Telluride’s Best of Both Worlds: Hotel Madeline (A Glowing Travel Story)

At risk of sounding like a five-year-old boy, the coolest thing about Telluride in general, and about the Hotel Madeline in particular, is the gondola. Not just a ski lift, it links downtown, where most of the best restaurants and bars are, with Mountain Village, where the ski area and Hotel Madeline are. (And it links the hotel to dozens of world-class ski trails and hiking paths, with guides at the ready to advise.) It’s free, speedy (13 minutes) and accessible, and it runs until midnight, which makes Telluride unusually nightlife-friendly for a Colorado mountain town—and makes the ski-in, ski-out mountain resort part of that city life too.

The Hotel Madeline is the best of both worlds: the centerpiece of a spread-out family-friendly, slopeside resort, but within easy reach of one of the cutest towns in the Rockies, whose main streets are lined with dining establishments, shops and a weekend farmers market, whose borders are enlivened by a festival every summer weekend (film, food, music, biking with varying amounts of clothing), and whose edges are ringed by hiking trails. And the traffic goes both ways, enlivening the hotel’s Restaurant REV and SMAK Bar with a local clientele.

The hotel opened about five years ago, as the official hotel of the Telluride Mountain Ski and Golf Resort (par 70, surrounded by snow-capped 14,000-foot mountain peaks). But staying here doesn’t feel like a default setting. It has a refined mountain design—lots of travertine in the lobby, stone hearths and copper tables in the rooms, and color-splashed restaurants with casual alfresco areas. Curator Sara Eyestone assembled a collection of paintings by regional artists, which are spread throughout the hotel and discreetly for sale at the artists’ studio prices.

The 84 guest rooms, 11 suites and 15 condo residences are spacious and comfortable, with sitting areas and good-size marble bathrooms. (Though a desk in my bedroom would have been nice, especially since the hotel brings in a fair amount of corporate business). Some have fireplaces and balconies. Even many of those without outdoor space have bang-on views of the mountains.

Restaurant REV serves (yawn) farm-to-table local, seasonal fare, of course. The concept may be nothing new, but the chef does a mighty fine job with it here. A Caprese of Burrata, heirloom tomatoes and compressed watermelon, and a kale Caesar salad with chickpea croutons and a poached quail egg, were standouts, though the menu gets meatier with sockeye salmon (from Alaska) with sweet corn and chorizo ragout, and Colorado rack of lamb with sheep cheese polenta. SMAK Bar caters to après-skiers with small plates and a signature SMAK Mary cocktail—a bloody with a cheeseburger slider as garnish.

There’s also a spa, indoor pool and 24-hour fitness center, and right outside there’s a winter ice-skating rink and summer mini-golf course and kids’ climbing wall, letting children play while their parents keep an eye on them from one of the restaurants. And adults can play just as easily—Telluride’s concert halls and watering holes are just a 13-minute silent, starry, gondola ride, high over the mountains, away.

After growing up surfing in Florida, Mike Shimkonis decided to give higher ground a try and settled in Colorado over 25 years ago, first in Vail, then moving to Telluride in 1993. Prior to working with Telluride Properties, he was a senior sales and marketing executive for the Vail and Telluride ski companies.

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