Sure, Telluride is a ski town. It’s the second best in North America, according to a recent ranking by Ski Magazine.
But the last time you strapped wooden sticks to your feet you fell 48 times getting off the chairlift in one weekend. Your neon onesie has lived in storage ever since.
Luckily, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the beauty of small-town Telluride that don’t involve pizza-French-frying down the ski hill. I’m about to let you in on a few secrets. Shhh.
Après-ski specials (minus the après-ski)
It is possible to spend an entire day eating in Telluride. And if you do it right, you will still have some month left at the end of your money. Telluride is teeming with specials. You just have to know where to find them.
Brown Dog Pizza: Write this down: From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Brown Dog Pizza on Telluride’s main street offers a $6 (or $7 depending on toppings) “slice of the day” coupled with a 10 oz. Tempter IPA from Telluride Brewing Co.
The Cornerhouse Grille: Without this drafty hidden gem, ski bums in Telluride would likely all starve to death. The Cornerhouse has specials every day of the week. Perhaps the most popular is Burger Night on Mondays and Fridays, when you can score a burger and fries for only $7.
Floradora Saloon: The Floradora is a Telluride staple that offers “Blue Plate Specials” starting at 5:30 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, all for $9.99. A locals’ favorite? Chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes and collard greens on Sunday. Get your Southern on.
Oak, the New Fat Alley: Located at the base of the gondola in Telluride, Oak is well known for its barbecue. But there’s also a secret menu. The “Doc Paul” is one such item that only locals know about. It’s named after a doctor in town who apparently is not one to throw stones in glass houses because this grilled chicken sandwich is topped with bacon, jack cheese, green chilies and comes with a side of fries.
Poachers Pub (in Mountain Village): If you’re going to hit happy hour anywhere in the Village, make it Poachers Pub. Get $1 off wells and beers from 3 to 6 p.m. While it may not be the steepest discount, this hangout spot has the best vibes in the Village.
The Chop House: If you’re feeling a bit on the swanky side, head to the Chop House at the New Sheridan for the bar special. It’s available every night and features a 10 oz. Prime Coulotte Sirloin and a glass of Pinot Noir for $21. Normally, the steak alone is $26.
Pro tip: Seating at the bar is hard to come by. Make nice with the bartenders and they might look out for you.
FatBike & Brew Tour
Brewery. This is the word you focus on while mounting the bike world’s equivalent of a monster truck. A fat bike has oversized tires that allow the rider to plow through the snow, feeling large and in charge. You may experience some strain in the inner thigh arena, but the payoff is twofold: spectacular views while pedaling across the Valley Floor and an award-winning malt beverage (or three) when you’re birthed out the other side at Telluride Brewing Co.
“It’s the same basic premise of riding a bike. Stay relaxed, look where you want to go and keep the power on,” says bike guru and guide Max Cooper.
The tour starts at Bootdoctors Paragon (728-4525) on Telluride’s main street. Wear lots of winter layers that you can shed when you begin to sweat profusely. The journey is about six miles round trip, with a stop at the brewery midway. There is an option to be shuttled back to town if the brewery gets the best of you.
Pro tip: You are not as in shape as you think you are. Bring water and humility.
Sing your heart out
Mining and prostitution may be a thing of the past in Telluride, but the rough-and-tumble outlaw spirit is still very much alive. And it can be found almost any night of the week at establishments like Fly Me to the Moon Saloon. Speaking of, the Moon hosts karaoke every Tuesday, starting at 9 p.m. And get this, there’s a free keg of PBR until 11, or it runs out.
Pro tip: It runs out. Get there early.
Head over to the Cornerhouse Wednesday nights around 9:30 for another scintillating karaoke experience where “anything goes,” says Karaoke Jockey Mishky. That means no one will bat an eye if you bust out R. Kelly’s “Trapped in a Closet Chapter 4.”
“We do have a lot of extremely capable singers, but karaoke is for everyone,” Mishky says. “It’s for people who can’t sing because no one anywhere else is going to hand them an open microphone.”
Pro tip: More people on stage a good karaoke song does not make.
How many tentacles does a squid have?
Winters are long in Telluride. And so are Mondays (everywhere in the world). That’s why trivia was invented. Gather up your smartest friends for a rowdy excuse to nerd out and drink beer on a school night. Trivia is one of those “look forward to” events for locals. Enjoy a living-room-type atmosphere at the Cornerhouse, where harassing other teams and shouting out cheating allegations is acceptable.
“I would say that’s fairly accurate,” says Cornerhouse owner Kenny Rosen.
Prizes include a $40 gift certificate for first place, $25 for second and a pitcher of beer for third. Trivia starts around 7:30 p.m.
Pro tip: The raunchier your team name, the better. “Your Mom Goes to College” is a crowd pleaser, week after week.
Telluride’s funky Free Box is an institution that resides on Pine Street. When someone complains about not having a certain item, they are told to “Pray to the Free Box.”
Brand new snowboard boots, designer jeans, a mint-condition cruiser bike, and, as the legend goes, car keys with directions, have all been lucky Free Box finds.
“The Free Box is magic,” says Harold Wondsel, who manages it. “Everybody feels it, and we love it because of that.”
Personally, I adore the literature section, where titles such as Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man make deliciously good gifts to leave on my coworkers’ desks.
Pro tip: If you are hoping to find something really unique, Wondsel suggests closing your eyes, clicking your heels together three times and repeating: “There’s no place like Telluride. There’s no place like Telluride.”
Ride the gondola
If all else fails, ride the free gondola. After all, it’s the first and only free public transportation of its kind in the United States. Expect stunning views, prime selfie opportunities and good conversation with strangers (not guaranteed).
Pro tip: Do not ask locals this infamous gondola question: “How do you afford to live here?!”
We can’t. Please don’t remind us.
Cara Pallone is a native of Trinidad, CO. She lives in Telluride and works as the news director at KOTO Community Radio. Follow her on Twitter @carapallone.