Beyond the Slopes in Telluride, Colorado

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Created: Monday, February 18, 2019 12:38 pmUpdated: Friday, February 22, 2019 12:35 pm

They don’t call Telluride the most Colorado place on Earth for nothing. There’s plenty to do on and off the slopes in this charming and rustic San Juan Mountains town.

The San Juan Mountains provide the backdrop for Telluride, Colorado, also known as “the most Colorado place on Earth.” Photo courtesy of The Hotel Telluride.

By Natalie Distin

Telluride is a year-round, world-class vacation destination. Most people know it for the massive and outstanding ski slopes that rise above town with a summit elevation of 13,150 feet, but there’s much more adventure you can choose from. If you’re looking for a change of pace from the slopes, or are simply a new way to get outdoors this winter, there’s always something to do in Telluride. After all, they do call it “the most Colorado place on Earth.”

Ice castles

Imagine a teal blue tower of solid ice rising into the mountains above you. If you thought you’d never be able to climb a frozen waterfall with little more than two ice axes and special spikes on your feet, now is the time time to change your mind. San Juan Outdoor Adventures does an impeccable job of guiding with confidence to comfort you every step of the way. After Stephanie Loeber of Boston, Massachusetts, finished her second day on the ice, she called it a powerful experience.   

Natalie Distin climbing her first Colorado ice.
Author Natalie Distin gets a taste of natural mountain ice in Ames, Colorado, a historic mining town near Telluride. Photo by Pam LeBlanc.

“There’s something so empowering about looking at a 70-foot wall of ice thinking ‘there’s no way I can do this,’ then conquering it,” she said.

Leaving the comfort of town behind for the mountains, we arrived near the old town of Ames, Colorado. After a short hike we found Lower Ames Falls. Ames is known for its historic power plant, The Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant, that was built in 1890. It was the nation’s first industrial alternating current power generation station and was used to power mines in the area.

Climbers on their way to Ames ice in Colorado
Excited climbers making their way through Ames, Colorado, on their approach to natural backcountry ice. Photo by Natalie Distin.

Climbing guide and trip leader Josh Butson was at home in the mountains. He has 20 years of experience as a guide and has owned San Juan Outdoor Adventures since 2006. To Butson, the natural uncrowded ice formations are what draws him to the mountains, away bustling popular areas. In the mountains surrounding Telluride, that’s easy to find.

Fat and fun

Now you know the ice is nice, have you ever thought of biking in the snow? Fat bikes allow you to glide through powder and gain traction where normal bikes would never have a chance. These off-road and odd bikes have giant oversized tires that are most useful for snowy terrain. Just when you think there’s no way you can plow through, you end up surprised that you can. Built for comfort and winter conditions, they feel surprisingly lightweight too.

Fat bikers in Telluride, Colorado.
Fat bikes surprise riders with their ability to handle the snow and with how much fun it is to ride them. Photo courtesy of The Hotel Telluride.

Box Canyon Bicycles offers full or half day rentals for fat bikes to go where you please.

Pro tip: Take a three-mile ride across the Valley Floor to Telluride Brewing Co. to enjoy a delicious, well-deserved beer and bike back into town. It’s worth it.

Sledneckin’

After all that self-propelled fun, it can be nice to twist the throttle. Snowmobiling is an exhilarating way to experience the solitude of the backcountry. Fresh snow and crisp mountain air at high-speeds is a unique sensation, to say the least, and a great addition to all the other fun. Telluride Outside offers half- or full-day trips that take you between the Wilson and Dolores mountain ranges. The guides take the time to stop for you to take pictures of the breathtaking views.

Snowshoeing

After all that excitement, sometimes a quiet trek through the snow helps you wind down. Snowshoeing can be tailored to your desired interest, and it’s kid-friendly. Choose a trail difficulty level thats suits you, but don’t rule out the short trek to Bear Creek Falls in town, or take on a challenge with a 5-mile loop around Trout Lake.

Warmer up

Apres adventure at the Hotel Telluride. Photo courtesy of The Hotel Telluride.

Wagner Custom Skis Factory, in Mountain Village, takes guests on tours of their facilities to see first-hand how their custom, made-to-order skies are built and designed to fit your personal “skier DNA.”

If you’re a peppermint schnapps fan, Telluride Distilling Co., also in Mountain Village, has the only craft, single-batch schnapps in the country, called Chairlift Warmer.

You’re never far from the slopes at the Hotel Telluride, but there’s more than skiing in this adventure mecca in the mountains. Photo courtesy of The Hotel Telluride.

The friendly staff at The Hotel Telluride will accommodate all of your needs, helping you book tours for any of the activities.

Whether you’re with family, couples, solo, or with a group of friends, there’s plenty for you to do, on and off the slopes, in Telluride, the gem of Southwest Colorado.

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