I’ve been to Telluride, CO before, a few times in winter and once in summer, but until last month, I had not been there in about seven years. I did not know what I was missing.
Perhaps the biggest knock on Telluride is that it is hard to get to – which is actually a bit of an exaggeration. Its small in-town airport makes coming here a dream – when it is open. The tiny airport closest at the first drop of bad weather, and as they say, in Telluride it is either sunny or snowing, making this a somewhat risky and impractical. Montrose, CO is the main gateway, and has a surprising number of nonstop flights: from Chicago, Oakland, Atlanta, Dallas and as far as Newark. But Montrose is over 90-minutes away. On the other hand, it is served by a regular shuttle service, Telluride Express, and the drive is shorter than that on Colorado Mountain Express from Denver to Breckenridge or Vail, something lots of frequent visitors do regularly. The bigger problem is that Montrose, while pretty reliable in terms of weather, is just a terrible airport, the most dysfunctional of its size I have ever seen in a first world country. I’m used to smallish airports being easier and more user-friendly. Here the check-in counter resembles a riot, and on my last visit spilled out of the airport itself. The security line is similarly understaffed and undersized and it entirely possible that you will arrive an hour early and still miss your flight after these two very long waits. The single baggage carousel sometimes is used for three flights arriving almost simultaneously with crowds that are (no exaggeration) five deep. I got as close as I could and still couldn’t even see the luggage going by.
The flip side of this is that the mountain is never crowded and lift lines of five minutes are considered mob scenes. On a recent powder day that locals were describing as some of the best conditions in years, I rode five consecutive lifts by myself with no one else in those lines. In four days, including a weekend, I never once waited more than six chairs. It’s the kind of place that takes an effort to get to, but once you arrive you are glad you did.