Telluride is Southwest Colorado’s version of Aspen or Vail – yet a wee bit more affordable and down-to-earth. On a road trip through Southern Colorado, we spent a few days scoping out the former mining town framed with soaring white-capped mountains. It’s home to the Telluride Ski Resort (two years in a row, Conde Nast’s Reader’s Choice #1 North American ski destination), the Telluride Film Festival, America’s highest-altitude restaurant and much more. Always on the hunt for adventure, here are our recommends for a wintertime 3-Day Telluride, Colorado itinerary for those who love to play+pamper:
Where to Stay
Telluride has two areas to accommodate visitors – in town and up above in “The Mountain Village.” We recommend staying in town if you like to support local and immerse yourself in the soul and history of a place, plus the main street is chock full of boutique shops and eateries that are easy to walk to. Mountain Village is a brand new development with luxury-brand shopping and grand hotels like the Fairmont. If you do decide to stay up top, we liked Hotel Madeline or Mountain Lodge. Whichever part of Telluride you stay in, the 13-minute free gondola ride offers an easy transport (with beautiful views) between Telluride and Mountain Village. It runs daily in both summer and winter from 7 a.m. until midnight.
Element 52 – Recently opened as a lodging property, we decided to stay at Element 52, a super-swank vacation condo rental. Not only can you get on the ski lift from basically the back door, but it’s more like a hotel as far as amenities – daily room cleaning, a gym, heated pools, concierge, complimentary happy hour and shuttle service around town. The staff is reflective of Telluride locals as a whole – friendly and more-than-ready to help (whether that be for directions to the nearest ski shop or getting your rental car out of a snow bank!).
Where to Eat
Alpino Vino – Since it’s on the mountain, it makes for a swank, ski lunch spot with some of the best tomato soup and grilled cheese you’ll ever taste. (see listing below for more info on their fab five-course dinners)
Bon Vivant – Relatively new in Telluride’s on-mountain dining scene, take the Polar Queen Express lift for great views of the ski basin and simple French country eats.
Alpino Vino – Maybe it wasn’t the best decision to fly in from sea level and go directly to Alpino Vino, the restaurant at nearly 12,000 feet in altitude accessible only by a snowcat, but we did. Lindsay paid the price – severe altitude sickness forced her to cut the four-star, five-course Italian meal in the petite chalet short. Because the dishes were so delicious, Lanee couldn’t resist being a bit selfish, staying to enjoy the rest of the dinner and old world Italian wines. It is expensive ($100 per person), but a night here is a must, especially since it offers bragging rights of dining at the highest restaurant in the U.S. and a most unusual transport to the restaurant.
The Chop House – When you’re in cattle country Colorado, there’s no better place to seek out a thick, juicy steak. Known for their high-quality cuts of beef and bison, feast on creations from classically trained chef Erich Owen in a cozy mountain setting. We absolutely loved the Wagyu carpaccio with black truffles appetizer (in photo). The Chop House has a tailored wine list available from their nitrogen wine bar, ranging from delicate whites to robust reds. There’s something for everyone and during peak winter season, make sure to call for reservations.
La Marmotte – Although we didn’t get to eat here, this restaurant, in the town’s 125-year old ice house, was mentioned by every local we asked for best restaurant recommends. Chef Mark Reggiannini’s menu features both international favorites like ahi tuna carpaccio and French bistro classics like coq au vin or steak au poivre.
The Butcher and the Baker – For city folks like ourselves, this bakery made us feel right at home – simple but edgy-trendy, stellar coffee and espresso drinks and all in-house baked goods utilizing local ingredients. It was so tasty, we stopped by every morning for breakfast to enjoy an ooey-gooey egg sandwich, breakfast burrito, cinnamon bun or gluten-free blueberry pancakes. It’s also an ideal spot to carb load before a day on the slopes. The Butcher and the Baker also serves terrific sandwiches and wraps at lunch (open daily, except Sundays, until 5 pm).
There – “Best craft cocktails in Telluride, no contest!” exclaimed Lanee, the Voyage Vixen’s cocktail guru, when we went to — There. Beyond the ridiculously tasty sips, and the fun jokes you can create with the bar’s name, There is the happening spot in town. You’ll want to get there early to grab a seat at the bar – lots of action to take in from the Tom Cruise cocktail moves of the talented bartenders to the shot-skis (group tequila shots from a ski) to the eclectic decor and graffiti covering every inch of the walls.
New Sheridan Bar – It’s the not only the oldest saloon in Telluride (founded in 1895), but it’s also the only bar in the U.S. you can still ride a horse into and order a cold one legally. Chances are you’re not going to see this happen, however, there is a famous, local resident, simply named Roudy, who from time-to-time makes appearances in the bar on horseback. It gets crowded after 9 p.m., with the thirsty ski crowd and locals alike enjoying a stiff drink (don’t ask for anything fancy here) and a game of pool.
Allred’s – Because of its stunning mountain views from the bar, this is Telluride’s most popular spot for a sundowner, aka happy hour drink. Located on-mountain at the Station Saint Sophia gondola stop, it’s a perfect place for a sip or bite to eat if you’re in transit from the Telluride to Mountain Village or vice versa.
Day 1 –
Telluride Ski Resort
Averaging more than 300 inches of snow and 300 days of sunshine each year, the forecast is nearly always ideal for fantastic conditions on Telluride’s 2000+ skiable acres. And it really feels like you have the mountain to yourself as there are rarely lines at the ski lifts.
Long time favorite runs include The Plunge for experts, intermediate See Forever, and the 4.6 mile Galloping Goose for beginners. Freestylers of all levels can hit one of several terrain parks. And snowboarders are more than welcome.
Day 2 –
Bootdoctors‘ Snow Biking & Brews Adventure
For avid bicyclists, no need to wait for summer to roll around to get in a serious bike ride. Rain, snow or sleet, Bootdoctors’ fat tire (4-inches wide) bicycles can trek through it all. And even if you do have mountain bike experience, we highly recommend doing the guided snowbike tour with Max Cooper (known as the local bike whisperer) as it is the ultimate equalizer. Biking on snow is challenging and we spent a good amount of time falling in banks of snow while we were getting the hang of it.
The 2 to 3 hour biking tour rides through the bike path along the creek in town and then ends with a tasty visit to Telluride Brewery. With Cooper’s good-natured patience and biking skills in tote, it’s a great excursion for both beginners and experts alike. ($99 per person, not including the beer tasting, $10).
Day 3 –
We opted for the half day, family-friendly tour on groomed trails as Lanee has a nasty habit of sending her snowmobiles off a cliff! It’s a relaxing zip through stunning, snowy landscapes. The tour allows for some on-your-own riding in an open meadow ($185 per person). They provide snowmobile helmets but not goggles, so make sure to bring your own and wear ski clothes. You can score some very inexpensive snow gear at the Telluride Thrift Shop on the main drag (Lanee got some used goggles for $5!).
We flew in from Los Angeles to Durango (DRO), rented a 4WD Jeep and drove the scenic 2.5 hours to Telluride. But you CAN fly into the Montrose/Telluride (MTJ) airport, with direct flights from eight major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles. From the MTJ airport, it’s an hour’s drive.
(This photo has no relevance except that we liked the bench made of skis and it sums up life in Telluride… easy-breezy, dog-gone good times.)
More 3-day Telluride, Colorado Itinerary ideas:
Road-tripping in Southern Colorado (The Tennessean): click here.
Best of the West: Road Trip to U.S. Small Towns/Hidden Gems (PeterGreenberg.com)
Words by Lanee Lee, photos © Voyage Vixens