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Features

Wild white west

Aspen slopes

Abigail Butcher takes a Colorado road trip — with plenty of skiing thrown in

 

“Look up there, you can still see bullet holes in the ceiling,” said our guide, Ashley Bowling. “It was perfectly acceptable to ride your horse into the lobby here.”

We’re in the New Sheridan Hotel, Telluride, part-way through a walking tour that takes in some of the greatest historical sites of the former mining town Colorado, famed for its brush with one of the world’s most famous outlaws. In 1889, Butch Cassidy staged his first bank robbery in this town at 129 W Colorado Avenue, the site of San Miguel Valley Bank, from which he and three associates made away with $24,580.

The skiing in this now well-heeled town in the San Juan Mountains isn’t too bad either; no wonder celebrities including Tom Cruise, Jerry Seinfeld and Oprah Winfrey own houses here. Although it’s known for its extremes, Telluride has an extensive selection of green and blue runs, along with three terrain parks and plenty of choice places to fuel up.

My friend and I embarked on a road trip across Colorado, ticking off Wild West ski resorts that have been on our bucket lists for years. From Denver, we drove four hours south-west to the cult resort Crested Butte (2,860m). Though best known for its extreme terrain — hosting a qualifier event for the Freeride World Tour for many years — this place has a unique selling point in that from the top of every lift is a blue run, so families and friends of different abilities can ski together. The snow is incredible — Colorado enjoys around 300 sunny days a year, with light, dry powder falling at night (ski resort Steamboat has trademarked the term ‘Champagne Powder’ to describe its snow).

We carried on to Silverton — a wild, experts-only ski area with a yurt for a ‘base lodge’, one rickety old lift and powder galore — followed by Telluride, then on to Aspen-Snowmass. Aspen has a wide variety of runs over its four separate mountains — Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, Snowmass and Aspen Mountain or ‘Ajax’ to the locals. Don’t be fooled by its glitzy reputation: it’s packed with serious athletes; varied, extensive skiing and is a well-preserved historic silver-mining town with a world-class food scene.

We finished with 24 hours in Denver, driving 1,200 miles over 10 days with relative ease. Although it would’ve been possible to fly between the resorts, these historical Wild West towns, brimming with character, are not to be missed.

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