We’re currently 10,000 feet above sea level, wandering deep into the forest that wraps itself like a scarf around the side of a 13,000-foot peak in Telluride, Colorado, following the triangular tracks of a snow-haired rabbit through 50-foot conifer and fir trees that tickle the sky.
Two hours into the hike, our snowshoe-guide leads us across a barren Nordic ski trail, up a hill, and into a clearing. It’s like we walked straight into a postcard: The 180-degree view of the surrounding jagged, snow-capped mountains piercing the deep blue, never ending sky takes my breath away quicker than the thin air.
After a hike back up the face of the mountain—for a round trip of four miles—I’m ready for a little libation. I take a gondola ride to Allred’s, which sits stoically atop the mountain. At 10,550 feet, the mixture of vodka, Kahlua, and espresso I’m drinking hits me quick as I gaze through the floor-to-ceiling windows down on the town of Telluride, layed out on the valley floor like a welcome mat to the peaks before it. After noshing on deliciously salty hand-cut truffle fries, I head back down to my room at Hotel Madeline. Located on the mountain plateau that is Mountain Village, the ski-in, ski-out, 95-room stone-and-stucco property is a cozy retreat after a busy day on the mountains, with it’s living room off the lobby offering warm cookies alongside hot cocoa and coffee. And with a bar and restaurant on site, not to mention a pool, full spa, and fitness center, the property is like a getaway in and of itself.
Before heading up to my room, I stop in for a drink at Hotel Madeline’s SMAK Bar. It’s a packed and lively scene, and I sip my Happy Thoughts (hot apple cider mixed with Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum) as a DJ spins some dance music. But the snowshoeing and drinks did me in, so I head back into my rather large room, where a hallway entrance with a bar-like area separates the bedroom from the bathroom. I rest in the armchair with a leather ottoman as I wait for my soaker tub to fill. After about 25 minutes (it’s a deep soaker tub), I dim the lights in the bathroom and step into the tub to ease my sore muscles.
I wake up the next day, bright but not too early, and head back onto the gondola—the main means of transportation between Mountain Village, where the majority of hotels are located, and the steeped-in-history town of Telluride. I pass the San Miguel Valley Bank, site of Butch Cassidy’s first bank robbery in 1889, continuing on past the 100-year-old Sheridan Opera House, host to the most movie premieres outside of New York and Los Angeles. When I arrive at Bootdoctors & Paragon Sports, a group of three others are already standing aside fat bikes, which are essentially mountain bikes with oversized tires (a little more than double the width of normal tires) that allow you to travel through snowy terrain. We head from Paragon’s central location to the San Miguel River Trail to start our tour. We glide atop the snow blanketing the valley floor into the deep shadows of the majestic 13,000-foot peaks, racing up and down hills that dimple the valley, and even ride through the river at one point. After four miles, we end at the Telluride Brewing Company to sample some hard-earned beers—my favorites being the Face Down Brown and Ski-In Ski-Stout—before taking a van ride back to town.
The sun has already set as I make my way back to the gondola. The snowcaps that spider-web their way down the face of the mountains are a blue-hue under the stars that light up the night sky like a planetarium. As I cross Colorado Avenue, I stop in my tracks to take in the scenery one last time as I promise myself it won’t be too long before I return.