“To Hell U Ride”— or is it heaven?
The gondola offers a free ride from town to chairlifts and a spectacular
view of Telluride below.
Twenty years ago I skied Telluride with a converted school bus full of ski bums from Boulder. We camped out in River Park, drank cheap beer, ate trail mix, and skied five glorious days on a discounted pass. Things have changed for the better in many ways, although some disenfranchised old-timers might argue the point if for some reason they haven’t managed to convert their ghost-town Victorian bungalow into a million-dollar condo or five-star restaurant.
I was back in Telluride last month.
These days the town closes my old campground in the winter, but that was okay because even though I was still wearing the same pair of beat-up ski pants, I was now sporting a travel writer's hat that, to my family’s delight, entitled us to a room at the Ice House Hotel, just next to the park. The London Daily Times called the Ice House, "one of the 25 best hotels for skiers in the world." We thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful hospitality and our deluxe accommodations, which included a private porch overlooking the spa with indoor-outdoor swimming pool, hot tub, and sauna, as well as the fine view of the box canyon that makes Telluride so special.
Early to bed after a six-hour drive from Placitas (you can fly into the local airport if you want), we awoke to a complimentary continental breakfast and walked the hundred yards to the free gondola that connects the town with Telluride Mountain Village and the ski resort. It's easy to get around on foot, so the car stayed parked for the entire weekend.
At Telluride Sports across from the gondola, we found that gone too are the days of sweating in line while penciling in your rental form. A few quick entries into a computer terminal and your information is forwarded to a technician who gets the gear and prints out a contract in duplicate, and you walk out with shaped skies that seem to ease the work of control, even with aging legs.
“Telluride. A land where people come to play. The end.” That's what it said on the socks and tee shirt that came in our media package. What more can you say when you just can't say enough? So I'll borrow some appropriate superlatives from the media guide. "Flanked by jagged and dramatic peaks on all sides, skiers and riders who enter Prospect Bowl experience the sensation of being in the Alps, with peaks close enough to reach out and touch. This inspirational setting has a hypnotic effect, encouraging guests to leave the realities of the everyday world behind and simply enjoy the breathtaking serenity of the mountains."
Prospect Bowl opened in 2002 and nearly doubled the size of Telluride Ski Resort by adding another 733 acres. The $14 million capital expenditure includes three new Doppelmayr high-speed detachable quad lifts that open incredible terrain and world-class views to skiers of all abilities.
It takes a journey through several lifts to arrive at the ridge above Prospect Bowl. The view is as awe inspiring as it says in the brochures. The mountain was 100 percent open with pretty good snow and only occasional rocks showing in the steeps. The family split into all directions with an agreement to meet for lunch at a fine little restaurant on top with a 360-degree view. One of the most amazing sights is the absence of a crowd, even though the lifts can propel 21,186 people up the mountain every hour. I headed straight for the classic slopes—Plunge and Spiral Stairs—to see if my memories were real of the breathtaking, near vertical view past mogul fields overlooking the town. It was just as I remembered.
Limping back to the Ice House after a great day, we soaked in the spa and did après-ski at Rico's Bar, just down the hall. The hotel boasts the La Marmotte restaurant, located in the town's old icehouse that gives the place its name. It has received great mentions from our rival publications, the Denver Post and the National Geographic Traveler. We had, however, filled up on nachos at Rico's, so we just hit the historic streets of Telluride. You won't find more Old West-Colorado mountain-town ambiance or a more colorful past anywhere.
Gold used to enrich the townspeople, but after a twenty-year approach to ghost-town status, the ski area opened and real estate now brings in the big dollar. “Real Escape” companies, as they call themselves, sell "escape from the real world" to movie stars and a wide variety of rich folks in blue jeans. It's not just clever marketing; most people seemed to be having a real good time.
Next day I snowboarded with my son while my wife, Barb, skied along. The Air Garden Terrain Park has more than eight acres of berms, banks, tabletops, pyramids, and rails. After extricating Evan from all that madness, we went free-riding in a vast variety of intermediate slopes and cruisers like See Forever and Lookout that seem to go on forever in a 3,530 foot vertical drop.
Telluride Ski Resort will celebrate its thirty-year anniversary with a "Blow Out Bash" from March 1 to 9. The resort promises that "Telluride's eclectic history and everpresent funk comes alive during this one-of-a-kind celebration that includes on-mountain concerts, aprés-ski parties, contests, giveaways and more."
For travel plans and special deals on ski packages, log onto www.tellurideskiresort.com or call 866-287-5016. The snow-report number is 970-728-7425. To learn more about the Ice House Lodge and Condominiums, visit www.icehouselodge.com, or call 800-544-3436.