Telluride is in the midst of a massive real estate and construction boom and has become nearly as expensive as Aspen. Fortunately, its appearance has hardly changed, since the valley contains precious little space for development. While the town has seen a few subtle upgrades, the majority of new construction is at Mountain Village—and the fact that you can't see one town from the other means Telluride's Victorian–mining–town fantasy survives. You'll find two factions here: hippies in vans and Hummer–driving Arizonans and Texans (Telluride's location in the far southwest of the state attracts more visitors from the Sun Belt than from Denver). Still, despite the changes, it ultimately remains a free–thinking and Deadhead–esque ski town. After all, the libertarian sheriff once wrote a book denouncing the War on Drugs.
Lay of the Land: The town of Telluride sits in a box canyon, open to the west and dead–ending east at the 12,000–foot peaks. Twelve blocks long and eight blocks wide, Telluride itself is built around Colorado Avenue, the main drag that houses most restaurants and shops. (It should be noted that Colorado Avenue is universally called Main Street by locals, although no such street name actually exists.) Most in–town hotels lie to the south of Colorado Avenue, closer to the slopes. As in Aspen, you can ski right from downtown, via two lifts (Chair 8 or the gondola) at the bottom of Oak Street. The "other" base area is Mountain Village, on the other side of Coonskin Ridge, which has newer, bigger accommodations and serves as the meeting place for ski and snowboard lessons.
WHEN TO GO
To ski or snowboard Telluride at its best, wait till March, when the snowpack has accumulated. The whole mountain should be open, and runs like the Dynamo chutea steep sliver of snow barely wide enough to permit turnsare ridable. March alternates between bikini weather and major powder dumps. As for the snowless seasons, June's long, sunny days brings out the wildflowers. Avoid July and August, which are surprisingly rainy: Telluride sits southwest enough to catch the leftovers of the Sonoran Desert monsoons. Locals adore September for its lack of crowds, clear weather, and spectacular, underrated leafpeeping. Telluride may not get Vermont's reds, but the aspens go beautifully, lustrously golden.
HOW TO GET THERE
You can fly into Telluride (TEX) on a turboprop from Phoenix or Denver. Most arrivals come through Montrose (MTJ), 65 miles north of Telluride, from Phoenix, Denver, Newark, Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles. From either airport you can catch a shuttle with Telluride Express ($10 to/from Telluride per person; $48 per person from Montrose; 888-212-8294; www.tellurideexpress.com. Note that there is also a two person minimum on each trip).
The Galloping Goose is the free shuttle bus around town, running from 7 a.m. to midnight. Check www.town.telluride.co.us or 970-728-5700 for schedules. Remember: Telluride is an 8-by-12-block town, so walking is a viable transportation alternative.
You'll see the tourist bureau, Visit Telluride (888-605-2578; www.visittelluride.com) on the main drag soon after entering town, at 630 W. Colorado Avenue.