Spring 2003
back to Telluride
the new look of an old favorite...

My friend, Julian Gregory, director of the Snowmass Ski School said it best when he said: "you never make the same turn twice." I loved the idea, and the clear direct way he put it. And it started me thinking. I realized that you never ski the same mountain twice, either. Even a mountain you think you know inside and out. Your home mountain.

For almost twenty years, Telluride Colorado was my home mountain. I fell in love with this sleepy mining town, struggling to reinvent itself as a ski resort and moved there back in 1976. The rest, as they say, was history.

In the early days, not many people believed in Telluride. As a beautiful even a magical place, yes, as a major ski resort, no. The problem was always the terrain, not the backdrop which was spectacular enough to attract ski-movie makers from across the country to film some of their most dramatic sequences in Telluride. But cameras lie. The visions of endless powder fields and endless stashes of fresh powder were hard for the average ski visitor to duplicate. Telluride, for many years remained a medium-small ski area, dropped on top of a big but densely forested mountain.

Development focused on the creation of a second village, The Mountain Village, on the other side of the ski area from Telluride itself. This focus did not always win high praise from hard-core ski fanatics in town. No man is a hero to his valet, the old saying goes, and perhaps no ski company can every look heroic in the eyes of local skiers.

But I am glad to say that in the long run, Telluride's strategy seems to have worked out pretty well. The real-estate gambit, developing the Mountain Village, seems to have pushed Telluride's skier numbers past some invisible threshold, making it a large enough and attractive enough destination resort to attract new ownership and new investment. And in the process, I believe, helping the wonderful old funky mining town of Telluride resist most of the egregious development pressures that can wash over mountain towns like a tidal wave.

photos, top to bottom:

at the top of Prospect Basin, the importqant new addition to Telluride's ski offerening;

the gondola car zooming into the hear of the Mountain Village from the skier parking lot (an elegant solution to the parking/transportation dilemma;

the backdrop behind one of the new runs in Prospect Basin, Palmyra peak, a wild scene of cliff and cornices and valanche fracture zones...

But this time, new ownership and new investment dollars focused squarely on the skiing experience. And a lot of long time dreams for Telluride skiing came true last season with the opening of a major mountain expansion. Prospect Basin, a vast rolling bowl, flanked and overhung by some of the steepest, most dramatic alpine terrain in Colorado, totally changed the flavor of Telluride skiing. Above Prospect Basin, the challenging steeps of Gold Hill, once accessed by a long ridge walk, are now lift served, and well served. The ski area expansion actually feels much bigger than it probably is in terms of new skiable acres. The sense of possibilities on this mountain has expanded exponentially — the number of options, the many different ways you can craft a morning or afternoon of skiing at Telluride without repeating yourself. Without ever once saying: nice but I wish there were more.…
Telluride has grown up as a ski area. Bravo. Telluride's classics are all still there: Bushwhacker, one of the steepest always groomed slopes in Colorado, the amazing bumps of the Spiral Stairs, the challenging trees of chair 6, and the endless view-run of See Forever. But now there is so much more. I was totally jazzed, rediscovering my dormant passion for this stunning mountain.

And I found out again how right Julian Gregory was. You never really do ski the same turn twice, or the same run, or the same mountain. How lucky we are.

 Spring 2003
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© Lito Tejada-Flores unless otherwise credited.