By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
TELLURIDE SKI &
"I moved here nine years ago for the skiing after graduating from Colorado College and just absolutely fell in love with the town and the community here," says Tommy Thacher, proprietor of Telluride Brewing "It's a special place full of special folks, and you can just feel the awesome spirit throughout town."
Thacher likes to kickstart his day at the Coffee Cowboy cart at 131 East Colorado Avenue before linking up Lift 8 to Lift 9 to get to his favorite runs. "I'm a big bumps skier, and Telluride has a lot of great steep terrain with a lot of bumps," he says. "My favorites are Can't-Make-'Em, Spiral Stairs and Plunge. Those three will really get your legs burning."
Telluride, which opens on November 28, has something for everybody, but Thacher — like a lot of locals — is partial to the resort's most extreme offerings. "Over the last few years, Telluride has really stepped it up, opening a ton of killer new hike-to terrain in the Black Iron Bowl, Gold Hill Chutes and Palmyra Peak," he says. "It's really attracted a lot of new people to the resort and to the town."
Splurge: "The number-one splurge in Telluride is a heli-skiing trip with Telluride Helitrax," Thacher says. "People come back and just rave about it. Another must is to get yourself a pair of custom skis made by Pete Wagner of Wagner skis. Each of us here at the brewery got a pair last year with the Telluride Brewing logo on them, and those skis have revolutionized my skiing." For high-end dining, try the five-course wine-pairing dinner at Alpino Vino; at nearly 12,000 feet, it's billed as the highest-elevation restaurant in North America. Thacher's favorite in town is chef Eliza Gavin's restaurant, 221 South Oak. "The nicest lodging in town is the New Sheridan Hotel, because it's super old-school. You get the time-machine feeling like it could be 100 years ago in there, and they also have a great restaurant, the Sheridan Chophouse. The Inn at Lost Creek is another high-end favorite."
Ski bum tips: For more affordable lodging, Thacher suggests the Victorian Inn and the Mountainside Inn youth hostel. As for drinks and dining, there are plenty of happy-hour deals, but Thacher's favorites include Oak BBQ, Floradora Saloon, and La Cocina's. "Almost every restaurant downtown has half-off deals at happy hour, so you really can't go wrong anywhere." The best times for a ski bum to find lift-ticket and lodging deals in Telluride are during the early season (November 28-December 20), in February, and in the spring, March 20-April 6. The resort specifically caters to women with its Women's Week sessions in January and February, and hosts the ten-day Telluride Gay Ski Week the last week of February.
Drink locally: "The Oak is a great spot to end your day, for the après-skiing, and they have great barbecue and specialize in bourbon," Thacher says. "There's also the Last Dollar Saloon, which the locals call 'The Buck,' and the New Sheridan Hotel bar. We have fifteen beers on tap here at the brewery, and they're also basically everywhere in town that has a liquor license: the support we get from everyone in town is overwhelmingly awesome." Try the Face-Down Brown, a 2012 Great American Beer Festival gold-medalist and 2012 World Beer Cup gold cup winner.
VAIL SKI RESORT
"Vail's my home mountain and my favorite ski area anywhere," says Rebecca Schroeppel, who supports her skiing-and-snowboarding habit with a gig at the Gore Range Brewery in Edwards. "It's just a really versatile mountain with something for everyone off of just about any of the chairlifts, which makes it super accessible and great for skiing or riding with groups of people."
Schroeppel suggests heading for Blue Sky Basin and the Back Bowls, which will now be served by the new six-chair Mountaintop Express Lift, increasing capacity by 33 percent, or to the North Woods. "Those are the two areas I can talk about," she says. "I have some other spots I love to hit, but that's not something I can disclose. As a local, I'd probably be shot if I gave up too many secrets."
Vail opens on November 22.
Splurge: "It's definitely not hard to splurge in Vail," says Schroeppel, noting that Game Creek and The 10th have brought new high-end dining options to the on-mountain experience, while the new Matsuhisa restaurant has helped raise the profile in the Solaris base area. "I also really like Montauk in Lionshead and Sweet Basil in Vail Village, but The 10th is undeniably cool if you're looking for something on-mountain. When you go in, you take off your boots and they give you slippers. It's pretty classy." For lodging splurges, try the Arabelle or Ritz-Carlton in Lionshead or Manor Vail Lodge in East Vail. "Another great splurge if you're looking to get out into the backcountry is to hire Nova Guides [NovaGuides.com]," Schroeppel says. "They do great snowmobile and snowcat tours around Shriner Pass and Vail Pass."
Ski bum tips: "I like to send people to the Evergreen Lodge, which has some of the most affordable lodging in Vail and also has the Altitude, one of the best bars in town," Schroeppel says. Also check out the "Good Snow Guarantee" at Antlers at Vail, where $449 per person will put four people into a two-bedroom condo for four nights, with two days of lift tickets and unlimited snowshoe use. "For cheap eats, I'd recommend La Cantina, which is right next to the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum — also a must-see — and has cheap Mexican food and margaritas to die for."