Work A Ski Season at Telluride
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Telluride was the first city in the world to be powered by electric street lights, while the notorious train and bank robber, Butch Cassidy, robbed his first bank in this city. Aside from these little-known facts, what is well-known about Telluride is that it is one of the best resorts in Colorado at which to work a season due to a combination of spectacular terrain, in-bound hiking and a chilled, historical town. To-Hell-you-Ride as they say in town – but only in respect of the gnarly terrain!
Location and Getting There
Telluride is found in the south-west corner of Colorado on State Highway 145, around two hour’s drive (111 miles) north of Durango; two and a half hour’s drive (126 miles) south from Grand Junction; or one hour 20 minutes’ drive (65 miles) south of Montrose.
Telluride was once considered a well-kept secret, though this is hardly the case anymore. It is, however, still a very remote resort. It is harder to get to than other Colorado resorts given that it is a seven hour drive from Denver or a five hour drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico, which are the major airports in the area.
There are no shuttles from Denver or Albuquerque airports so, unless you are driving, the best option is to fly to one of the two regional airports near Telluride and catch a shuttle service. Telluride airport is 6 miles (10km) away and Montrose regional airport is 65 miles (105km) away.
Telluride airport has flights incoming from many major US cities, however Montrose Airport is a little bigger and a more reliable option and also has incoming flights from a number of major cities. Most people flying into Telluride use Montrose Airport.
- www.tellurideexpress.com offers shuttle services from both these airports.
- tellurides.com offers services from Montrose Airport.
Once in town, you won’t need a car for the season as Telluride is a very walkable town, approximately 12 blocks by 8. The Galloping Goose bus loops the town every 15 minutes as well to get you around.
Mountain Village is the ski resort base and is located up a Gondola ride from the town of Telluride. The Telluride Gondola runs from Telluride town edge to the ski resort Mountain Village from 7am to midnight every day in winter. This Gondola is the main mode of transport between Mountain Village and Telluride town.
Telluride is set in a box canyon, with incredible craggy mountains enclosing the town. The mountain vistas on offer at Telluride are particularly impressed compared to other Colorado resorts due to the canyon setting and rocky peaks.
The town infrastructure is very advanced and has seen significant investment in recent years. The resort infrastructure is also impressive with a series of high-speed lifts and Gondolas which move you around the mountain quickly.
Overall, Telluride is an exceptional mix of historic mining town, chilled inhabitants and modern ski resort. Such charm doesn’t come cheaply, of course, so you should expect most of your wage to go on living costs.
The Terrain at Telluride
Telluride has just over 2,000 acres of terrain (810 hectares) but skis bigger than this stat. It is definitely in the league of the best Colorado resorts for terrain, with a sweet combination of cruisers and seriously advanced runs, including awesome in-bound terrain only accessed by hiking which is among the best in the country.
Overall, Telluride has it all except perhaps a massive snowfall.
An upmarket resort like this is expected to offer plentiful beginner and intermediate cruising terrain, and this is certainly found at Telluride. Beginner terrain is centered around Mountain Village while there is plenty of beautiful terrain for intermediates. The view from the top of Prospect Bowl is a highlight and an easy place for intermediates to work on their off-piste technique.
Telluride shines for advanced riders with some of the gnarliest terrain in Colorado. The double black runs are truly double blacks (unlike at some resorts in the U.S.), and Black Iron Bowl, Bald Mountain, Gold Hill Chutes and Palmyra Peak each offer great, technical lines in-bounds. There are steeps, chutes, and rocky lines.
You need to hike to these areas which means the freshies stay for longer and add to the satisfaction once you reach these areas. Bald Mountain is a 20 minute hike, Black Iron Bowl between 5 – 45 minutes, Gold Hill Chutes 20-30 minutes, and Palmyra Peak is 1 – 1.5 hours hike past Black Iron Bowl. Palmyra Peak has to rate among the most awesome in-bounds terrain in the U.S.
There are generally also great moguls too for those who like bumps near The Plunge.
A decent part of the terrain at Telluride is located below the tree-line, but the trees being relatively well-spaced means a good amount of glade riding is also available.
- Skiable Terrain: 2,000+ acres (810+ hectares)
- Longest Run: 4.6 miles (7.4km – Galloping Goose)
- Total Trails: 127
- Trail Difficulty: 23% Beginner 36% Intermediate 41% Advanced/Expert
- Total Lifts: 18 – including 2 High-speed gondolas, 7 high-speed quads, 1 fixed quad, 2 triples, 2 doubles, 2 surface lifts, 2 magic carpets
- Vertical Drop: 4,425 feet (1,349 m)
- Lift-Served Vertical Drop: 3,845 feet (1,172 m)
- Elevation Base: 8,725 feet (2,659 m)
- Lift-served: 12,570 feet (3,831 m) Maximum: 13,150 feet (4,008 m)
- Annual Snowfall: 309 inches (789 cm)
Snow and Weather
Average annual snowfall is 309 inches (789 cm) which is about standard for Colorado. Snow tends to come in short bursts throughout the season, so there is less chance of an epic waist-deep powder day, but you can still find good powder if you go to untracked areas.
Some seasons can see quite long dry periods.
Other Resorts to Visit during the Season
One downside to working at Telluride is that you are a little isolated in terms of visiting other resorts. You would need a car to make the long drive to other major resorts such as Aspen, Vail, Steamboat and Breckenridge. However, Silverton is reasonably close by and certainly worth a visit at some point during the season.
There are three parks – beginner, intermediate and advanced – with over 100 features between them. There is plenty to offer all seasonal workers who love the park. The scenery behind the advanced park ensures that this is often used in snowboarding movies.
The lift infrastructure is modern and quick, and there are only moderate crowds compared to the major Colorado resorts given the distance from major cities. A larger percentage of riders are holiday-makers on extended holidays, rather than day trippers.
Finding a Job at Telluride
Jobs are advertised online at www.tellurideskiresort.com/employment/
Being a large operation, all usual ski resort jobs are on offer.
There are usually a large number of jobs on offer each season through the website as Telluride operates a number of restaurants and hotels and is a very large operation. Telluride runs five retail shops at Mountain Village. Mountain Operations has 11 departments and employs over 300 staff. The lodging division at Telluride manages over 80 properties. There are 10 on-mountain restaurants. While it’s still a good idea to get your application in early, this does ease the pressure of finding a job if you are keen on working at Telluride. At Telluride, most guests are in for a holiday, rather than day-trippers, so the service standard is expected to be higher and you will be expected to concentrate a little more.
Work in Town
Classified resources for jobs in town include:
- www.telluridenews.com (Telluride local news)
Staff Perks and Other Mountains Where you Ride Free
If you work at Telluride, you get free riding throughout the season at:
Steamboat, Crested Butte, Copper Mountain, Loveland, Durango, Winter Park, Eldora, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Echo Mountain and Sunlight. They are all quite far away, however, and would need a couple of days off work.
You also get the following staff perks:
- Season Pass (valued at $1,950)
- Ski pass for dependents of full-time employees
- Free ski lesson if there is space
- Food and beverage discounts
- Limited number of half-price tickets
Accommodation for the Season
Employee Housing is offered to Telluride staff at Big Billie’s Apartments. This is located at Mountain Village right at the base of lift 1 and lift 10.
There are 146 single occupancy rooms, each with a kitchenette and private bathroom and shower. Having your own room and your own bathroom is sweet by ski resort staff housing standards.
The rooms are also very modern by ski resort standards. They each have a mini-fridge and microwave along with furniture. There are laundry facilities and a TV room for common use and to hang out with other staff. If you can get into staff housing, this is a great option.
If you don’t opt for staff housing, a few local resources to look for housing include:
- www.telluridenews.com (Telluride local news)
- www.smrha.org (San Miguel Regional Housing Authority)
The Gondola runs until midnight each day so you can get into town for groceries.
The nightlife is well-heeled compared to other resorts given the clientele is generally richer. Telluride isn’t a massive party town in any sense, even if there are a few cool hangouts for seasonal workers.
The Mountain Village has a few quieter spots to enjoy a drink after riding or work which shut down once dinner is done. Alpino Village is the place to enjoy a break during the day with its amazing views. Gorrono Ranch and Tomboy Tavern are other seasonal worker hangouts for an après-ski drink.
Telluride town is where the most fun is, though bars will generally close by 1.30am so there isn’t much late-night partying unless you are at a staff house party.
Fly me to the Moon Saloon is the only ‘club’ in town with a dance floor usually busy on the weekends. For food, you might splash out a couple of times over the season at any number of the signature restaurants in town such as Allred’s or Palmyra at Peak’s Resort. There are a large number of more chilled pizza joints and sports bars for a regular night.