New Runs for Beginning Skiers Open at Telluride

<i> Riley is travel columnist for Los Angeles magazine and a regular contributor to this section</i>

A Galloping Goose sets the pace as this fast-growing Colorado ski resort slaloms into a new year.

The goose that doesn’t exactly gallop off Sunshine Peak is actually the newest ski trail at Telluride, and takes its name from the narrow-gauge railway that began winding through these canyons during the gold-mining era at the turn of the century.

With the U.S. Men’s Pro Racing Tour beginning its 1989 international circuit in Telluride next weekend, you might expect a new ski run to be another spine-tingler of luge-type banked turns, right?

Not quite.


Attracting New Skiers

The Galloping Goose winds down the slopes for 2 1/2 miles off Sunshine Peak and is designed for the beginning skier, sharing the descent with two other graduated runs--Sundance and Double Cabin.

All three runs are served by the Sunshine Express, the world’s longest high-speed quad super-chair, introduced two seasons ago at this year-round resort in the Rockies, some 360 miles southwest of Denver.

The pros will be skiing challenges called the Plunge and Spiral Stairs down the Face of Coonskin Mountain, which is shared with advanced-intermediate runs. Gorrono Basin above the village resort community is designed for the intermediate skier, but is linked to more slopes for beginners at the Meadows.

All this is happening around a National Registered Historical Landmark town with 1,000 permanent residents and the gingerbread architectural flavor of the Victorian age.

Old-Town Charm

We have walked along Main Street in summer as well as winter, and are always greeted with smiles as though we were locals. There are no stop signs along the street, and no one is in a hurry. The clock tower of the County Courthouse gently monitors the time of day.

The restored New Sheraton Hotel next to the Court House was already the New Sheraton in 1903 when William Jennings Bryan made his “Cross of Gold” speech in front of it, urging coinage of silver on a par with gold. Ski runs come down to the town and 80% of the accommodations in Telluride are within walking distance of a lift.

Just walking down Main Street sets the mood for winter skiing or summertime hiking. At the end of a box canyon, Telluride is in a fantasy of mountainscapes, slopes softened with spruce and alpine fir.

Galloping Goose joins other names of scenic runs: See Forever, Misty Maiden, Woozley’s Way, Peekaboo. Boutiques, restaurants and bars line Main Street.

New Accommodations

Five miles from Telluride, the European-Alpine Mountain Village Resort has completed its second year of development. At the foot of the Gorrono Basin ski slopes, this village has five condominium complexes for rentals and a new bed-and-breakfast lodge reminiscent of the French countryside. The Village Golf Course, to be completed this year, offers its fairways for cross-country skiing.

Headliner events scheduled for this season, besides next weekend’s U.S. Men’s Pro Racing Tour event, include the 7th annual Governor’s Cup Invitational Feb. 3-5, featuring ski races and social events for state governors and other political leaders, as well as stage and screen celebrities and ski-industry pioneers. Proceeds are used to raise funds for the Telluride Medical Center.

Past Governor’s Cup participants have included Secretary of the Interior Donald Hodel and Governors John Ashcroft of Missouri, Charles Robb of Virginia and George Sinner of North Dakota.

The 16th annual Butch Cassidy Cross-Country Ski Chase is set for the first week in February. Butch Cassidy and Sundance took off cross-country into their bank-robbing careers after a first heist at the Bank of Telluride.

That was in the boom-town mining era when more than 175 “ladies of the evening” came from around the nation to Telluride, which then had a population of 5,000. Their social center was the Senate Restaurant, which stands today as the Athenian Senate. Jack Dempsey later began practicing his punches while he was a dishwasher at the Senate.

There are more than 30 special events scheduled through April 2. In addition to the Pro Ski Tour and Governor’s Invitational, they include “Free National Learn-To-Ski Day” Jan. 20 and “Let’s Go Skiing America” incentives in February.

There are Women’s Weeks/ Coed Immersion Weeks of skiing in January, February and March. The USSA Junior National Freestyle Championships are March 17-19.

Among 30 kilometers of groomed nordic trails is the new loop across the 1st and 18th fairways of the Village Golf Course. From there, a connecting trail leads to the base station of the Sunshine Express, which zooms up to a 15-kilometer track to the summit. This season there are 10 lifts to serve the three mountain faces.

As an introduction to cross-country skiing and telemark turns, Telluride Resort has a three-day clinic for $90, including equipment rentals. Helitrax helicopter skiing offers half a day of guided high-altitude runs for $175. The Children’s Ski School programs are based at the Mountain Village development, which also houses the Telluride Ski Resort offices.

Returning to the slopes will be many who have been introduced to Telluride by spring, summer and autumn events. The Telluride Film Festival in the first week of September has become a major film festival. Bluegrass, chamber music and hang gliding festivals have also flourished. Soviet representatives have attended the annual Ideas Festival.

The Penninton Mountain Village Inn, opening as a luxury bed-and-breakfast lodge next week, has 12 suites that border the 6th and 12th golf course fairways in summer and nordic ski tracks in winter. Suites will offer seven nights’ lodging and breakfast, and six days’ skiing for $824 per person.

Economy Fares

Fly/ski and other packages in a wide range of prices are available, including lift tickets that otherwise are $32 per day for adults. The New Sheraton Hotel has a high-season rate of $288 per person for seven nights’ lodging and six days’ skiing. A Telluride Bargain Blitz Ski Week, with seven nights’ B&B; accommodations and six days of lift tickets, begins at $276 per person, double occupancy.

Continental offers a fly/ski package from Los Angeles to Denver, with air connection to Telluride Airport, for $520.65 per person, double occupancy, for round-trip air fare, four nights’ accommodations and three days’ skiing, Thursday to Monday. Check with your travel agent or call toll-free (800) 225-7995.

Daman-Nelson Travel in Los Angeles and U.S. Sports Adventures in Santa Ana are offering round-trip charter flights from Los Angeles and Long Beach to Grand Junction, Colo., 125 miles north of Telluride, for $179, with bus transportation to the ski resort. Travel agents have details.

For lodging, lift tickets, air/ground transportation and other information, call your travel agent or check with Telluride Central Reservations at (800) 525-3455.