When the maître d’hôtel of Alpino Vino, one of the highest ski-slope restaurants in the US, is asked about the most famous movie star she’s served lately, she plays it cool. Her attitude isn’t unusual in Telluride, a ski town high in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, where locals avoid talking about the resident rich and famous.
The reason stars such as Jerry Seinfeld, Tom Cruise and Daryl Hannah choose to have homes there is not only for the stunning scenery and amazing skiing, but because the friendly residents respect their privacy – only when sharing a long chairlift ride do they offer titbits of information.
The neighbouring Mountain Village was developed only 15 years ago, and at 2908m above sea level has a small collection of hotels with easy ski in/out access to the 127 trails that cross the slopes above.
Riding on a chairlift nicknamed “real estate mile”, I cruise over spectacularly large log cabins surrounded by piles of powder snow. The starting price for a slope-side cabin is around $7 million. I share the lift with a woman who points to a more modest four-bedroom home – apparently it was owned by talk-show titan Oprah Winfrey before she sold it a few years ago.
A free gondola takes skiers and guests at Mountain Village between the snowy slopes and Telluride’s historic town in the valley below.
Charmingly trapped in a time warp, the Victorian-style buildings are protected and no more than three storeys high.
Shops and saloons built with Western-style facades date back to the 1800s, the days of miners and cowboys, and are boutique shops today – selling upmarket cowboy boots, jewellery and antiques.
What was the old post office and clothing store some 150 years ago is now Rustico, an Italian restaurant.
Owned by Paulo and his wife Carmela, they serve steaks farmed at fashion designer Ralph Lauren’s enormous nearby ranch.
Walking about, I pass by French restaurant La Marmotte and am reminded that on one gondola ride I overheard that Tom Cruise eats there. It is rumoured that another secluded spot, the Little Bar inside Lumiere Hotel, is also where famous folk hang out – no doubt because of its intimacy and comfy leather couches.
After a bit more research, I learn that Ben Affleck and George Clooney came to Telluride’s 39th Film Festival last year for the premiere of their latest movie. Justin Timberlake, Tina Turner, Al Pacino and Italian actress Claudia Cardinale have also been seen out and about.
The first star to arrive in Telluride with a bang was the notorious Butch Cassidy, who robbed his first bank, with three accomplices, in the late 1880s. Apparently the stolen amount would equate to about $770,000 today.
Ashley Boling takes historic walking tours of Telluride’s old town. He shows off the original opera house and Sheridan bar, as well as the “free box”, a set of shelves in the street where unwanted quality goods are left by townsfolk for others to freely take and use.
It certainly gets used – Ashley’s shirt and boots are from the box. But the best find in the box so far was $1000 cash left inside a trouser pocket.
When I check out the different ski trails, I keep an eye out for any possible famous faces masked by ski goggles.
On one chairlift ride, I’m told that Tom Cruise’s nine-bedroom home, tucked away in the mountains, has sold.
But it’s only a rumour – I can’t find anyone in Telluride who’ll confirm or deny it.
Kelly Lynch travelled thanks to Colorado Ski Country USA. Visit coloradoski.com
Air New Zealand flies direct to LA and San Francisco five
to seven times each week and has internal connections with partner airlines. Return economy fares from $1917. See airnewzealand.co.nz.
WHAT TO DO
Mountain Lodge has cabins for singles and families, as well as apartments. See mountainlodgetelluride.com.
For a luxury stay try
Hotel Madeline. See hotelmadelinetelluride.com.
By Kelly Lynch