I recently hosted a reader trip with the Daily Mail Ski & Snowboard Magazine to Aspen and Telluride in Colorado. The trip was a huge success and with Henry Druce the Editor of the magazine and ex Olympic skier Martin Bell made it even better.
For most readers of the trip it was their first time to Aspen and Telluride and everyone was very excited and keen to visits these two outstanding resorts.
We flew with United Airlines from Heathrow via Chicago to Aspen. At check-in in Heathrow I was asked if I wanted to upgrade to Economy Plus for an additional £50 one way – this class is only available to book for upgrades at check-in and can’t be pre-booked in advance. I thought that this price was pretty good and so upgraded. UA’s Economy Plus is not comparable with British Airways World Traveller Plus Cabin; for instance it doesn’t have its own cabin, the first 7 rows on our flight where Economy Plus, the rest economy class – however I thought it was well worth it as the Economy Plus section was nearly empty and I had 2 seats to myself. The legroom was very comfortable too – being tall I always appreciate as much leg room as possible and thought the £50 was well spent. On the inbound flight the upgrade was $97– there was quite a lot of space so some people spread out over the middle row and had 3 seats to themselves. Each seat in Economy and Economy Plus has its own TV, yet the movies are not on demand.
After all these years travelling to North America it was my first Chicago experience and I have to say it was a good experience as we had about 3 hours lay over and all went very smooth and easy. Where possible we’ll always try to book your United Airlines connection with at least 2.5h lay over time in Chicago, just in case flights are delayed or the queue at customs/immigration takes a bit longer. Once you’ve cleared customs you drop you bags and proceed to the terminal for your connecting flight – It’s quite a walk though and the airport could really do with a proper modernization so the shops and fast food restaurants are not very exciting.
Once you arrive at Aspen airport all is very organized; customers call the hotel they are staying at from a dispatch phone and the hotel will send their shuttle straight away. Within 30 minutes of arrival we were all checked in at Hotel Aspen – EASY!
This is a new property we feature this season and I have to say it’s a great hotel with a super location! The busses to Snowmass/Highlands/Ajax all stop right outside the hotel and to get to Aspen town centre from the hotel it’s less than 10 minutes walk.
The hotel has recently been renovated and the rooms look really lovely – modern and contemporary all in dark red and brown colours – a bit of an Asian touch/feel. They are spacious and have either a balcony or a little terrace. All rooms are accessed from outside (think motel) which is typical for Aspen and not unusual at all. I’d recommend to request a room on a ‘higher level’ though as personally I wouldn’t like to have room access right from the road/public walking path. The hotel also offer suites with private Jacuzzis outside on the balcony. I thought that works really well and means you don’t have to go outside in your bathrobe to use the public pool and hot tub (which is on the smaller side) most importantly you can sit in the Jacuzzi and watch the mountains and enjoy a cool beer, lovely.
The complimentary breakfast is GREAT – lots of choice of cereal, croissants, bagels, meats/cheeses and hot options as well (hash brown, eggs and bacon) they even prepare fresh waffles if you ask, the service can be a bit slow at times, but the staff are all very friendly – you are on holiday after all and nothing needs to be rushed. Breakfast is served from 7-10AM. Once you are back from skiing a daily complimentary après ski snack is offered which again is a really good choice of fruits crackers and dips, cheeses and hot soup, complimentary wine and beer, non alcoholic drinks and coffee. Some of our clients ate so much that they didn’t even go out for dinner….
Aspen has four mountains on offer: Ajax, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass and skiing all four during your stay could not be easier thanks to the ski valet service. It is GREAT and certainly was very, very popular with the clients who pre-booked their rentals. This service is complimentary for anyone pre-booking their rentals and with today’s extra luggage charges that the airlines require even more worth considering to pre-book your rental equipment in the resort. It couldn’t be more simple – you drop your skis at the end of the day at the base of the mountain and if you wish to ski one of the other mountains the next day the ski equipment is transferred overnight and right there for you the next morning. I have to say that the rental equipment in Aspen was superb! Another very positive note for Aspen is the bus system which works almost Swiss-like – it’s on time and frequent and sooo simple! Snowmass, which is the furthest away if you stay in Aspen was reached in less than 20 minutes.
On we went to Telluride. As an independent traveller you’ll have to hire a car to combine these two great resorts. Being part of a large group we had a big private coach and within 4.5 hours transfer time we reached our final destination.
Telluride is AWESOME; it really is a great town – think Breckenridge (Telluride town) versus Beaver Creek (Mountain Village) it’s less glitzy than Aspen – yet one still gets a fair glimpse of the money that’s around – let alone the massive and VERY expensive villas you ski past on the mountain.
We stayed at The Peaks Resort & Spa, which is positioned in the mountain village ski/in-ski out – perfect location. It’s a huge complex and compares slightly to the Banff Springs or Chateau if you look at it from the outside. The rooms are all very spacious and newly renovated and gorgeous! The bathrooms are huge with walk in shower and separate bath tub and two sinks and the beds are very comfy supersize king beds and you still have plenty of room to move around. The Sunset rooms and above all overlook the valley and Rockies – the views really are breathtakingly stunning – I cannot recommend enough to pay that little extra to enjoy these views! The entry level Alpine Vista rooms overlook the entrance and Mountain village.
The hotel has an amazing heated indoor/outdoor pool , hot tub and sauna. There is also a ‘Ladies only’ section including a huge hot tub (or roman baths as they call it) sauna and steam room as well as relaxing area – great! The pool area also features a sauna and steam room and hot tub. A wide range of Spa treatments are available to book at extra cost which some of our lady participants used and thoroughly enjoyed.
Once you enter the hotel you are almost straight away at The Grand Room with sofas and comfy chairs all very stylish and a lovely roaring fire place. This seems to be the great place to relax, enjoy a drink, read a book are watch the sunset. Some evenings there is some live music entertainment and drinks served from the bar. There is also a little Deli that services coffee/sandwiches/snacks and soft drinks till 5pm and a nice bar (also serves bar food prices start from approx. $12 ) and the Palmyra Restaurant, which has won some awards not alone for it’s amazing views across the valley but exquisite food as well – It really is beautiful during sunset.
Downstairs there is a rental shop, which is not associated with the hotel, but if you pre-book your rentals through Ski Independence you can pick them up from there – it couldn’t be more convenient. The ski valet is located right next to the shop which stores the skis/boots and in the morning when you pick up your ski boots they’ll radio your name outside and once you’ve put your boots on your skis will be lined up outside, ready to step in.. awesome.
The breakfast is fantastic – it really is. Very good choices of hot and cold breakfast options, fresh porridge, yoghurts, bread bagels muffins … and available from 7AM.
Telluride Mountain Resort is split between Mountain Village (where The Peaks Resort & Spa is located) and town. Mountain Village looks like a Intrawest village, very similar to Whistler or Copper Mountain; it’s compact and lovely with quite a good choice of restaurants and bars. You get a few good pizza places here and pubs and a couple of good burger places too. The Mountain Village is connected with the town by a gondola, which is about 4 min walking distance from The Peaks Resort & Spa and only takes 13 minutes to connect and runs until midnight – it’s such a cool way to get to town and they even hand own blankets to keep you warm!
Located at the gondola midstation is a very popular restaurant called Allreds – it’s a great steak restaurant and features really cool views down the mountain on to Telluride. It’s also a popular place for après –ski where they hand out slippers so you don’t have to drink at the bar wearing your ski boots – how cool is that?!
Alpino Vino is another lovely restaurant – it’s a mountain restaurant and a beautiful place to stop for lunch –you guessed it – the views are stunning however and the food delicious! If you stop for lunch, be prepared for a long and most likely boozy lunch, most probably followed by a short ski afternoon. The restaurant is a European style restaurant and serves superb food. On Saturdays only it also opens up for dinner – the menu is approx. $125pp for a five course Italian menu excluding wine. To get here there guests will be chauffeured up and down the mountain in an enclosed snow coach – a special treat that definitely needs to be pre-booked (easily done through the hotel concierge).
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to explore it in full depths but from what I saw it’s great fun. Basically all bars, shops and restaurants are located on Main Street, which is 2 blocks up the road when you step off the gondola. It has a proper mining town feel and lots of lovely and quaint little shops – all very pretty. The New Sheridan Hotel – another Ski Independence property – with its awesome bar (and pool tables) seems to be a popular spot for locals and guests alike. The Chop House restaurant and The Parlour bar are a great choice for food. The Chop House is higher priced but well worth it and always busy – clients had dinner at the bar in The Parlour one night and because they ate at the bar rather than in the restaurant they only paid $16 for their steak instead of $26.
On a general note for North America– bar menus in hotels (and many restaurants) are quite reasonably priced and good sized portions. I also had a bar menu at the Hotel Jerome in Aspen one night and prices started from $15.
Even though Telluride town is quite compact, it has a lot of restaurant choices (including Thai, Japanese and Chinese) and is buzzing in the evening. Telluride sits in a box canyon so in the afternoon the sun sets quite quickly – not so on the mountain village where you can view amazing sunsets and catch the sun longer – (sorry I have to bang on about this – it’s THE most amazing view across the valley from The Peaks Resort and Spa)
Telluride Ski Resort
WOW!!! Such a great variety of terrain – really good stuff for intermediate skiers (Prospect Bowl being a favourite with the intermediates), really good beginners area too so a great place for families too. From The Peaks Resort & Spa a green run leads to all the lifts, so for parents sending the kids to ski school The Peaks couldn’t be in a better position.
Back to the good stuff – intermediates are well catered for but this mountain shines for its single and double blacks and hike-to terrain. The gnarly Daily Mail Ski and Snowboard Magazine guys LOVED it. Most of the Gold Hill Chutes were closed when we were there due to high winds and the fresh powder meant that they had to bomb the avalanches first to make it safe. Revelation bowl (newly opened two seasons ago) was one of our all-time favourites. This bowl was only used for Heliskiing until it opened for the season 09/10 and it’s great fun now. Our last day was a powder day and we were all counting how many powder laps we could get in without stopping (I think 7 was tops)… I only managed 4 and nearly collapsed.
There is some great gladed skiing as well with Log Pile being another favourite for the advanced and intermediate skiers. The front face of the resort (facing the town of Telluride) has plenty of single (some groomed) and double blacks and this was the place to be when it was windy as this side was sheltered from the wind. For clients staying in town, there is also a couple of double blue runs going back to town so it’s not too scary.
One thing to remember is that it hardly gets crowded here– even though we were here during the Presidents weekend – which is THE busiest weekend for the US domestic market apart from Christmas– it didn’t feel too crowded. Fair enough the weather played it’s part as it was snowing, yet the mountain is quite spread out and if you had to wait for a couple of minutes it’s NOTHING compared to Europe and after 10AM the crowds had spread across the mountain and all was good. Certainly Telluride doesn’t get the weekend crowd such as Breckenridge, Vail, Copper, Winter Park etc – it’s such a long way away.
Helitrax is the only Heliski operator in Colorado – we had 3 clients booked for heli-skiing and it must have been absolutely amazing. It is rather pricey (approx. £650 pp) but I spoke to some of our clients who have Heli skied before and they all said it was the best ever. The Helitrax office is based at The Peaks and the Helicopter takes off right outside the hotel.
How to get to Telluride
Telluride is not the easiest of places to get to, but it’s worth it! From the UK Lufthansa offers a very good connection from Heathrow via Frankfurt and Denver to Montrose. From Montrose it’s a 1.5h transfer to Telluride. The alternative option is a United Airlines flight from Heathrow via Chicago and Denver to Montrose.