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LUXURY TRAVEL: Telluride

Rich from gold found in 'them thar hills', Telluride's early prosperity attracted legendary outlaws like Butch Cassidy, who robbed his first bank here.

Even after the gold rush ended and the Colorado Rockies were plundered of their riches including silver, zinc, lead and copper, legends are still being made here.

Take local icon Roudy Roudebush, a hippie turned cowboy, who refused to swap the saddle of his mare Cindy for a bar stool. And then when she died, her taught her colt, Golly-G to nudge through the doors of the New Sheridan Bar.

dihedral chute, brett schreckengost
dihedral chute, brett schreckengost
snowshoe, brett schreckengost
mountain village, tony demin
winter mountains, jeff dow
powder switchback, brett schreckengost
skiing on palmyra, doug berry
 
Boasting 300 days of sunshine, spectacular (sometimes impassable) mountain scenery and a small laid-back Victorian town, void of big chain stores, and rich in history and timeless charm, it's not hard to see why Telluride in south-western Colorado lures Hollywood stars like Tom Cruise, who are keen to escape the glare of celebrity - if only for two weeks a year.  (Those who like the posse of paparazzi have Aspen, Telluride's glamorous Colorado cousin)
A single (traffic- light-free) road leads in and out of the former 19th century mining town which lies at the end of a natural cul de sac, protected on each side by the red sandstone cliffs of the San Juan mountain range which glistens with Mother Nature's bling   - snow - for half the year. Originally home to Ute Indians, today the peaks are popular with hiker's in summer. But winter is when the Top Gun actor indulges his passion for snowboarding here.
Colorado lures Hollywood stars like Tom Cruise, who are keen to escape the glare of celebrity - if only for two weeks a year.

With 680 hectares of uncrowded skiable terrain (and well over seven metres of snow on average a year), he wouldn't find it difficult to cruise by himself as I discover while exploring 40 kilometres of trails (in one day) that meander through a Christmas-card scene of snow-dusted pines, rustic log cabins, under and over bridges, and some pretty challenging bumps. Over several days I never take the same run twice.  

Some of the most spectacular views can be found on Gold Hill which is where my ski pals and I head on our first day after warming up on some moderate blue mid-mountain trails and easy green runs.    From the popular Prospect Bowl area we are guided to the Gold Hill lift and up to an elevation of 3726 metres (12,255ft) where in one direction we can see as far as Utah. In the other, we can see Mt Wilson, one of Colorado's famous 14ft peaks (Colorado has the densest concentration of 'fourteeners' in North America).  A new bridge and staircase (airlifted last spring to the left shoulder of Telluride's spectacular Palmyra Peak) now spans Gold Hill's Chutes 8 and 9 making it easier for advanced skiers to access the area.   But if you're not in that league, you can simply marvel at the view like we did.  

Once our cameras were packed away we slid into one of Telluride's longest blue runs (aptly named See Forever), to weave our way back down to Telluride's Mountain Village.

Tucked into the Rockies at 2900 metres (9,500ft), the purpose-built pedestrian friendly Mountain Village is Telluride's main hub for skiers and boarders during the day as it offers the greatest access to the slopes including the terrain park and kid-friendly Thrill Hill. You'll also find a wide range of modern slope-side (ie. ski-in, ski-out) accommodation as well as ski hire shops and booking offices for other activities like snowshoeing, snowmobile adventures and guided hikes and skiing trips to the backcountry. Powder magazine recently called Telluride America's greatest backcountry resort. Announced last season, access is now available to the incredible terrain in nearby Bear Creek and Alta Lakes. The Mountain Village is also a great place to refuel, thanks to a great array of casual cafes, outdoor bars and eateries, and you can unwind in a spa. Guests will also find a day care centre and the ski and snowboard school here.

Travelling between the Mountain Village and the historic town of Telluride is another unique highlight of this ski resort. Rather than slum it on the regular shuttle bus, ride high in style on the free connecting gondola that operates between 7am and midnight 285 days of the year. It's 13 extra minutes to get snap happy and soak up the spectacular mountain scenery.  

Telluride is scheduled to open November 25.

Luxury Hotels

On Mountain action - the Mountain Lodge maintains a rustic atmosphere even with its luxie contemporary design. Accommodation ranges from cabins to studios to one- to three bedroom-apartments equipped with gas fireplaces, private balconies, gourmet kitchens and jet spas. The main reception area also has a bar and lounge, small shop and internet.

Historic Luxury-  the New Sheridan Hotel has welcomed guests for more than 100 years. The three-storey wooden hotel was established in 1891, destroyed by fire three years later and refurbished in brick.Today there are 32 beautifully appointed Victorian-style rooms and suites, the best have street and mountain views.

Luxury Links: www.newsheridan.com

Five star fab: Fairmont Heritage Place Franz Klammer Lodge: Super luxurious privately owned two- and three-bedroom residences.

Luxury Links: www.fairmont.com/klammerlodge

Where to eat in luxe

Allreds: Hop off the gondola at St Sophia Station for a fine-dining experience with views to match at Allreds. It's a private club during the day but opens to everyone from 3pm for apres-ski drinks and dinner nightly from 5.30pm. Sample caribou carpaccio or pan-seared elk short loin. Appetisers from about $15, mains from $28.

For authentic Italian, try Rustico Ristorante in the historic main town. For drinks, head to the Last Dollar Saloon or New Sheridan Bar.

 
Luxury Links: www.visitTelluride.com

Debbie Neilson- Hunter Updated 28/10/10

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