What are the best things to do in Telluride?

Claire Walter

No matter what the season, active sports and outdoor adventures get top billing in Telluride. Snow sports reign in winter, with some of the best and least crowded skiing and snowboarding in the West, as well as gentler snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Summer is festival time, and most of the town’s famous summer festivals are on open-air stages with gorgeous scenery as the backdrop. Here are our picks for best things to do in Telluride:

1. Ski and snowboard. During Telluride’s winter season, snow sports reign supreme. The expansive ski area has terrain ranging from gentle slopes for beginners and double black diamond chutes. The average annual snowfall exceeds 300 inches, and the white stuff is some of the lightest, fluffiest powder in the West. There rarely are lines for the 18 lifts, and the 2,000 acres of terrain are never crowded.
 
2. Celebrate at festivals. There’s sometime going on almost every weekend here. The Telluride Bluegrass Festival around summer solstice always sells out. The prestigious Telluride Film Festival on Labor Day Weekend has premiered thought-provoking films that have gone on to win Oscars. Telluride has even declared a No Festival Weekend in summer to “celebrate” a couple of days when nothing special is on the calendar.
 
3. Visit a ghost town. Telluride got its start as a major mining district when it was founded in 1878. Old mine sites and mill sites dot the mountains, with old mining roads lacing through them — today, they are thoroughfares for four-wheel drive vehicles, dirt bikes, mountain bikes and hikers. Join a knowledgeable guide to the well-preserved mining town of Alta by all-terrain vehicle in the summer and snowmobile in the winter; you can head to Tomboy high on Imogene Pass in the summer only.
 
4. Explore Bridal Veil Falls. Hike, mountain bike or go off-roading to this beautiful waterfall. At 365 feet, Bridal Veil Falls is Colorado’s tallest free-falling cataract. The 1907 powerhouse at the top was restored in the late 1980s and remains in private hands, but it still supplies about 25 percent of the town’s power needs. The panorama of the falls and the valley far below is worth the effort of getting there.
 
5. Fly in Silence. The rugged San Juan Mountains are usually acknowledged as Colorado’s most scenic mountain range, magnificently clad in summer green, winter white or fall’s golden aspen trees. Visitors can get an eagle-eye experience by soaring over the San Juan Range in a silent glider or floating by in a hot air balloon.

  • On March 27, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where are the best places to eat in Telluride?

    For a special night out the top choices in Telluride are clear. The classic is Allred’s, perched at the top of the gondola and easily accessible from town or Mountain Village. People go for the great views and stay for the great food, and have been enjoying both for years. It’s Colorado Mountain fare, plenty of venison and elk, but with a decidedly Italian bent, and the signature dish, the mussels, isn’t even on the menu but if you ask for it they know you know. Another trip worth making is the snow coach excursion to Alpino Vino, the nation’s highest altitude wine bar, where you can enjoy a delicious 4-course meal in a quaint Alpine setting. In town, the top choice is 221 South Oak, whose chef/owner Elizabeth Gavin is a contestant on Season 10 of Bravo’s Top Chef. Her mixed Colorado sausage (pork, duck, elk and beef) platter is a must, but so is everything else, from the buttermilk fried quail to the handmade whole wheat pasta with chicken, tomatoes, edamame and prosciutto. The Chop Hose at the historic New Sheridan Hotel may look like just another kitschy Old West steakhouse but it is not, it serves the finest dry aged beef and fish flown in daily.
  • On March 27, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best places to stay in Telluride?

    What originally opened as the Capella Telluride is now the Forbes Travel Guide 4-Star Hotel Madeline, the town’s only star-rated accommodations, and very well located in the heart of Mountain Village, just steps from the lifts and gondola. The Madeline is fully featured, with a deluxe spa and the popular SMAK Bar, known for its signature Bloody Mary with slider burger on a stick, a unique pairing for sure. Another top choice in Mountain Village is the luxurious boutique Lumiere, with a very residential feel, large rooms, the fantastic Little Bar, and ski-in/ski-out access. It’s got a European flair and very welcoming, hands on management team, the kind of place where once you check in everyone knows your name and it always feels like you are coming home. Many visitors to Telluride come for the Old West flair, and for them, the historic New Sheridan – new in 1891, four years after Telluride was founded  –  is the clear winner, with its classic red brick building on Colorado Avenue where the stage once pulled up, its masculine steak house and central location. But it also has a rooftop hot tub, and two bars, a trendy wine and beer spot and the original watering hole from 1895.
  • On March 27, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where is the best shopping in Telluride?

    Telluride is a small town, and its laid back aesthetic makes it much different from most other upscale ski towns – you won’t find any Prada store here. Shopping is limited to Mountain Village and the town’s main street, Colorado Avenue. In Mountain Village, the most unique offerings are the Swanky Buckle, an upscale women’s boutique with shoes and designer clothing, Telluride Naturals, which specializes in locally made art, jewelry, bath products and other made in Colorado items – you can even buy Telluride Vodka here. Telluride is home to one of the nation’s most acclaimed custom ski boot fitters, so a shocking number of visitors make a pair of ski boots their big purchase – you sometimes need an appointment even though Bootdoctors has three locations between Town and Mountain Village. On Colorado Avenue, Appaloosa Trading Company makes its own fine leather goods for men, women and children, with a Western flair, and has for over twenty years. This is the Old West after all, the town where Butch Cassidy robbed his very first bank, so get yourself outfitted with cowboys boots or hat at Black Bear Trading Company, which sells Lucchese, Stetson and other top labels. If you do need a special big ticket purchase while visiting, Elinoff & Co. is the leading fine jeweler.
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  • On March 27, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best Telluride food experiences?

    On the mountain, the ski resort has made a big change in recent years, trying to carve out a niche as America’s most European ski dining experience, and it succeeded. Here we eat to ski, in Europe they ski to eat, and Telluride may change things with its excellent Alpino Vino, a chalet featuring amazing Italian charcuterie, gourmet grilled sandwiches and a huge wine list. Bon Vivant is another fun and lively Euro-centric on-mountain optin, this one specializing in French fare and outdoor joie de vivre. Both are not to be missed by skiers. Telluride is a very wealthy but very laid back town, and the scales here tip more to casual than fine dining, and even the fine dining is relaxed and unpretentious. But that does not mean the food is not excellent – two of the town’s most popular eateries are a pizzeria and a barbecue joint, but they happen to be the best pizzeria and best barbecue joint at any ski resort in the US. Brown Dog Pizza serves the very unique Detroit-style pizza, virtually impossible to find outside of Michigan, backed in a steel pan sort of like New York’s Sicilian but much less bready. What used to be Back Alley BBQ moved to a prominent new location next to the main gondola at the foot of the ski resort, and is now called Oak (The New Fat Alley) but has the same great Alabama owner and the same world-class ribs, better than most you would get in Memphis, plus a deep and curated bourbon list. Telluride also has some funky street carts, both in Mountain Village’s main plaza and on Main Street in town, serving everything from Swedish meatballs to savory popovers.
  • On March 27, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best things to do in Telluride?

    Best Things To Do

    In winter Telluride is all about skiing and snowboarding with one of the best arrays of diverse terrain for all abilities of any ski resort in North America, from the tamest greens to the perfectly groomed blues to some of the most challenging double black mogul runs on earth, and hike-to chutes and terrain rated Extreme, beyond double black. But there are many other fun options, the most popular of which are guided snowmobile excursions, a one day into to ice climbing, and unique guided “fat bike” tours on special mountain bikes with huge tires that work in the snow. If you haven’t done it, and few have, it is very fun experience and most tours conveniently end at the Telluride Brewing Company. In summer, Telluride switches to full on festival mode, with a special event pretty much every weekend, the biggest of which is the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June, now in its 40th year, but others range from a horror film fest to a beer event in the fall. Mountain biking, hiking and fly fishing are all popular, and Telluride’s Mountain Village is home to an excellent golf course.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Claire Walter answered the question: Claire Walter

    What is the best thing to bring home from Telluride?

    There’s no doubt in our minds that you’ll want to pick up a little souvenir to remember your time in Telluride. Whether you’re looking for a piece of art or an alpine treasure, you can find it in this mountain town. Some of our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ favorites include everything from Telluride Truffle’s preservative-free confections to one-of-a-kind jewelry.
     
    Mosey on over to Telluride Brewing Company to taste the award-winning beer and while you’re at it, grab one of the souvenirs like a baseball cap or t-shirt with the brewery’s logo on it. With food on the mind, make your way to Telluride Truffles for a sweet treat — the distinctive triangular shape of the candy echoes the peaks around the area and are named after local places and favorite pastimes. For something a little more concrete, try Zia Sun and bring home one of the Telluride Christmas ornaments the shop makes new each year.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Claire Walter answered the question: Claire Walter

    What are the best Telluride food experiences?

    For a tiny mountain town, Telluride has its fair share of dynamic food experiences. Alongside fine-dining eateries, you’ll find everything from bakeries and chocolatiers to farmers’ markets and a microbrewery. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors rounded up the best Telluride food experiences to help you navigate this alpine destination:
     
    1. The Sweet Life. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Telluride’s only homemade ice cream parlor, where tubs are filled with flavors ranging from classic vanilla to “worms and dirt.” The Sweet Life also has a candy counter, a hit with the kids.
     
    2. Telluride Truffle. Another place to cure your hankering for sweets is at Telluride Truffle. A divine concoction of organic Colorado cream, high-quality liqueurs and spirits, and natural flavors like banana and hazelnut create the distinctive triangular shapes that echo the peaks surrounding Telluride. The preservative-free chocolates are named after local places and favorite pastimes.
     
    3. Telluride Brewing Company.
    The local brewing company sources its water from Rocky Mountain snowmelt — filtered, of course — and adds in premium malts, hops and yeasts. Try the Face-Down Brown, which took home the gold at the 2012 World Beer Cup. Visit the tasting room to sip on several different brews.
     
    4. Baked in Telluride. There’s no better place to experience the flavor of Telluride. This funky side-street bakery, pizza parlor and burrito dispensary is a longtime hangout for ski bums. Regulars catch the morning rays on the east-facing patio, even in the winter.
     
    5. Telluride Farmers’ Market. Considering Telluride’s lofty elevation, it’s quite a feat that there’s a farmers’ market each week from early June until mid-October. Featuring locally farmed goods like vegetables, fruit and flowers within a 100-mile radius, the Telluride Farmers’ Market takes place every Friday between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the summer on the Gondola Plaza. You’ll also find crafts by local artisans such as jewelry, pottery and clothing.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Claire Walter answered the question: Claire Walter

    Where is the best nightlife in Telluride?

    Summer is filled with a steady procession of festivals in Telluride, many of which provide entertainment well into the night. Whether you’re part of the huge crowd in front of the outdoor stage at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival or breathing in the mountain air at the Telluride Yoga Festival, there’s something for nearly everyone. Though the nightlife scene that Telluride was once famous for is rather tame these days, there’s still plenty to do around the clock. Like any other ski resort, the après ski scene is big here — venture to any of the local bars and you’ll find a cozy spot to unwind.
     
    A Forbes Travel Guide editor favorite is New Sheridan Bar. Next door to the eponymous restaurant in the eponymous hotel, is Telluride’s oldest bar. Opened in 1895, it retains that turn-of-the-last-century charm and patina. These days, New Sheridan Bar is known for well-priced and generous pours of Jack Daniel’s and the like, expertly mixed cocktails and oceans of beer.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Claire Walter answered the question: Claire Walter

    Where is the best shopping in Telluride?

    Telluride has no chain stores. And that means every shopping experience in town is unique. Colorado Avenue, historic downtown Telluride’s main drag, is lined with unique shops and wonderful galleries. Shopaholics often come back with treasures they would find nowhere else. Mountain Village offers some shops and galleries too, but its main retail focus is on sporting goods.
     
    If you’re looking for leather, head to Appaloosa Trading Company, where you’ll find leather apparel and accessories like belts and wallets. This long-time Telluride favorite also sells home décor items. As for jewelry, our Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest moseying on over to Elinoff, which is one of just 50 jewelry stores in the country to showcase Hermès watches. Elinoff doubles as an art gallery with masterpieces hanging on the walls. Speaking of art, Telluride’s newest artisan gallery, Lustre, is a great place to find everything from finely crafted furniture to decorative sculptures. Like Elinoff, Lustre sells jewelry alongside its art.
     
    To bring home a little taste of the outdoors, make your way to Telluride Angler. This full-service fly shop offers equipment sales, rentals, licenses and year-round guided fly fishing through Telluride Outside. The knowledgeable staff can answer questions, rig equipment and point visitors to the hottest local spots. Shoppers looking for the local, the global and the just plain unusual head for Zia Sun, which carries a unique assortment of toys and gifts from around the world, as well as old-school children's toys and games of all kinds.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Claire Walter answered the question: Claire Walter

    What are the best things to do with kids in Telluride?

    Telluride is the ideal destination for kids — both the historic old town and contemporary Mountain Village are pedestrian-friendly. Whether organized or impromptu, in the summer or in the winter, family-friendly activities abound. Here are our picks for the best things to do with kids in Telluride:

    1. Ski school. At Telluride Ski Resort’s Children’s Ski & Snowboard School, your kids will get top-notch instruction on even better terrain. Specially trained kids’ instructors split youngsters into age-specific groups. Telluride's mascots, Olivia the Otter, Eddie the Eagle and Morris the Bear, help teach children not only skiing and snowboarding but also about Telluride's history and environment.
     
    2. Kids Camp. From early June through Labor Day, the full-day Kids Camp at Telluride Ski Resort features outdoor exploration such as easy hikes, playing in and around the river, fun games, team-building activities, mushroom hunting, picnic lunches, fun science experiments, and arts and crafts activities. For children younger than five, the resort operates Cubs Camp at the Nursery.
     
    3. Horseback riding. A trail ride on horseback is a great adventure for kids. For older children, opt for a horseback ride ranging from one hour to a full day. If you have small kids, you may want to stick to the horse-drawn carriages or sleighs.

    4. St. Sophia Nature Center. This large log cabin is just a short distance from the top of the gondola. Patient naturalists have all the answers to curious kids’ questions and reach out to those too shy to ask. Summer group programs provide wildlife education, children's nature activities and guided hikes.
     
    5. Wilkinson Public Library. For such a small town (population less than 2,500), Telluride has a huge library with all the technology usually found in far larger communities. Located downtown, just half a block from the main drag, Wilkinson Public Library provides a host of drop-in activities for children of all ages, including story time for the little ones.
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