experience, and both town and Mountain Village are loaded with choices spanning the spectrum. Here’s something to consider: no less than three completely unrelated local eateries born in this tiny mountain town have become so popular that they spun off locations in Denver.
Oh, and did I mention that it is never crowded, with lift lines virtually non-existent? On every visit over the years I’ve been shocked by how empty the mountain is. I skied it on a recent powder day and never waited more than four chairs.
The town’s tourist board just opened a new state of the art Visitor’s Center on Main Street, where guests can do everything from find where to eat to take 3-D video walk-throughs of popular local hiking trails using touch screens displays with amazing interactive technology. To help you plan a trip, the visitor’s bureau also has a fully featured website.
Designed by world-renowned architect John Pawson, this remarkable Telluride residence offers truly inspired minimalism in a most dramatic alpine setting. The collaboration between seller and architect was his first commission within the U.S. and timelessly showcases the storied talent’s attentive focus on space, proportion, light and materials, while simultaneously capturing the rugged vernacular of Telluride’s rich Victorian mining era. Occupying two corner lots in a highly sought-after location within the town’s national historic district, the home’s clean lines, and soaring light-filled spaces gracefully frame the surrounding mountains, while lush landscaping and an elevated private deck offer the ideal place to savor the setting. For the most discriminating collector of contemporary minimalist design, this property offers the rarest opportunity to own a home that helped launch a movement in mountain design.
From a nine-bedroom villa in St. Barth to a tranquil island paradise in Hawaii, this month’s collection of exceptional properties for sale feature homes from some of the world’s finest locales.
Price Upon Request | Columbier, St. Barth | St. Barth Properties Sotheby’s International Realty
This spectacular nine-bedroom 10-and-a-half-bathroom estate, located in Colombier’s exclusive gated Domaine known as Les Étoiles, offers sensational views of the incoming yachts, Saba, Statia and the sunset. This very private property cascades down the hillside; it features a five-bedroom villa, a two-bedroom villa, a caretaker cottage and three swimming pools. La Grande Maison des Étoiles is the perfect choice for buyers seeking a very private, luxurious retreat.
$50,000,000 USD | Chicago, Illinois | Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty
An unprecedented urban estate, this 25,000-square-foot masterpiece is located on Lincoln Park’s finest street. Sited on an enormous parcel totaling more than eight city lots, every step has been taken to provide complete privacy and tranquility. Manicured grounds with multiple fountains, reflecting pool, and hand-forged antique garden pavilion transport you to another world. Absolutely no expense was spared inside or out throughout this sun-filled mansion.
Price Upon Request | Venice, Italy | Venice Sotheby’s International Realty
An architectural historic of the highest level by Palladio from the mid 16th century – visually stunning and in perfect condition, only 40 minutes from Venice.
Price Upon Request | Makena, Hawaii | Island Sotheby’s International Realty
Simply stated, one of the most beautifully custom detailed homes to ever be built on the island. The home, perched on a lushly landscaped one-acre parcel of land, entertains endless Pacific Ocean views. With eight bedrooms and more than 10,000 square-feet of interior living, one can enjoy the true essence of Hawaiian indoor-outdoor living. The main home features a plethora of custom wood detailing, fountains, ponds, movie theatre and ocean views with privacy. An additional pool house provides more bedrooms, a full kitchen and a living room to enjoy Makena’s great weather while lounging around the resort-like setting. In the evening, an outdoor theatre rises from the pool deck, allowing for some of the most epic private cinema opportunities a residence can offer.
WSJ Top US Real Estate Brokers
#115 Nationally - 2013
#11 Nationally - 2010
#19 in Colorado - 2015
#19 in Colorado - 2014
#3 in Colorado - 2013
#13 in Colorado - 2012
#2 in Colorado - 2010
Top 38 Sotheby's Brokers, US - 2013
WSJ Top US Real Estate Brokers
#115 Nationally - 2013
#11 Nationally - 2010
#19 in Colorado - 2015
#19 in Colorado - 2014
#3 in Colorado - 2013
#13 in Colorado - 2012
#2 in Colorado - 2010
Top 38 Sotheby's Brokers, US - 2013