How to Plan the Ultimate Colorado Ski Adventure: 16 Essential Experiences in Telluride and Aspen
In search of the ultimate winter wonderland? Whether you’re schussing the world-class slopes or indulging in some truly decadent après, the historic Colorado mining towns of Aspen and Telluride are destinations worthy of any traveller’s bucket list.
1. Take a snowmobile tour of Alta Lakes
Up for a little adventure? Hop onto the saddle of your very own snowmobile and take Telluride Outfitters’ guided tour through some of the most breathtaking scenery in Colorado’s Telluride region. During this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you’ll tear through forests, along mountain cliffs and into the Alta Lakes Ghost Town, all the while cutting your own path through the pristine powder.
2. Arrive in style in Telluride
If you’re staying at one of the ski-in/ski-out resorts in Telluride’s Mountain Village, getting to the town itself couldn’t be easier—or more thrilling. A free, 10-minute gondola ride shuttles passengers from A to B, while providing some truly spectacular views. Although the scenery is stunning at virtually any time of the day (barring the occasional blanket of fog), the hour before sunset, when the sky turns a luminous gold, is particularly magical.
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3. Feast your eyes at Allred’s Restaurant
The spectacular sunset is also one of the big draws at the St. Sophia gondola station between Mountain Village and Telluride. Here, at the main dining room of Allred’s Restaurant, you’ll find a wall of windows that overlooks the town of Telluride. It’s the perfect vantage point as the sun arcs across the valley—and the perfect opportunity to tuck into American fare made with locally sourced ingredients. (We recommend the hand-cut truffle fries and bourbon-marinated elk loin.)
4. Shop Colorado Avenue
Sick of generic chain stores? The shopping scene in Telluride is bustling with bougie one-of-a-kind boutiques, and the relatively small size of the town means you can indulge in serious retail therapy without need of a car. Start on the main drag, Colorado Avenue, and branch out from there, browsing all manner of treasures and trinkets from alpaca wool blankets to trendy leather handbags. If you find yourself in need of refuelling, stop for a beverage and bites at SideWork, the cozy new ’50s-style cocktail lounge adjacent to Smuggler’s Brewpub at 225 S Pine Street.
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5. Travel back in time at the New Sheridan Hotel
Want to party like it’s 1895? Head to the New Sheridan Hotel’s historic bar on Colorado Avenue, where you’ll find much of the interior trappings unchanged since the first drink was served here in the late 19th century. From the lead glass divider panels, mahogany woodwork and filigree light fixtures, it’s a great place to catch live performances from local bands, or simply sip a pint while playing a round of foosball or pool.
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6. Take lunch at 12,000 feet
Hop on the Gold Hill Express (lift 14), ski down the See Forever run and you’ll find Alpino Vino—one of the most charming and unique restaurants in Telluride. Situated at an elevation of 11,966 feet, the tiny rustic cabin seats only 28, and boasts a stick-to-your ribs lunch menu of craveable Italian comfort food including rich hot chocolate and gourmet grilled cheese. For an even more unforgettable experience, make a dinner reservation and journey to the restaurant via enclosed snow coach. Upon arrival, you’ll enjoy a five-course Italian meal with optional wine pairing, and an unparalleled view of the night sky.
7. Bunk in the backwoods
Want to really get away from it all? The Observatory at Alta Lakes is the very definition of “remote.” This backcountry cabin is located 20 kilometres from Telluride, and is only accessible after snowfall via snowmobile, ski or snowshoe. Here, you can spend a night or two at the base of the 13,000-foot Palmyra Peak and Silver Peak of the San Juan Mountains, which will give you fodder for your Instagram feed for weeks to come.
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8. Get a spa treatment with a twist
In addition to its extensive menu of traditional health and beauty treatments, the ski-in/ski-out Peaks Resort and Spa in Mountain Village offers a truly unique service. Here, you can supplement your massage, facial or body wrap with a tarot card or astrological reading. Even if you find out that Mercury’s retrograde, it’s a fun and refreshing way to round out an afternoon of top-notch pampering.
9. Hike the Highland Bowl
A four-and-a-half-hour drive from Telluride (or a flight into Aspen/Pitkin County Airport) will bring you to the four ski mountains of Aspen Snowmass: Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands. Aspen Highlands is known as the “locals’ mountain” because its steep slopes attract expert skiers and snowboarders. Here you’ll find the Highland Bowl, a ski slope that’s only accessible via a 45-minute hike. As it’s relatively remote, it doesn’t get a ton of traffic, so the fresh, deep snow tends to last.
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10. Perfect your tree pose on Aspen Mountain
Every Tuesday and Thursday through the winter, yogis of all levels gather at the summit of Aspen Mountain for a session with the Aspen Shakti team. At just $5 for the hour-long workout, it’s a popular option for travellers keen to squeeze in a stretch before hitting the slopes. Don’t be discouraged if you find yourself out of breath—it’s more likely a result of dizzying altitude (11,212 feet, to be precise) than a testament to your physical fitness level.
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11. Work up an appetite in downtown Aspen
Although you’ll find well-known luxury brands in abundance, it’s the local shops in downtown Aspen that leave a lasting impression. Aficionados of western wear will want to hit up Kemo Sabe, while Amber’s Uptown Consignment is a great place to snag a deal on designer duds. After you’ve given your credit card a workout, treat your tastebuds to a meal at Aspen Kitchen, where meat-lovers simply must sample the 30-day dry-aged beef, which comes with a side of candied bacon soaked in honey lavender lacquer. Be sure to round off your dinner with an order of warm apple crisp, served with vanilla bean ice cream and salted caramel.
12. Explore Aspen’s secret shrines
Dotting the forests throughout Aspen are countless curious (and sometimes creepy) homemade shrines to celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Hunter S. Thompson—a local legend who lived and died in Aspen. Expect to see photos and newspaper articles pinned to trees and memorabilia (from license plates to wind chimes) dangling from branches. A book titled Sanctuaries in the Snow by David Wood chronicles the fascinating story of these makeshift memorials.
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13. Take a guided tour of the Aspen Art Museum
Not all the best views in Aspen are directed towards the great outdoors. Between its impressive collection of contemporary art, film screenings and lecture series, the Aspen Art Museum provides plenty of reasons to come in from the cold. The museum has become a major draw for locals and visitors alike since it reopened in a stunning new ultramodern facility in 2014.
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14. Taste the world at Bosq
In developing the menu for Bosq, chef and Aspen native C. Barclay Dodge drew inspiration from 30-odd years of travelling the globe. With a particular emphasis on dishes and ingredients from southeast Asia, he’s come up with a mouthwatering selection of shareable plates, including tempura shiitakes, sweet and sour crispy eggplant and Peking duck. Given the restaurant’s intimate atmosphere (there are only 40 seats), reservations are highly recommended.
15. Become a (temporary) member at Caribou Club
The members-only Caribou Club, which hosts dinners, dance parties and private wine tastings in its wine cellar, is a well-known hotspot for Aspen’s holidaying A-listers. Despite the club’s high-profile clientele, staff are notoriously discrete, and, even when pressed, remain tight-lipped about what goes on inside. According to legend, however, even Jennifer Aniston was once turned away at the door because she wasn’t on the guest list. Should have planned ahead, Jen! Lifetime membership for two will set you back a cool $25,000, but temporary membership is available (albeit limited) at a cost of $500-$1,500 per week for two people.
16. Hit the hay at the Limelight Hotel
Situated in the very heart of Aspen, the Limelight Hotel is a mere three-minute walk from Aspen Mountain and offers complimentary shuttle service to the other three mountains. Start your morning with the breakfast buffet that’s included with an overnight stay, then make a splash in the outdoor pool before warming up in the hot tubs. Later, treat yourself to an après-ski cocktail next to the roaring fire in the hotel lounge while taking in the local bands that perform here Thursday through Monday.
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