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Telluride: A mountain to reckon with
Telluride Ski Resort offers steep bumps, bowls and wide cruisers By Kimberly Nicoletti It hurts to admit this, but I think the mountains surrounding Telluride are more spectacular than that of Summit and Eagle County's. The jagged peaks are absolutely breathtaking, and some of the hike-to backcountry lines will make your knees shake. With 4,425 feet of vertical drop, Telluride is a memorable mountain. We happened to hit it on an 11-inch powder day (March 20), which made it even more awe-inspiring. Luckily for me, Telluride has just as many powder hounds as Summit and Vail contending for freshies — else I'd have to fight an internal demand to move there immediately. In fact, it may have many more backcountry enthusiasts, most of whom seem to be willing to hike for at least half a day to carve turns into the steep terrain. These skiers and riders are truly impressive. But Telluride isn't just for advanced bumpers and bowlers; its wide, well-pitched catwalks easily wind guests around the entire mountain, with little or no pushing or walking involved. Prospect Bowl Express sweeps every type of skier up to just about the top of the mountain. The five-minute chair accesses advanced beginner, advanced intermediate and advanced advanced terrain. Actually, that's one of the unique aspects of Telluride: The varied trails don't simply offer greens, blues and blacks; it lays out terrain for the beginner (one circle), advanced beginner (two circles), intermediate (one square), advanced intermediate (two squares), advanced (one diamond) and expert (double diamond), as well as off-the-hook hikeables, complete with cliffs and powder-stashed steeps. The mountain spreads like a large bowl, with narrow bump and tree runs (and one of the nation's steepest groomers) on skiers' right, intermediate groomers in the middle (with expert terrain above), and meandering greens on the left (again, with amazing steep bowl skiing above). Four terrain parks cater to beginners, intermediates and advanced riders, allowing everyone to get in on jumps, rollers, rails and boxes; perhaps the best feature is Misty Maiden Park, which provides terrain for intermediate to high intermediate riders who aren't quite ready to go ultra-big but need more than intermediate park hits. Backcountry gates lead to seemingly endless lines amid jagged peaks. To our surprise, we found treasure chests of powder turns both hidden away in the trees and accessed through a moderate (though breath-gasping) hike into Gold Hill Chutes, which extend nearly half of Telluride's summit. This season, the ski area opened more acreage in the Gold Hill Chute area, offering 1,900 vertical feet of carving terrain. Like any mountain, powder hunters need to watch for sun-baked spring conditions; still, a day-and-a-half after the storm (Sunday, the day after the resort reported 11 inches on a sun-drenched Saturday), we experienced some great turns. On-mountain dining wise, the sky's the limit. Allred's is a unique private lunch club at 10,551 feet (complete with breathtaking views). It opens to the public for aprés ski and dinner, which are well worth an extra trip up the gondola, especially at sunset. Alpino Vino, the newest addition that opened this winter at 12,000 feet, is a cozy, European-style hut, which serves renowned wines, fine cheeses, soups, sandwiches and appetizers. For beer lovers, Hop Garden, at the base of the mountain, specializes in international craft beers and casual food. And, of course, the mountain provides family-friendly American food (including handmade pizza) at various locations. The softer side And, like any world-class resort, Telluride chairlifts soar over areas of opulent homes and lodging. One of these is Capella Telluride, opened Feb. 12, 2009, in the Mountain Village. Condé Nast Traveler named it one of the world's hottest new hotels, and with good reason. Capella staff pampers guests with personal assistants who attend to every need, including on- and off-mountain activity reservations. Valets unpack luggage, ski and boot attendants wait on skiers hand-and-foot, and oversized rooms — with plush king-sized beds, spacious bathrooms with dual sinks, granite countertops and stone tile, and closets with snugly robes and slippers — comfort vacationers after a long day on the hill. Perhaps the best part of Capella is its inviting living room, which serves scrumptious muffins (with coffee, tea and fruit) in the morning and cookies and hot chocolate every afternoon. A close second is the hot tub and pool, open 24 hours. And, The Spa at Capella Telluride soaks guests in relaxing treatments. Onyx is Capella's signature restaurant, with an Asian flair. Dining options also include the Suede Bar and a European-style grab and go, Gray Jay Café. A few turns Even a short weekend getaway to Telluride feels like you're stepping into a different world; in fact, many visitors off-handedly commented that the area is the closest you can get to the Swiss Alps in America. The amazing splendor of the scenery and the exciting terrain creates memories of a lifetime.