Last week I shared a recap of our Terrific Telluride, Colorado Ski Vacation. Today, I’m taking you from the snow covered slopes and mountain views, to a stroll through the historic valley town loaded with wonderful foodie options.
While we are all cooped up inside, wouldn’t it be nice to take a virtual trip as a little distraction?
Plus, visiting old Telluride is a little like time traveling back to the 1800s, when the charming town was a prosperous community during the silver and gold mining boom. It’s like an architectural time capsule.
Main street is incredible wide, with original buildings from the period that include a hotel, banks and government edifices. Many businesses, shops, restaurants and bars are in buildings with Old Western style facades. Surrounding streets include Victorian era homes and cottages; like the rental property we stayed in.
Unfortunately, it was gray, cold and blustery on the day we spent exploring old Telluride. By far the worst weather of our entire vacation. Temperatures were only in the single digits, with gusty blasts of wind. However, it was the best day not to be on the slopes. We were fortunate it fell on our already planned off-day of skiing. So, after enjoying a leisurely morning with a big cooked breakfast, the four of us bundled up and braved the weather.
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Boom to Bust
Encompassing much of the town core is the Telluride National Historic District.
For centuries, the Ute Indians used the stunning San Miguel River valley as a summer camp. They called it, The Valley of Hanging Waterfalls. Later in the 1700s, when Spanish explorers and fur trappers arrived in the San Juan Mountains, they named it, Columbia.
By the mid-1870s, the Sheridan Mine was the first in a string of claims in the valley. In 1878, the rowdy mining camp became a town, renamed Telluride. With the coming of the railroad, the remote boomtown flourished. Telluride became a thriving community of 5,000, made of immigrants from around the world, seeking their fortunes.
An excellent museum in town is well worth a visit any time of year.
However, after silver prices crashed (and later World War I), the mining boom collapsed. Miners moved on and the town’s population dwindled to hundreds.
Nestled in a box canyon, the town of Telluride is surrounded by 13,000 foot peaks. Turns out, there were more fortunes to be made in those mountains.
When the ski resort opened In 1979, Telluride struck a new kind of gold — legendary snow powder! It reshaped the economy and revived the community.
View from the gondola with switchback ski trail to right, and town reservoir in the valley to left.
Today, the ski resort includes an upper Mountain Village connected to old Telluride town by a free gondola transportation system.
With 2,000 acres of variable skiable terrain, Telluride is a world class resort for skiers of all skill levels. Even old lady, low intermediate skiers like yours truly, lol!
And over time, Telluride has evolved to become a popular year-round destination, with a vibrant schedule of cultural events and festivals.
National Historic District
Due to its significant role in the history of the American West, the central area of Telluride was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1964.
Even during the winter, many Telluride residents and visitors ride bikes fitted with special tires.
Six blocks wide and twelve blocks long, the Telluride National Historic District encompasses much of the valley town.
New Sheridan Hotel and fine dining restaurant is a local landmark.
Today, Main Street and most of the side streets, have buildings that were built back when Telluride was a mining town and Butch Cassidy robbed the local bank.
It’s kept out the big development that spoil many old towns. New buildings blend in with the surroundings.
Decorated Christmas tree made of skis.
Local citizens are obviously committed to preserving Telluride’s historically significant architecture, natural resources, and small town mountain lifestyle.
Beautiful white and blue, Black-billed Magpie in Aspen tree adjacent to our rental property.
Exploring on Foot
And, it’s all very walkable and pedestrian-friendly, with street-lined sidewalks and old-fashioned lamp posts.
There’s also something called, the Galloping Goose. It’s based on an ingenious, gasoline-engine “railbus,” used to carry mail, passengers and freight until the 1950’s. Today, it’s an efficient bus system to get around the valley.
But, there’s lots to explore on foot, including; boutique shops, art galleries, spas, yoga studios, eclectic cafes, gourmet restaurants, and bars.
I couldn’t resist a few vintage-look signs to add to the Ski Lodge Theme Decor in our Family Game Room. But, I did have to pass on cute ski theme mugs to compliment the Downhill Dinner at Ski Cabin Table and Apres-Ski Lodge Buffet.
Alas, there was no room in my suitcase or room to store them at home either!
Foodie Fun Town
Several publications rate Telluride as one of the very best food ski towns in the country. There are lots of comfort food options, fine dining choices, bakeries, coffee shops, and casual pizza, taco and burger joints/bars.
Coffee Cowboy for a warm brew.
There were so many interesting eating out options, that we had a hard time narrowing the list down for six dinners and one lunch out during our trip. Our son did an excellent job of researching restaurants, and made reservations well in advance.
Travel Tip: Reservations are a good idea (when accepted), not only because of crowds, but to get the times you want. Between the two-hour time change and physical exertion of skiing, we didn’t want to eat out too late. Most nights we were tucked in our beds by 10 PM.
Dine Like the Locals
Other than eating breakfasts at home and lunches on-mountain while skiing, we ate all our other meals in old Telluride town.
As I mentioned in, Terrific Telluride Ski Vacation, the first night out was for Detroit-style pizza at lively and fun Brown Dog Pizza.
After our first ski day, we went more upsale at The National. It’s the latest fine dining restaurant in Telluride, offering swanky cocktails, an extensive wine list, high ceilings, and an elegant modern design inside a historic building. My son had their duck-three-ways dish, which was extraordinary!
I got into the laidback Western and ski town vibe of Telluride, wearing my Texas felt hat and goat fur boots. It’s the same outfit, jacket and cross-body purse I wore on the plane ride to and from Colorado.
Our third dinner out was tres French at La Marmotte. Located in the Ice House, it’s one of the oldest buildings in Telluride. Their delicious French cuisine is served in a charming, rustic atmosphere. Another wonderful meal!
During our one off-day from skiing, we ate lunch in town at fabulously funky, Taco del Gnar. There aren’t many tables for dining inside, but we snagged four seats at a shared high top. It’s a great place to go for lunch or dinner, although there aren’t many tables inside.
Many stood in the line out the door for takeout. Taco del Gnar serves a variety of gourmet tacos — I loved the Korean Short Rib. Fan favorites also include the queso blanco and freshly squeezed margaritas.
Our rental house had a gourmet kitchen with a Sub-Zero refrigerator and five-burner, Thermador stovetop and oven. Eldest son and his girlfriend live in Manhattan. They couldn’t wait to cook in the well-equipped and roomy kitchen.
So, while out and about in Telluride town, we also shopped at the market to pick up supplies for snacking and dinner.
R and V treated us to appetizers, and delicious homemade meatballs with the best garlic bread of all time!
Unique Menus & Venues
After another day back on the slopes, we headed to the one-of-a-kind, Wood Ear Whiskey Lounge & Noodle Bar. It offers a unique take on Ramen and smoked meats, alongside an extensive whiskey collection. And, it has a wonderful, eclectic atmosphere and setting in a Western facade building.
I’d describe it as fusion cuisine, where Texas BBQ meets noodle bar, with artisan cocktails to boot!
I had their highly-recommended Miso Smoke bowl, with smoked shiitake, brown beech mushrooms, smoked miso broth, and Brussels, along with a salted pear martini. Yum!
Our last dinner in Telluride was at a mysterious restaurant — only those with reservations were given directions on how to find it. A throwback to the prohibition era during Telluride’s mining days, The Tunnel is a speakeasy style restaurant with two nightly seatings. To enter, guests were required to give that day’s password at a small trap door. Fun!
Ten of us were seated around a large common table and served a five-course, chef’s tasting menu. During our visit, the rotating menu had a New Orleans theme tied to Mardi Gras. It was all delicious, filling and gorgeously plated. A nice finale to dining in Telluride.
Keeping Busy at Home
Hubby and I have been mostly staying in since Sunday. Yesterday, I went to the grocery store and bought what I hope is eight to ten days worth of meals. We are stocked with basic supplies and I have three-months worth of prescriptions too. Other than exercising, we are pretty much homebound.
So, I’m going to continue working on some craft projects, decorating for Easter, and going through travel photographs.
I hope you are all well and safe! Please keep in touch through comments, as we all need human contact — even if virtual — to help not feel so isolated.
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