Head north from Durango into the heart of the San Juan Mountains; take a left at Ouray after a two hour drive and you'll find yourself in a big box canyon. But at the end of this box is the historic town of Telluride, and above it rise the lifts and trails of its namesake resort.
Telluride the town has undergone quite a transformation from its mining and ghost-town days. Gourmet restaurants and art galleries have replaced hash houses and dusty bars. But the facade of the historic Victorian downtown remains intact and lovingly tended. Telluride's 1600 residents are fewer than the 5000 who lived here at the height of the mining boom, more in keeping with the scale of things.
Swedish and Finnish miners brought skiing with them to town, and a rope tow was set up back in the thirties. But it was a California entrepreneur who put up the first modern lift in 1972; the resort and the town have grown and prospered since. With the recent addition of lift-served Prospect Bowl the terrain now covers 1700 acres and 3530 vertical feet. Four gondolas and five high-speed chairs are complemented by conventional lifts to get people up on the terrain or around the resort. In fact there's a free gondola that runs from town to Station St. Sophia at 10,535 feet.
The terrain tops out at 12,255 feet at the top of the Gold Hill high-speed quad. A backcountry access gate here leads along a ridge to 13,320-foot Palmyra Peak. Another gate may be found between High Camp and Bald Mountain. The Gold Hill lift serves some backcountry-style double-diamond terrain, and over in Prospect Bowl itself is some steep hike-to stuff. Intermediates will find the greatest concentration of cruisers served by the Village and Palmyra quads. Stretched below the Town of Mountain Village is the learning terrain. Solid, competent beginners have fewer choices, but there is a green trail up in Prospect Bowl and other green trails can be joined from there. With the exception of the learning terrain most everything from green to double-black is tilted toward the steeper end of the scale.
Freestyle terrain can be found in one of Telluride's three terrain parks depending on what you are looking for. For the beginners, or the experts just learning new tricks, start at the Ute Park which is accessible by taking Chair 10 at the base to Chair 11, which only serves the terrain park area, making this a secluded and low-pressure spot perfect for learning how to grind a rail or land a jump. When you are ready to take it to the next level head over to the Intermediate Jib Park, which is located just below the yurt and third jump in the Air Garden. Here the terrain starts to get a little more challenging to get you ready for the Hoot Brown Park on Lower See Forever. Don't go there until you are ready, this park is designed for experts.
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