Spirit of the West – Telluride’s famous mountain peaks get all the glory

Telluride’s famous mountain peaks get all the glory, but the town itself – with a history shaped by miners, hippies, Scandinavian settlers and infamous bank robbers – captures the imagination in any season.

My parents took a ski vacation to Aspen when my brothers and I were kids, and afterward John Denver’s song Rocky Mountain High became part of our family’s soundtrack. I’m hearing it internally as the chairlift reaches Telluride’s summit: “He was born in the summer of his 27th year, coming home to a place he’d never been before …” There are peaks in all directions, some of them over 14,000 feet tall, and the awe in that song’s chorus is mine for a moment, before I tighten my boot buckles and turn to face the runs.

Telluride native Tom Watkinson guides a small group of us down the mountain, through the snow-covered pines up top, past the copses of slender aspens that blanket its lower reaches. The powder is fresh, the wind bitter, and, after 20 minutes or so, we’re on a ridge overlooking the old mining town turned ski mecca.

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