Skiing in Telluride: A Primer for Intermediates and Above
If you’re coming to our stomping grounds this winter, here’s our must-hit list for skiing at the Telluride Ski Resort.
Annotated for intermediate-to-extreme terrain and compiled by locals who know all the goods (plus a veteran Telluride ski instructor), it’s your bible for how to ski Telluride right.
For information about Telluride's iconic side- and back-country, check out our in-depth article here.
Expert/Extreme: Palmyra Peak
The very top of Palmyra Peak as seen from across the bowl.
If you’ve got the lungs and legs for it, hiking to Palmyra Peak is the quintessential Telluride ski experience—and some of the most spectacular inbounds terrain in North America. The hike takes anywhere from one to two hours, so be sure you bring water, a pack with a ski-carry option, and snacks. (The terrain is avalanche-controlled, so no avalanche equipment is required.) From the Prospect Lift (Chair 12), follow the bootpack up to the 13,320-foot summit, where you can reap the rewards with 2,000 vertical feet of steeps below you. The runs Tram Shot, Sunrise, and Electric Shock drain into Upper Moraine and Lower Palmyra Ridge, which then lead into Black Iron Bowl. The terrain from here is all exposed and double-black diamond, so it will test even high-experts.
Local's note: It's worth it to buy straps to carry your skis on your back. There is one spot on the hike that would be easy in sneakers, but in ski boots – you have to think about it. Balancing skis on your shoulder makes it that much more challenging. If you don't have a pack you can secure your skis to, ski patrol usually sells straps at any of their huts for $10-$20.
Expert/Extreme: Buzz’s Glade
It's not many happy thoughts, just one singular one.
If you are storm skiing, don’t miss Buzz’s Glade, accessible from the Gold Hill Express. The trees will help with visibility, and the powder in there is epic. Beware of the rocky band that runs across the terrain (hence the "EX" designation), but know that you can navigate through it pretty easily. Happy Thought, just one run over, is a little more open and avoids the rocks.
Advanced/Expert/Extreme: Black Iron Bowl
Mountain Quail is the most consistent, open pitch of the ridge.
Also accessed from the Prospect Lift (Chair 12), the hike to Black Iron Bowl is much shorter, taking anywhere from five to 45 minutes, and offers similarly steep, albeit shorter, runs. Terrain includes the (relatively) wide-open Mountain Quail Couloir, tighter chutes like Dihedral, and steep faces like Westlake. This zone is also controlled by patrol for avalanches, but hazards definitely exist.
Intermediate/Advanced/Expert: Revelation Bowl
The classic Revelation Bowl shot. If you can get it in these conditions, it is glorious.
From the Revelation Lift (Chair 15 or "Revvy"), take the blue groomer See Forever, an iconic run that winds five miles down to town, or test your mettle on the Bowl’s black-diamonds. Getting into Revelation Bowl is the hardest part, check the grooming report for the best conditions if you don't like moguls.
Intermediate/Advanced: Prospect Bowl
Prospect Bowl offers a range of options for skiers.
If arcing on fresh corduroy is your jam, hit Prospect Bowl first thing in the morning. Magnolia and Sandia will get your legs primed and ready for the day. Ready to tackle something a bit more challenging, but not too extreme? Try the headwall of Stella, or perhaps duck into the trees of Prospect Woods.
Ready for a taster of bigger terrain without too much commitment? Swing under the chair and duck into Confidence, or walk up the ridge for a few minutes to get to the short double diamonds of Crystal and Genevieve. Be wary of LaRosa, however – it is surprisingly steep in the middle.
SIDECOUNTRY: Bear Creek Basin
Local pro skier Greg Hope skis in Bear Creek.
This is not controlled by the resort, so a beacon, shovel, probe, and know-how is a must. Do not drop into this zone alone, and bring someone who knows where they’re going, as many areas back here end in large cliff bands and some lines require ropes. Backcountry gates leading off the ski resort are located at the top of the Plunge Express, along the Gold Hill ridge, and at the top of Palmyra Peak, creating easy access from the resort. Study the terrain before heading out, out various area maps, and be on your best behavior, because the locals rule this zone. (Do not follow ski tracks if you don’t know where you’re going.)
Plan for at least an hour or two descent. If you’re a novice to the area, Safe and Sound is a good first run. When you exit via Bear Creek Trail, be sure to link to the river trail to get back to the base of the gondola.
Article by Kimberly Beekman
Kimberly Beekman is the former editor-in-chief of the late, great Skiing Magazine (RIP), and a longtime editor of SKI Magazine before that. She currently uses the title of “freelancer” as a beard to ski powder all over the world. She lives in Steamboat, Colorado, with her wonderful daughter and terrible cat.