Butch Cassidy loved Telluride for purely larcenous reasons. These days, it would be a crime to ignore its stunning beauty and rich history.
WHEN YOU SKI TELLURIDE, COLORADO, you slide some of North Americas driest snow and biggest vertical drops. You also experience a time warp. Say youre staying at the landmark New Sheridan Hotel, which added the New back in 1895, when a brick structure replaced the original wooden hotel that had burned down. You don your high-tech wicking base layer, top it with a Gore-Tex laminate jacket, and then cross the street to where Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank in 1889. (Cassidy absconded with more than $20,000, which would buy a lot of Gore-Tex.) Western lore has it that Cassidy had told a local horse breeder he and his cohorts were track racers from the East and needed the fastest steeds available. The next day, they knocked off the bank and easily escaped the slower horses of the posse that chased them.
Look to your right and youll spot the sign noting that after gold was discovered in the San Juan Mountains in 1858, miners built 350 miles of underground tunnels here. Walk toward the nearby in-town lifts and marvel at the consistent Wild West Victorian architecture -- a contributing factor of Tellurides being designated a National Historic Landmark District. You almost expect to hear the creak of leather saddles and the jingle of spurs. Instead, theres the clomp of the heavy boots of skiers and snowboarders bent on riding fresh powder.
At Station Telluride, board the sleek modern gondola, which was built 100 years after the New Sheridan Hotel, and rise above the 12-by-8-block core of Telluride (the town today is about the same size as it was in Cassidys day). Step out at 10,551 feet above sea level, click into your bindings, and gape: Telluride occupies the southwest corner of Colorado, where the geology gods did some of their best work. Fourteen-thousand-foot peaks melt into red-rock mesas here, as countless stands of spruce and aspen watch in awestruck silence. Aside from the ski lifts and Tom Cruises house, you wont see much civilization. Telluride, after all, sits 39 miles from the nearest traffic light and is more than a two-hour drive from the nearest interstate.
At this point, you could glide down one of the first runs cleared when Telluride Ski Resort opened in 1973, See Forever, so named because it offers views all the way to Canyonlands National Park of Utah. Or you could make your way to the Plunge, another classic Telluride run. Even the most jaded experts still tingle on the Plunge, which offers a classic Telluride experience: staring through your ski tips at the town thousands of feet below while you prepare to tackle mogul-infested pistes.
Or head up, up, and up some more, to Revelation Bowl, which houses Tellurides newest slopes. Opened for the 20082009 season, Revelation Bowl sits a stunning 3,845 feet higher than the town of Telluride. It boasts European-style terrain; far above the tree line lies a natural open bowl that offers big-mountain skiing in a setting so stunning you have to dodge photo snappers just to drop in. The sides of Revelation Bowl maintain steep, unmanaged snow for experts, while a groomed pitch down the middle appeals to intermediates. When you slide off Revelations Lift 15, youre 12,570 feet above sea level -- significantly higher than any skiable peak in California, Montana, Utah, or Idaho.