This May Just Be the Most Idyllic Ski Town in North America

A ski day without lift lines equals bliss.

Welcome to Mountain Mondays, our winter-long series introducing you to some of the coolest mountains in America. Stay tuned each week for a new mountain for you to explore.

Skiing has always been a big part of my life. My parents were ski bums who had to strap on skis just to get in and out of their off-the-grid cabin, so it's not surprising that they started me on two planks as soon as I started walking. In some ways, I never had a choice — I was a skier by birth. But I count myself among the lucky because my home mountain has always been Telluride.

So yes, I'm a little biased when it comes to my preferred mountain, but anyone who has skied Telluride can back me up when I say that it's a special place.

Skiers on Telluride Mt.
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I took a few early-season runs with Jess Lyles, a ski patroller at Telluride Ski Resort, to chat about our mutual love for the little town and the ski area within it. Right away, she pointed out a couple of Telluride's biggest charms: a remote locale that keeps the crowds at bay (Telluride is a 6-hour drive from Denver) and direct ski-in, ski-out access from town.

"Not just being able to come here for one or two days changes the whole vibe. Visitors have to book a week or at least a few days, so we don't have that weekend rush," Lyles explained, pointing to the near nonexistent lift lines. "The ski-in, ski-out access of town is really unique, and not having to drive or park is huge."

Ski lift resort in Telluride Colorado
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And while easy access is nice, Patrick Latcham, the vice president of sales and marketing at Telluride Ski & Golf, shared via email that for him, it's the views that set Telluride apart.

"Telluride is located in the heart of the San Juan Mountains and has the highest concentration of 13,000 and 14,000-foot peaks in the lower 48," he said. "The San Juan's are a relatively younger mountain range which is why we have these beautiful, dramatic peaks."

The mountains do more than leave your jaw on the floor. They're the secret to Telluride's renowned skiing, which has a reputation for being an extreme, rugged mountain — with expert terrain accounting for 41% of the ski area. But even beginners will find a blue or green run from the top of every lift, allowing anyone to explore the entire mountain. Latcham points to the Galloping Goose, "a double green run that starts off at 11,815-feet and is 4.6 miles long."

Snow Covered Mountains in Telluride
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And then there's that Colorado weather.

"We get that really dry, low-water content snow and all these beautiful southwestern sunny days," said Lyles. "It's a good place to learn because it's warm and sunny, and you're not just sitting around freezing."

It's easy to wax poetic about Telluride, but you should just come and experience it for yourself. Here's what you need to know:

Ajax peak and Telluride Colorado main street winter
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How to Ride:

Lift tickets start at $162/day but can jump to $205/day during high-demand periods. If you purchased an Epic Pass or the Epic 4-7 Day Pass, you also get some access to Telluride Ski Resort.

Where to Stay:

For families or groups, it's hard to beat a stay at the Fairmont Heritage Place - Franz Klammer Lodge, an all-residence property located right at the base of Lift 4 (the resort's central hub in Mountain Village). Each room at the "Klammer" as locals call it, has a full kitchen and comes with complimentary ski valet and transportation to and from both Telluride and Montrose airports.

If you want to stay amid the action, book a room at the New Sheridan Hotel, a historic property right on Main Street that also houses the town's best chophouse.

Where to Dine:

On-mountain, Latcham recommends Alpino Vino for charcuterie, a nice glass of wine, and their "signature grilled cheese and tomato soup." If you want a longer midday break, Lyles recommends skiing all the way to town and fueling up at LittleHouse.

For dinner, it's hard to top a meal at The National followed by dessert and a flatliner (espresso cocktail) at the New Sheridan Chop House. If you're after views, head to Allred's, a mid-mountain restaurant only accessible via the town's free gondola.

Where to Après:

Both Lyles and Latcham agree that the place to be at the end of a ski day is Gorrono Ranch — a central, on-mountain restaurant and bar with live music and a giant "snow beach" littered with lawn chairs. Once the mountain closes, ski down to Oak at the base or grab a cocktail at the ultra-cozy There.

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