The Truth About Mountain Biking in Telluride: Get a Guide

The Truth About Mountain Biking in Telluride: Get a Guide

“The (Boot)Doctor is in the House” is a series from beloved Telluride retailer BootDoctors, The subject is  mountain lore and stories in which the good guys always gets to ski powder or bag summits. The Big Idea is to share the power of mountain life: style, gear, community and community outreach, and adventures of all kind. This week, once again, regular Telluride Inside… and Out contributor and accomplished local skier and cyclist Jesse James McTigue writes about biking in the Telluride region. Bottom line: A newbie? Might not want to trust a local. Get a BootDoc guide to ensure a perfect day on the trails. All biking images below are courtesy of Melissa Plantz Photography.

I love mountain biking in Telluride.

I’ve lived at altitude since I was eleven, love climbing, and grew up as a ski racer in the late ‘80s, before real sports science, during an era in which coaches thought working out until you puked was sound practice: “No pain, no gain,” applied to everything.

And many believe that same mentality is what it takes to ride in Telluride.

Look around. It’s the rugged, steep mountains that make this place beautiful. How much undulating terrain do you see? Flats? Exactly.


There are some great trails that are marked and marked well – Prospect, the downhill park on the Mountain, Jurassic and Meadows – but there are no real obvious beginner trails. If you’re a beginner, don’t get sucked into your significant other convincing you otherwise. That date will be a disaster.

You can always try riding with a local, but I don’t suggest that either. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Telluride locals are the biggest sandbaggers you’ve ever met. If they ride regularly, they’re in insane shape, and they live, sleep and breathe at 8750 feet or higher. If it’s your first week here, and you’re not taking performance enhancing drugs or an oxygen tank with you, it’ll be a suffer fest.

But, like most things, there is more than meets the eye to Telluride’s mountain biking scene, and amongst the rugged peaks, steep mountainsides, and thin traverses – there are beginner trails and endless connections, making for world- class mountain biking. And, there are mesas and ridges beyond the box canyon. The only trick is finding them. And for that, I recommend riding with the professionals from the BootDoctors. 

Beginner Ride/Intermediate Ride: Trout Lake to Illium Valley:

The BootDoctors signature ½ -day ride shuttles cyclists south of Telluride on highway 145 to Lizard Head Pass (10,000 ft). Riders follow the railroad bed originally made for the Galloping Goose train to Trout Lake, connect to a double-track behind Priest Lake before crossing the highway above Ophir and reconnecting to the Galloping Goose and sailing down the single-track to Illium Valley. Here, cyclists can enjoy lunch by the river. This ride is great for the family or a guaranteed disaster-free date.

BootDoctors New Guided Rides in Norwood and Ridgway:

Because of the limited flat terrain in Telluride, BootDoctors has extended its guided rides to the large mesas in nearby Norwood and Ridgway to give beginner and intermediate riders a greater variety of terrain and new perspective of the area.


BootDoctors offers guided rides and skills building clinics on two trail systems in Norwood, Burn Canyon Trails and Thunder Trails. Burn Canyon is a trail system totaling 22 miles made up of mini-loops, allowing riders multiple options, while Thunder Canyon offers four-different loops of easy-going meadow trails.

Intermediate/Advanced: The Ridgway Area Trail System (RAT Trails)

The Ridgway Area Trail System may be the best-kept secret in the mountain biking world. Go ride it now with Bootdoctors, before the word gets out. Think Fruita, before anyone knew about it.  Yup, it’s that good. The trails consist of punchy climbs, long traverses and snappy, sweeping, birmmed descents. The looping options are endless as is the fun.

More about BootDoctors Ski, Snowboard & Bike Shop (from the desk of Penelope Gleason):

It was the winter ski season of 1985. Bob Gleason looked up from the boot-fit bench at Taos Ski Valley and caught the glances of the folks lined up out the door. Anxious faces of skiers.

“Bring us your sore, cold, numb, battered feet…and we will make them able to ski again,” thought the grinning Irishman as he labored to bend the stiff plastic of a ski boot to his bidding.

Ski boots in the eighties were only slightly better than torture devices. They had, in fact, improved substantially from the old days of leather, but hard plastics and packed-out liners more often than not tamped down a skier’s enthusiasm.

Bob Gleason had dedicated his professional life to making ski boots more comfortable and better performing.

After a stint at Hanson boots, where he addressed a number of key problems presented by skiers and many pro athletes, Bob was drawn to the emerging ski mecca of Taos Ski Valley by the famous ski pioneer Ernie Blake.

Now Bob Gleason and his partner Bob Reminger were struggling to keep up with demand for their boot-fitting skills. The need for a new ski shop with a focus on boot-fitting became glaringly obvious.

In 1986, the two Bobs started their own shop in Taos Ski Valley, with a central focus on the highest quality ski boot-fitting. They were joined by Linda Gleason and, later, by Kyle Reminger in the shop, where they added ski clothing and accessories into the mix. It was a smart business model: once skier’s boots came off, shoeless individuals were confined to the store for the better part of an hour. Why not pass the time browsing all the cool gear while waiting for your boots to be altered?

The original shop and the newer Telluride stores stand on a foundation built on the combined values of deep knowledge, quality workmanship and products, customer service, and personal passion for skiing and other mountain, trails, and river-based sports. All the folks who work at BootDoctors live in and love the outdoors and are always ready, willing, and able to share their expertise to help others have great outdoors experiences too.

The TSV BootDoctors store was at first inconveniently located, away from the Main Street traffic stream and across a river. Some devotees scrambled through the frozen river bed to reach the shop rather than hike around. That was remedied in the darkness of one night, when the landlord, JB Cottam, snuck in a new bridge, much to the surprise of the ski area owners and competitors.

The rest is history…

It is history that stretches over 30 years of world-renowned boot-fitting done on site at the highest quality ski shop, still owned and run by two families, the Gleasons and the Remigers. Many awards decorate the walls for “top boot-fitting” and “most knowledgeable staff” – many of whom have been with the business for more than 20 years.

Loyalty is the key element to survival. Loyalty has taken BootDoctors through droughts and fierce local competition, as well as competition from big sporting goods chains and the rapid growth of on-line shopping. Loyalty of the staff and loyalty of the customers, who return generation after generation, bringing children and grandchildren for gear and services.

In 1996, Bob Gleason, who had been exploring the landscape of ski area retail as he traveled teaching Master Ski Tech and Masterfit Bootfitting clinics all over North America, became enamored of the rustic town of Telluride, which was on the verge of a major revival with a new owner of the ski area. Gleason moved to Telluride and one year later decided to open a BootDoctors store in the quickly growing Mountain Village. The need for quality boot-fitting and a homegrown, old fashioned, owner-operated ski store fit his skills well.

Over 20 years in Telluride, the BootDoctors grew to encompass a large storefront in Mountain Village and take over the Paragon Sports stores, another locally owned sporting goods outfit. The expansion allowed BootDoctors’ customers to benefit from the master boot-fitting and high-quality products on both sides of the mountain.

In 1998, Penelope Gleason joined the crew as marketing director after a stint in retail and inventory control. The Gleasons’ daughters, Kelli and Galena, joined the business after college and rose to the ranks of management and top buyers.

Purchase of the Paragon stores allowed the merchandise mix to reflect another of the family’s passions: cycling. Biking had been one of Gleason’s summer recreational passions – along with river-guiding since the 1970s.

BootDoctors also grew their summer offerings in Telluride to include rafting, paddle boarding, mountain bike rentals, retail, repair, and tours. In Taos, they added a store in the downtown in collaboration with the area’s top fly fishing outfitter, Solitary Angler.

The same quality and passion found in the boot-fitting department permeates the other departments, from ski rentals to outdoor clothing, bikes and guided adventure tours.

Never known to rest on its laurels, BootDoctors became the first entity in Telluride to offer Fat Tire Bikes for rent, sale, and tours.

Quality, knowledge, passion for sport and personal service are values being carried forward by the awesome staff at all five BootDoctors stores today.

The same big grin that sparkles on the ski slope, under his bike helmet, or in the boot-fit room shines as Bob watches his daughters Kelli and Galena continue the traditions while buying hard and soft goods, managing different departments in the business, and excelling in skiing, biking, and river-running.

Bob knows the future looks good for the next generation of BootDoctors and their loyal customers.


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