Telluride: What’s To Love? Well, Pretty Much Everything


Fall in Telluride from the Gondola

Telluride, Colorado. Formidable mountains ring the valley and the aspens are beginning their stunning flame-out in the late September heat. The little town bustles even in so-called off-season, alive with locals with a little less to do now that the summer festival season has come to an end. Leaf-peeping day-trippers gawk at the beauty and pack picturesque postcards into motorcycle panniers. Seeing this many grins on Colorado Avenue – we just call it Main Street – makes everyone so, well, happy to be here.

It’s because they are happy.

Sure, there are typical small-town hot topics like politics and the tight rental market and dog poop and rec centers and med centers and road construction. You name it, we’ll argue about it. We’re well-educated, engaged and passionate. We love to mix it up. But moods mellow, shoulders relax, brows smooth when locals talk about what they love most about being in Telluride –especially in the winter. And you can feel winter’s onset in the air, even as Indian Summer roasts our sun-loving bodies. It’s unsaid but intensely felt. Winter is, indeed, coming.


Classic Main Street Photo Op

Susan Lilly left the corporate life for a more relaxed, mountain vibe. She has embraced her decision without regret.

“I like many things about Telluride; obvious and unmatched beauty, access to a year-round outdoor playground, and the community that shares that love and passion,” she said. “Also I like that it’s a soft place to process the reality of life: illness, divorce and many other problems hit us, too. But somehow dealing with those problems is better here in the cocoon rather than in the real world.”


A very happy Susan Lilly

Those who have left the valley carry a part of Telluride with them. Matthew Beaudin, a passionate cyclist, journalist and lover of all things outdoors, left when a dream job at Velo News beckoned. While that job has taken him around the world covering premier cycling events and races, he misses Telluride without reserve.

“I left and I cry a little every day,” he admitted.

Like Beaudin, Robin Hearn sought opportunity beyond this alpine aerie of a little over 2,000 souls several years ago. She fondly recalls, “the energy from all the tolerant, open-mined people reverberates against the box canyon walls to a frequency of love.”

And that’s what it feels like when you leave Telluride. What about growing up here? Shari Hirsch is one of those rare birds who can call themselves a native Tellurider.

“I grew up in a community where people took care of each other, as they do today,” she said. “It was like being a wild child running free in every direction, but being watched over with a loving eye.”

That sense of community is a fundamental reason why Telluride has sustained itself through mining booms and busts, the lean, early days of the fledgling ski area and, most recently, a recession that pulled the rug out from under most of the nation. Community is what keeps people hanging on, even when times are hard.

Sam Burgess is clear about why he loves his adopted home.

“All the fun little distractions, activities, art and beauty are superb, but what keeps me here is the community,” he said. “I feel it is just truly one kick-ass community.”


Sam Burgess (on the left) with fellow thespian, Colin Sullivan

But when the snow falls and the lift lines serving the Telluride Ski Resort open, the white-hot passion that powers skiers and snowboarders throughout the ski season gets set on high. What exactly do people love about skiing Telluride? Let us count the ways, starting with longtime resident, Jody Borzilleri. She begins her ski day by walking or biking to the lift, trying to decide which run will be the first.


Jody Borzilleri heading home after a satisfying day on the mountain.

“I love that I can do an awesome run from the top to the bottom even if I only have an hour to ski,”  she said. “Getting up on top and taking a breath makes my day. Any day I can do that is fantastic. I love my reality on the hill. Clear air, lots of smiling faces, a huge variety of terrain.”

It doesn’t take long to succumb to Telluride’s charms. Drew Goss has been here just shy of two years, but he is to-the-point about what he loves about skiing this mountain. “Four simple words: Short lift-lines, gnarly terrain.”


A contemplative Drew Goss

Alison Perry, a reporter for the Watch Newspapers, expounds on the finer points of “gnarly terrain.”

“Epic side-country, more epic back-country, super varied terrain, Palmyra Peak, lots of steeps with lots of pucker factor,” Perry explained. “And the local breweries churn out some pretty fantastic aprés-ski beers.” 

Running a business in Telluride has its challenges, so savvy business owners keep life in balance by hitting the slopes as often as possible. Bobbi Smith, who is the co-owner of Between the Covers Bookstore, has a simple mantra. “Ski. Sleep. Repeat.”


Bobbi T Smith in her natural habitat

In addition to the steeps and deeps, the Telluride ski area is laced with beautiful, groomed cruisers for those who love to carve at a more leisurely pace. There’s also access to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails from the resort’s lifts.

Just west of town proper, the Valley Floor also provides miles of trails for classic and skate-skiers, as well as designated paths for the latest rage, snow-biking.

Just 15 minutes south on Highway 145, more fabulous cross-country skiing draws the faithful to the sunny Priest Lake and Trout Lake trail systems.


The pristine Trout Lake

But believe it or not, not everybody skis. Especially in the winter season, when seemingly everyone is dressed for skiing, talking about skiing, on the way to go skiing, or just coming back from skiing, the idea that you don’t ski is baffling.

Entertainer, actor, musician and hotel bellman, Mishkey, has fun with those puzzled folks who enquire. “I love explaining to people how I can live here and not ski.”


The one and only Mishkey (they broke the mold) with long time local Janice Zink

Considering the spectacular natural beauty, friendly and supportive community, the profound artistic and cultural presence, superb schools and incredible ski mountain, it’s really not too difficult to explain.

I’m with Mishkey. I’ve lived here forever and do not ski, much to the astonishment of many, though both my kids ski as naturally as breathing, thanks to Ski PE in the schools. Can you imagine? There is something peaceful and assuring about the mountains that ring the valley, especially when they are crowned with sparkling snow. The sky is bluer, the air is crisp and clean and at night, the stars riot. From the mountains I draw inspiration and perspective. When I made Telluride my home in 1985, I vowed I would look to the mountains every day, a vow I’ve kept without effort. They remind me of the glory of the natural world. I’m so grateful to live here.

And then there’s summer in Telluride. But that’s another story.

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