DAY THREE — Sixteen year-old Max Walker-Silverman, a Telluride native has a message for visiting teens: “Get out of the mountain village and spread our tentacles and you will find a cool historical town.”
“This is the best place in the world,” agreed his friend Jacqueline Child, 15. “The atmosphere is really calm and welcoming.”
Hint for visiting teens: You’ll always find local kids at Baked in Telluride (awesome pizza) and the Village Market next door.
I ran in to this crew getting ready to rehearse a play at the New Sheridan Opera House. Not every high school drama troupe gets to perform in a historic theater that was built in 1914 and has been restored and has hosted such luminaries as Lillian Gish, James Taylor, Peter Yarrow and more. There is something going on here 25 days out of the month, my guide Ashley Boling—who incidentally is starring in a play this very evening.
Like many locals, Boling, a Virginian, followed some friends out here soon after college for what he thought would be a month or two. Instead, 20 years later he’s a husband, father, homeowner and local historic expert. “My jaw dropped when I drove into town the first time and I still feel that way,” he says, greeting friends as we walk down Colorado Avenue, Telluride’s main street.
It’s easy to see why–Telluride is in a box canyon which means it dead ends at the mountains about a mile and half east of town. Everywhere in this small town—and it is only about four blocks wide – you see the San Juan Mountains looming above. You can ski into town from the mountain village or take the free Gondola—about a 13 minute ride the kids will love—back and forth.
You don’t need a car either because you can walk everywhere or take a free bus. “It’s a very safe town<” says Boling, noting no one locks their mountain bikes, worries about their skis outside a restaurant. They even leave their keys in the car.
The thing to remember too is this is a real community with families raising kids here. And it’s growing. Last year, 41 kids graduated from the high school—there were only nine in 1991, Boling said.
There’s also a lot of history. Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank in Telluride on June 24, 1889 getting away with some $22,000 in cash. And at the height of the gold mining boom—between 1900 and 1904—the population was double what it is now and boasted 29 bordellos, casinos and bars. At that time, the south side of the street was where all that action was while the “respectable” people lived on the north side, Boling said. The entire town—four blocks long and four blocks wide—is a federally designated historic district and it couldn’t be more picturesque with historic buildings dating back a century and mountain views in every direction.
Today, it is a vibrant year round community with plenty going on here for families In summer there’s a festival every weekend, plus mountain biking, fishing, hiking. And in winter there’s sledding at the town park, ice skating, plays, movies and plenty of restaurants.
We have terrific Mexican food at locals’ favorite La Cocina de Luz which boasts handmade tortillas, a salsa bar and awesome margaritas made with fresh juices. (www.lacocinatelluride.com). There is a kids’ menu (kids quesadilla or taco) and great breakfasts too (blue corn blueberry pancakes or green chili cheese omelet.)
“It is such an authentic Cowboy town,” says Lisa Cicero, who is from Miami and has been coming here with her three children since they were babies and before they were born. “You can go anywhere in jeans. This isn’t a glitzy or glamorous or fur coat kind of place. It’s very laid back.”
And that’s just the way the locals like it—a mountain that never seems to get crowded, that offers stellar views in every direction (www.tellurideskiresort.com) that offers everything from a four-mile green run from the top of the mountain to extensive hike-to in bounds expert terrain.
“There is just so much more to do than ski and eat,” says Max Walker-Silverman. “It’s an unbelievable place if you open your eyes.”