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3,500 vertical feet of glory

Legend has it this Old West town was once home to brazen bordellos, gun totin’ gauchos, and plundering prospectors.
Skiers & snowboarders can always experience breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains at Telluride, the Colorado ski resort, but this season they can also expect to enjoy abundant natural snowfall, the upside of El Nino.T.r. Youngstrom / AP file
/ Source: Snowboarder Magazine

Resort Name: Telluride Ski Resort
Web address:
Distance From Airport: 7-hour drive from Denver or 65 miles from smaller Montrose Airport

Rideable Acres: 1,700
Lifts: 16
Parks: 1
Pipes: 1 Superpipe

Best Après Hangout: The New Sheridan Hotel
Cheapest Lodging: The Victorian Inn
Cheapest Food: La Cocina de Lou’s
Cheapest Drink: Brown Bag
Locals’ Bar: Obannon’s Irish Pub

Legend has it this Old West town was once home to brazen bordellos, gun totin’ gauchos, and plundering prospectors. I suppose these aren’t legends so much as facts, which makes Telluride the real deal. Imagine staking your claim in a game of five-card stud or wetting your whistle after a long day of beaver trapping; that’s how the West was won. Little did these vice-hungry settlers know that 100 years later, scoundrels of a different sort would still be taking full advantage of the area’s bounty. By taking advantage I mean the renegade act of snowboarding, and by bounty I mean the 300 inches of pure Colorado sugar that falls from the heavens. Mules and maidens alike can test their competence on the 3,500 vertical feet of glory that make up Telluride Ski Resort. Giddyup!

Telluride is located deep in the heart of the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. Remote is one way to put it, majestic is another; rugged, unspoiled, impressive … basically, this place is just plain amazing. The San Juans are the youngest mountain range in the States and are evidently pissed about it. You will never feel so small staring at the sheer mass of rock that soars high above the valley floor. The town of Telluride sits in one of these valleys and I’ll tell you now that there is only one way in, so plan your escape in advance because these mountains will eat you alive.

This is a classic ski town that has kept its Wild West traditions alive all the while growing into a premier destination resort with all the amenities to pamper your fragile ego. Here is one cool thing about the town: Once you’re there you can park your car and forget about it; everything is in walking distance—the lifts, the restaurants, the shops. There are free shuttle busses and even a free gondola that runs every day from 7 a.m. to midnight to get you to and from Mountain Village (conversely an eight-mile drive) where many of the condos and lifts are located, including the renowned Wyndham Peaks Resort. (If waterslides inside your hotel is what you’re looking for.) Some places that warrant a visit are The New Sheridan, where riding your horse up to the bar is apparently acceptable behavior, and Telluride Slopestyle for all your gnar-gnar needs.

Now for the business: snowboard riding on severe diamondbacks. I could tell you the stock info of the 1,700 acres of mountain divided into 26 percent beginner, 36 percent intermediate, blah, blah, blah … that is useless child’s play. Here’s the deal: pick a lift, any lift, and you are going to find so many natural obstacles to play on that your head will spin. It is one of those places that is big enough to endlessly explore, yet impossible to feel lost. Most of the lifts are the new fangled high-speeders that get you freewheeling before you catch your breath from the last run. And believe me—you will be gasping like an asthmatic mongoloid at elevations of 12,000 feet all day.

If you are a grab-happy rad-dog you will enjoy southwest Colorado’s largest terrain park. The Surge Air Garden has a baffling variety of launching pads, pain rails, and berm turns. We’re talking 13 acres of airtime. Then there is the superpipe, pretty much standard procedure these days in claiming an exceptional park. (Which it is.)

But the true joy lies in the abundant freeriding. When you nail this place on a pow day, you’ve done it! Instant glory status. Forget what they say about Utah powder, here you will come to understand the meaning of dumping a turn. My advice is to get on chair 9 early, because sleepers are slackers, and take laps until the goods on Gold Hill open. Haul ass over there and claim it. Listen though: Please don’t duck the closure ropes and try to be a hero. I have seen friends go out of bounds and wind up in pure hell because “it looked good.” It is also an easy way to lose your pass … or your life.

If you know what you are doing, we can talk a bit about the backcountry. When it comes to epic, the Telluride backcountry has it covered. Only with knowledge and respect are you permitted to ride here (peeps, probes, shovels, and partners mandatory). Upper Bear Creek Basin is one of the easier areas to access with a short hike up from the Gold Hill lift, putting you on the road to nirvana. These are 4,000-foot descents that merit a bit of skill to even think about. Local legend Gabe Wright has been riding lines here for years, leaving a trail of ruins in his wake. If you happen to meet him, he will be happy to hand out some advice. One run here and it’s safe to say you can hang it up satisfied.

Telluride is a one-of-a-kind experience. There is so much variety and character here that it is impossible not to love it. From the laid-back atmosphere to the unreal scenery and absolutely dominating snowboarding, they’ve got it.

At Snowboarder, we find success in making our readers love the sport of snowboarding. The magazine aims to supercharge a rider's season and show them how to get involved, go riding and have a good time. For 15 years, Snowboarder has done just that, with eight issues each season, packed with cutting-edge action, informative details and intriguing lifestyle accounts.