There’s skiing to be had, there is still snow to be found, and there is endless amount of fun found in the San Juan Mountain Range out in Colorado. It can be a bit of a trek to get that far West of Denver, but once you find yourself winding through the incredible snow walls of the Red Mountain Pass, you start to realize it’s worth it. We headed out to Ouray for some backcountry adventures courtesy of the San Juan Hut system, then headed to Telluride for some gorgeous views, great skiing and fantastic food in a historic mountain town.
Solitude, adventure, mountains and great eats. What more can you really ask for?
GO BACKCOUNTRY ADVENTURING WITH SAN JUAN HUTS
It’s always fun to really get out in the wilderness, get a little outside your comfort zone. A backcountry hut tour is one of the best ways to get into serious remote and wild territory, and the network San Juan Huts has created gets you everywhere from Telluride to Ouray to Durango. We trekked out, beyond Ralph Lauren’s Ranch (the only way to access the trail for the North Pole Hut) and deep into the mysterious mountains for an overnight hut adventure to remember.
First, get set up with Gary at Ouray’s Guide Garage, a locally grown Alpine Touring and Tuning center in the heart of Southwest Colorado. The shop is ‘Haute Alpin’ eclectic and something of an ode to slow tuning and hand finishing. The prime objective at the Guide Garage is to provide the basic essentials for incredible days in the Backcountry and High Alpine of the San Juan Mountains. He set up our awesome custom Folsom Skis with some sweet G3 Bindings and Tecnica touring boots for their inaugural skinning adventure.
Once we were all geared up we skied out to the North Pole Hut for a serious mountain adventure—the snow is a little low right now, so there was a little hiking in our boots with skis strapped to the burly backpacks, but it only added to the adventure. After a few miles of skinning and schlepping through the picturesque firs and stunning San Juans’ playing peek a boo through the clouds, we finally arrived to our humble abode. Such a warm and welcoming site, this little wooden hut. Within minutes we had the fire roaring, delicious Thai takeout sautéing on the propane cook stove, the gas lamps gently glowing, and the sunset views of the San Juan range dazzling us.
WHERE TO RESORT SKI
Scenic beauty. Character and charm. Legendary terrain. Lack of crowds. It’s a long list, and the simple fact is, you’ll never forget your first time to Telluride. The snowfall may be short this year, but their multi-million dollar snow machines have been hard at work and dubbed the best man-made powder in the West.
Hire a guide from the mountain’s ski school for a few hours (we had Pancho show us the secret sweet spots) and you’ll get to know the lay of the land and figure out what hasn’t been overskiied—a key element for a good time this year. Get out there before the season ends, and earn those turns!
It’s an exciting time at Telluride as Bill Jensen came over from Intrawest three years ago (narrowly avoiding retirement) with that legendary vision that he’s brought to resorts like Mammoth and Vail in his career. He’s focused on maintaining the peaceful atmosphere of Telluride and the nearly non-existent lift lines while expanding and keeping up with the San Juan resort skiing demand.
WHERE TO STAY: HOTEL MADELINE
Fly in to the local airport or hit the road like we did and take the incredibly scenic drive past Ralph Lauren’s Double RL Ranch out to the uber charming little town of Telluride. Telluride is known for world class skiing, but is also unique in that it’s not like your Vails and Aspens of the world. There’s a beautiful juxtaposition of Deer Valley level skiing mixed with a liberal arts college town hippie vibe—stemming from the fact that the town is a former silver mining camp, established in the 1870s. That authentic small town western charm is something you really can’t replicate, and Telluride has it in leaps and bounds.
Check into Hotel Madeline, a slopeside hotel that was just acquired this past December by Auberge and will have some extra luxe updates and Auberge-esque touches added in the seasons to come. It’s a true ski-in ski-out property in the heart of Mountain Village. Walk outside your door and find a winter wonderland awaiting you, with firepits and sofas to lounge everywhere and an ice skating rink in the center of it all. Mountain Village is definitely the place to be for the slopeside and ski valet aspect of it all—and instead of having to drive over to town for dinner you simply hop in the Gondola for a stunning evening ride. The Gondola acts as Telluride’s public transportation system, the only one of its kind throughout the entire country.
WHERE TO EAT: COSMOPOLITAN
After a day in the mountains nothing hits the spot quite like a fantastic meal. A huge part of Telluride’s charm is the ability to Gondola between Telluride and Mountain Village and explore all the delicious eats this mountain town has to offer.
Take the Gondola from Mountain Village over to town, hop out onto the snow dusted street and right into one of the best mountain meals of your life. Cosmopolitan is chef-owner Chad Scothorn’s homage to fusion and (whenever possible) locally sourced ingredients. The newly renovated restaurant offers a more relaxed & contemporary environment perfect for enjoying a hard earned and refreshing craft cocktail.
Chef Chad’s unique interpretation of classic dishes combined with his ability to incorporate locally sourced ingredients means he delivers an inspired menu that delights and is incomparable in the region.
Start out with the crispy shrimp & calamari served with a sweet & spicy sauce. Everything is seasonal and the menu rotates daily, but with this much fresh fish, perfectly cooked steak and menu staples like Lobster Corndogs it’s hard to go wrong. Don’t you dare leave without ordering the house specialty dessert, blueberry pie. Sounds simple, and it is. Simply perfect, bursting with blueberries so fresh you’ll feel like you’re rolling around the mountains of Alaska, bear-like and primitively attacking your plate.