Wonderful Value With Close-to-Lift Lodging.

Nice town. Great mountain! It tops out at 13,320'.
Nice town. Great mountain! It tops out at 13,320′. Credit: Pauline Simmons

“You can’t find a better value than Road Scholar” is their claim. My wife Judy and I decided to test it the first week of March with the Telluride program run for Road Scholar by the Mountains and Plains Institute of Fort Collins. The price of $1495 each seemed a bit daunting.

But, when I saw the window ticket prices at Telluride—$122 for adults, $107 for seniors—I figured we were already ahead of the game. We got five night’s housing, thirteen meals and daily guide service in the package; clearly a great deal in this quaint but pricey ski town.

Road Scholars from Alaska, New York, North Carolina, Utah and Vancouver. Credit: Jan Harold Brunvand
Road Scholars from Alaska, New York, North Carolina, Utah and Vancouver. Credit: Jan Harold Brunvand

Our group had eleven skiers. Telluride is skier-friendly for anyone from low intermediate on up—way up, if you are so inclined. The others were from New York, North Carolina, Vancouver, and Fairbanks. We drove down from Salt Lake City, detouring at Moab for a hike in Arches National Park.

Our group leaders, Peter McCarville and Ashley Boling were super skiers and patient guides. They paced the four days to suit their elders and at times split the group to accommodate those who wanted more or less challenge. Since our lodge lacked meeting rooms, the planned “lectures” became on-hill chats about geology, history, and local color.

Guide Peter McCarville pointing out a geologic feature, his ski pole framing a view of the distant LaSalle Mts. of Utah. Credit: Jan Harold Brunvand
Guide Peter McCarville pointing out a geologic feature, his ski pole framing a view of the distant LaSalle Mts. of Utah. Credit: Jan Harold Brunvand

The lodge had no restaurant, but all rooms had kitchens. Peter took our breakfast shopping lists and delivered groceries the first evening. We liked this arrangement, but some said they preferred restaurant breakfasts. For on-mountain lunches we each got a Telluride gift card worth $60.  At dinner the bill—alcohol excluded—went straight to Peter.

The big advantage of the aptly-named Mountainside Inn was location. A short walk across the nearby public parking lot (free overnight for Inn guests) took us to the Coonskin Lift which conveyed us over scary-looking, partly bare, mogul-strewn runs to the good snow above.

Despite a stretch of warm weather, the upper mountain was well covered with plenty of groomers to cruise. Our favorites were “Misty Maiden,” “Stormin’ Norman,” “Peek-a-Boo,” and “Polar Queen.”

From the 12,000 foot level the choices ranged from the delightful “See Forever” to Telluride’s signature steep run, “The Plunge,” which was so well groomed that the challenge was more in hanging on for the long descent than any problem staying upright.

Riding Coonskin Lift down at the end of a day. Credit: Jan Harold Brunvand
Riding Coonskin Lift down at the end of a day. Credit: Jan Harold Brunvand

The first afternoon Judy and I joined the others in returning to town on the long winding run “Telluride Trail” that ended in our parking lot. But when we learned we could ride Coonskin Lift back down, we opted for that route on subsequent days. Not only was it a rest for our weary legs but it provided a fine view of town as we headed towards the hot tub.

The program was lots of fun and a true value. Next season we hope to try the Road Scholar program in Snowmass or Steamboat run by the same people.

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