Lifts & Terrain
Telluride Ski and Snowboard Terrain
By looking at the sophistication and glamour of Telluride, you could be mistaken for thinking that Telluride ski resort
is only suited to fur wearing skiers’ who want to cruise the blue runs. Sure Telluride has a good range of green and blue runs, but the ski resort also has a gnarly side to it with lots of black and double black runs. And the double blacks aren’t the pretend kind you’d find at a place like Deer Valley
; these are the real deal – absolutely for experts only!
Telluride Ski Resort is reasonably large at 2,000 acres (810 hectares), and whilst it is only the 8th largest of the Colorado ski resorts
, it seems a little bigger than its statistic. Even though much of the mountain is below the tree-line, many of the trees are adequately spaced such that most of the mountain is skiable.
The terrain around Mountain Village is mellow, as are most of the trails off the Sunshine Express that meander around the outer streets of Mountain Village. Working left across the trail map, the runs get progressively steeper. The face that drops down into town is definitely not for beginners, and the slopes are often icy and slick, so these runs may not be suited to low-end intermediates either.
Up high where the views are absolutely sensational, much of the mountain is steep, although confident beginners and intermediates can also get up high to enjoy the vistas in the Prospect Bowl area.
The lift infrastructure is impressive. In addition to the fast gondolas, the ski resort has 7 high speed quads, and a lack of lift lines is the norm at Telluride.
Transportation on the gondola between the town of Telluride, Mountain Village and Station Village Parking is free for "pedestrians".
Like many other high end Colorado ski resorts
, lift ticket prices at Telluride are at the upper end of the spectrum. Kids 5 and under ski for free, but there are no youth tickets, so for teens (13 and above) an adult ticket is required. By buying tickets on-line at least 7 days prior to skiing, the prices are discounted, but the discount is fairly negligible.
Telluride Snow Conditions
The annual snowfall of 7.9 metres is average for a Colorado ski resort, so there’s a reasonable amount of the white gold. The quality of the Telluride powder is somewhat dry.
There’s a tendency towards frequent small snowfalls, so you have to be really lucky to ski or board waist deep pow. Telluride also has a reputation for frequent dry spells where the resort turns into an icy bumps city.
About 15% of the terrain has snowmaking capacity.
For the Beginner
Telluride is perfect for beginners, and considering much of the green terrain is centred around the Mountain Village accommodations, it’s really convenient for beginners or families to stay in this area. The Meadows area that drops down from the Mountain Village is serviced by the Chondola (a cross between a gondola and a chair lift) which is great for novices.
Runs are delineated into single greens and double greens at Telluride, so it’s easy for beginners to pick appropriate runs for progression. Some of the double green runs are long and allow plenty of opportunity to practise turns. Beginners can get up towards the top of the mountain to enjoy the dramatic views from the Prospect Bowl. The highlight for confident beginners is a gallop down the Galloping Goose run; a delightfully long run that wraps around the resort.
Telluride Skiing for Intermediates
Telluride is great for blue-runners. The intermediate runs are also divided into single and double blues, making for easy progression. The Village Express (out of Mountain Village) and the Polar Queen Express lifts are completely dedicated to intermediates, whilst the See Forever is an aptly named blue run that seems never ending and provides sensational views of the San Juans. And if you have lots of vinos at Alpino Vino the run home will really seem to take forever!
Prospect Bowl is another great area that provides a mellow off-piste playground for intermediates; a good place to hit on a powder day. Snowboarders will want to keep their speed in this area as the rolling terrain sometimes rolls into flat patches.
For the Kids
The little kids learning area is conveniently located adjacent to the Mountain Village gondola station. It has a little magic carpet and it’s a very sunny spot to hang out. From here kids can progress into the Meadows area.
Telluride is blessed with three terrain parks. Novice shredders can start out in the Ute beginner park. The next progression is the Misty Maiden intermediate park that has a reasonable range of hits. Those who really want to risk a visit to the Telluride Medical Centre can test their nerves in the Hoot Brown advanced terrain park.
also has some good natural freestyling terrain. The West Drain and East Drain off the Plunge lift in particular have good walls on which to shred. Bushwacker can also offer some natural quarter pipe terrain.
Advanced Skiing and Boarding
Telluride has some steep groomers with about six black runs that are groomed in alternate pairs ie one run is groomed one night, the other run the next night. These are awesome for those with a need for speed.
For those who don’t have much respect for the cartilage in their knees, Telluride ski resort is a delight as it’s commonly covered in moguls, some that fall into the VW category. The Plunge lift (no. 9) area seems to be a myriad of egg-cartons, and the no. 6 lift next door also seems popular with bumps skiers. If it hasn’t snowed in a while, even all the spots between the trees are covered in moguls; disappointment for a powderhound! However if there’s been a fresh dump, the no. 6 lift is a great spot for tree skiing.
For more of a European experience, the alpine area within Revelation Bowl is dedicated to advanced skiers and boarders. It’s awesome on a powder day, although a decent amount of snowfall is required to cover the moguls.
Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain
Telluride is fabulous for expert riders. Black Iron Bowl, Gold Hill Chutes and Palmyra Peak are the main expert playgrounds with fantastic alpine steeps and gnarly chutes. Depending on the amount of snow cover, this terrain could sometimes be categorised as extreme.
These steep areas are all in-bounds so they’re avalanche controlled (and have avalanche control gates). In addition to traditional control methods, they also winch groom some of the runs initially to pack down the snow. This is better than resorts where they just blast and blow all the snow off the run! The ridge lines up to the hike-to-terrain are also groomed (except for the staircase area….obviously!), which makes the hike up much easier.
As many of the alpine lines are hike-to terrain, the fresh powder stashes last a little while. The views up here are magnificent, but don’t get too distracted!
Further down the mountain, Telluride has lots of double black diamond runs; steep cut runs that are generally covered in moguls, or tree runs with nicely spaced trees. As is often the case at ski resorts, some of the best expert runs are serviced by the Plunge lift which is one of the few lifts at Telluride that isn’t super fast.
For the Powderhound
The Powderhounds have awarded Telluride with 4.5 paws out of 5 as a resort for powderhounds, which is pretty good! Telluride scores well in the terrain stakes for its steep challenging terrain, and pretty well for the quality of the powder, although more of it would be a bonus. And even though Telluride doesn’t get any day-trippers (except for the locals), the skier density is moderate so freshies disappear reasonably quickly, the exception being the hike-to areas.
Telluride has various backcountry access points for those in search of more white gold. These out-of-bounds areas are only for experts and those equipped with appropriate backcountry safety equipment
Unfortunately in the past, many of the backcountry gates have been closed due to a silly land owner who wouldn't play ball.
Ski Tours That Include Telluride