‘Most Colorado Place on Earth’

After landing at 9,070 feet, the second highest elevation airport in the United States, you’re within 5 miles of Telluride and Mountain Village, two connected but distinctly different towns surrounded by 13,000- and 14,000-foot peaks in the remote San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado.

Telluride, at 8,750 feet, is the 19th-century gold and silver mining town whose downtown is designated a National Historic Landmark District. Mountain Village, at 9,545 feet, was built to support visitors to Telluride Ski Resort, which opened in 1972 to give new life to the isolated area.

Both are walkable—Telluride is just eight blocks wide and 12 blocks long—and the two are connected by a 13-minute gondola ride that takes residents and visitors over the 10,500-foot Coonskin Ridge. It is the first and only free public transportation of its kind in the United States.

The gondola reopens on May 27, ushering in the summer season. It only takes a break during the shoulder seasons between winter and summer as the area with just 8,000 permanent residents is a four-season destination.

From Thanksgiving through early April, visitors come to ski, heli-ski, snowboard, ice skate, snowshoe, and ride fat-tire bicycles, among other pursuits. Now through mid-October, the draw ranges from hiking to mountain biking, fishing, watching the Aspens turn gold in autumn, or exploring the historical and cultural attractions.

The less adventurous can still enjoy boutiques, art galleries, wildflower walks, and more than 60 restaurants in the Telluride/Mountain Village area, from casual dining to fine dining. Don’t miss the stunning views from Allred’s Restaurant at the midpoint of the gondola ride.

You can see Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado’s highest free falling waterfall, from the two mile trail along a sheer cliff known as the Via Ferrata. With a guide, even beginners can experience this unique trail. Photo courtesy of Visit Telluride, Todd Rutledge.The more adventurous can explore Telluride’s Via Ferrata, a horizontal climbing trail of narrow ledges and small iron footholds along the east end and south-facing wall of the boxed canyon.

Rivaling the attraction of its endless outdoor activities, though, is Telluride’s eclectic compilation of festivals.

Organizers are moving ahead with a nearly full slate of festivals, each with variations to control crowds. Between the Mountainfilm Festival starting in late May and the Telluride Horror Show scheduled October 15 through 17, there are at least 18 festivals on the schedule. Be sure to check websites and social media for the latest updates on schedules and restrictions.

Mountainfilm Festival serves as the unofficial start to the summer season in Telluride. It showcases documentary films covering environmental, cultural, climbing, political, and social justice issues. Held Memorial Day weekend since 1979, it was online only last year and this year offers a hybrid event: May 28 to 31 in Telluride with virtual options from May 31 through June 6.

Telluride Balloon Festival is happening June 4 through 6. It won’t include the usual Main Street Balloon Glow on Saturday night, but throughout the weekend you can watch balloons lift off from Telluride Town Park and float over the Telluride Valley.

The forty-eighth Telluride Bluegrass Festival is morphing into two weekends and limiting attendance. Organizers recently announced the lineups for the June 11 through 13 and June 17 through 20 events.

Ice Lake Basin Trail, one of the most popular hikes in the San Juan National Forest, takes you along meadows full of wildflowers and electric blue alpine lakes. Photo courtesy of Visit Telluride, Ryan Bonneau.Here are some other  music festivals to check out:

Biking is a popular summer attraction at Telluride. Photo courtesy of Visit Telluride, Tony Demin.Other festivals to consider:

The festival for which it is most known, the Telluride Film Festival, is scheduled for September 2 through 6. The Labor Day event is considered the launching pad for movies to springboard into Oscar consideration. Tickets have not yet been made public because so many of last year’s passholders rolled over to this year. Organizers are waiting to see what restrictions will be in place in September.

Most of the events are using smaller venues and have capacity limits; be sure to check early for ticket availability where required.

If you don’t make if for an event, you can visit anytime for the adventure of landing at Telluride, the views, and the remote Colorado vibe that helped earn U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of Telluride as the No. 1 small town to visit in the USA.

Dining with a view: Enjoy an aerial view of Telluride from Allred’s Restaurant perched atop the San Sophia Ridge, reachable via free gondola ride. Photo courtesy of Visit Telluride, Tony Demin.

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