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National Geographic: World's 25 Best Ski Towns

Just what makes a classic ski town? It starts, naturally, with skiing and snowboarding so good they attract people like youth-bestowing fountains. Then add an inviting mountain burg steeped in ski heritage, amenities, and culture. These are the 25 best. For insider tips, we asked local luminaries where to stay, play, and party, whether you're on a budget or indulging. 

—Aaron Teasdale 


Telluride, Colorado

Photograph by Tony Demin, Corbis

Best For: Big-lunged skiers and boarders with a taste for fine wine and the mountain high life

Remote and unrelentingly beautiful, Telluride may be the most picturesque ski town in North America, a Victorian-era silver-mining hamlet set deep in a box canyon in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. The steep runs of Telluride Ski Resort spill right into the edge of the town’s National Historic District, where a gondola whisks skiers back up into the area’s almost 4,000 vertical feet of absurdly scenic skiing. Only 12 blocks long and with no stoplights, neon signs, or billboards, this charming town of 2,325 people combines fine wine lists and funky bars with a spirited culture of diehard mountain lovers. The town sits at a gasping 8,793 feet above sea level, and lifts reach to over 12,500 feet, so come prepared to acclimatize.

For a mountain with a well-earned reputation for steeps and bumps, Telluride in fact offers excellent cruisers and beginner terrain—in the kind of high-alpine setting that makes even first-timers feel like heroes—on the slopes around its modern, luxurious Mountain Village. Experts will find bumps, bowls, and chutes in every corner of the resort, and those willing to hike can access some of the most extreme in-bounds terrain in the country in Black Iron Bowl and 13,251-foot Palmyra Peak. Heli-skiing can be hired in the Mountain Village, and the San Juan Hut System offers shelters and multiday routes for backcountry adventurers.

Ask a Local

Travel and adventure writer Rob Story has skied in 13 countries on six continents and at 75 North American resorts. When he left his longtime post as senior editor at Powder magazine in 1998, he knew exactly where he wanted to move—Telluride. He is the author of Telluride Storys. Here are his recommendations.

Best Digs

Budget: There’s not much to Mountainside Inn, but it’s ski-in, ski-out.

Swank: The Peaks Resort has a great après deck and spa.

Best Eats

Cheap: Oak, the barbeque place in town at the base of the gondola

Gourmet: La Marmotte is a great French restaurant in the town's old icehouse.

Best After-Ski Party Spot

The Historic Bar at the Sheridan is the oldest in town.

Best Rest-Day Activity

Walk north up Aspen Street. When it turns to a dirt trailhead, keep going straight up to beautiful Cornet Falls, a 80-foot waterfall in a small red rock canyon.

Telluride’s Classic Ski Run

“Plunge, because on the steep parts you can look through your tips at our tidy, cute, historic town,” notes Story.