Skiing in Telluride, Part 2

We recently spent a lovely week on the snow in Telluride. It was great to see family, share good ski runs together, and play in the snow. Here’s what we did and learned. Hopefully this will help a few other families to plan their ski vacations.

Snow conditions: Early season conditions. Telluride is a packed powder mountain with the occasional fresh powder day. The powder turns to crud in the afternoons, so the best skiing is early when the lifts open at 9:00 AM. We got a few glorious days of fresh powder. Prospect Bowl was knee deep on powder days. So much fun!

Routes: We love the classic cruisers like See Forever, Polar Queen, and Misty Maiden.  We love the expansive views from so many runs. Peter tried small bumps for the first time on Henry’s and Alta.

Grooming: Limited and spotty. About 1/4 of the mountain was open.  Grooming was not always done in a logical fashion. For example, the only exit out of the groomed Prospect Bowl was an ungroomed and cruddy Upper See Forever. Rock and ice chunks were present in the groomed snow, even during morning first tracks.

Unique situations: World Cup snowboard racing and a 750 person group from Kellogg School of Management seemed to absorb most of TelSki’s resources. Snow cats and snow blowers were focused on the World Cup course, and they didn’t seem to have enough capacity to fully operate the rest of the resort. The movements of the large group made it difficult to experience the “relaxed and unhurried atmosphere” that Telski promises. These two groups come to Telluride annually or semi-annually in mid December. It is exhilarating to watch World Cup athletes leap under your feet when you’re hanging out on chair 4. However, it’s not worth the loss of skiable terrain. We recommend scheduling your ski trip to avoid these groups.

Ski school: Telluride has a diverse and very experienced group of ski instructors. Ski instructors David Brown, Howard Davis, Kevin Edholm, and Shayne “Doggie” shared helpful tips. David had helpful advice on stance and balance. Howard’s toe movement trick makes rotary motion much easier. Kevin had great advice on adapting to crud and chop. Shayne helped Peter to ski more confidently in bumps.

The ski school has some new policies this year that are problematic for returning clients and for safety.

1) Addition of a “hot lap” to the morning clinic shortens actual clinic time by 25% without adding value for the client.

2) Modified treatment of returning students makes continuity of learning more difficult.

The ski school previously honored instructor requests from returning students. This attracted a loyal clientele and supported progressive learning. For example, our parents advanced from never-evers to black diamond skiers in a few years under the consistent training of Telluride ski instructors.

The new policy only honors returning business for consecutive days. So, if you take a rest day or a day to practice your newly-learned skills, you’re no longer able to ski with the same instructor.

Lack of instructor continuity impacts the student in two ways. a) Instructor teaching style shifts from coherent progression to a single overwhelming data dump. b) Skills conflict when taught by different instructors.

I started out the week as a confident level 5. Then each instructor modified my stance and technique, and each method conflicted with the other. By the end of the week, I was a confused and hesitant level 4, and well-meaning instructors were advising me to “relax and be more confident”. So frustrating!

3) Pressure for group size creates unsafe situations

We felt pressure throughout the week to advance to the next level when our skills didn’t support it. Advancing skiers makes larger lesson groups. However, it can also cause safety problems.

One day, we had a skier in our level 5 (intermediate parallel skiing) group class who had started out as a level 1 (never skied) skier 3 days ago. He was athletic and learned quickly. However, he didn’t know how to get off a lift correctly (a level 1 skill). When coming off of lift 5, he wedged his skis and kept his weight back in the chair. (Rather than having tips together and up and weight forward.) His ski tails stepped on top of mine, and we fell off the lift. Being advanced too rapidly proved embarrassing for this skier, and dangerous for his ski school classmates.

Locker rooms: This is a great service at Telluride. Mike is super friendly and keeps the locker room running smoothly.

Transportation:

United Express offers a direct flight from Los Angeles to Montrose. This saved a lot of time. We flew out of Carlsbad, which is the most relaxing airport we’ve ever been in. There’s a patio restaurant next door to the ticketing counter. There, we sat in the sun on comfy sofas and watched the plane arrive. Security doesn’t even open until 15 minutes before flight time, so we had plenty of time to enjoy a snack in the sun.

Flights went smoothly until United mishandled their baggage count on the last flight. Of course, having half the Austrian Snowboard Team did create an unexpected situation. The airline had accepted too many snowboards for the plane capacity, and didn’t figure this out until everyone was boarded. So after buckling up, we sat on the ground for an hour while the World Cup athletes negotiated snowboard transport.

Telluride Express offers timely and friendly van service from Montrose to Telluride. We appreciated the fact that they still served our incoming flight, despite the plane arriving an hour late. I was concerned that my seat belt was sliced halfway through, and that the driver seemed more irritated than concerned when I brought this safety issue to his attention.

Food: Try the chili mac at Poachers, the Detroit deep dish pizza at Brown Dog, locally brewed beer at Smugglers and Tracks, the organic and spicy migas with red sauce at La Cochina de Luz, and the fried calamari at Cosmopolitan. Good deals: 2-for-1 pizza night at Brown Dog and the half price happy hour at Cosmopolitan. Telluride Truffles and herbal tea blends at the Steeping Leaf make a delicious dessert. The tequila and rock salt truffle is unique and savory. Siam’s new fusion mango miso sauce was rich and creamy, and their extensive tea list completed the meal.

Lodging: Recommend the Columbine Condos. Walking distance to the Gondola and Siam. The large, open kitchen and living area were great for cooking meals together.