Telluride’s slopes and dining deliver a winter experience that rivals the Alps

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Every winter, for more than a decade, I have joined a dozen or so friends for a Europe ski trip. Our tradition has taken us to mountain towns, both renowned and obscure, in Switzerland, Austria, France and Italy. We go to schuss down impossibly picturesque pistes but also to indulge in leisurely wine-paired lunches served in charming, family-run chalets. In Europe, skiing is a lifestyle as much as it is a sport. The perfect day isn’t about first-chair to last-chair bragging rights. A great day involves skiing across borders from Switzerland to Italy to lunch on lobster pasta paired with Barolo, enjoy a digestif of amaro on the sun deck then ski back home in time for an après ski gluhwein served at a barn-turned-bar.

In 2020, we just managed to sneak in a trip to the charming Austrian ski area of Saalbach-Hinterglemm ahead of a global shutdown. This summer, we optimistically began our ritual vote, which determined that Europe ski trip 2021 would take place in Zermatt. But with European borders showing no signs of reopening, we ultimately admitted defeat. We’d have to wait until 2022 to enjoy fondue feasts and views of the Matterhorn. This winter, we’d need to get our European ski fix stateside.

It was one of my Swiss friends who suggested Telluride. This southwestern Colorado town, tucked into a remote canyon in the San Juan Mountains, is often referred to as the Switzerland of America due to its dramatic peaks — geologically younger and more jagged than other ranges in Colorado — and low-key vibe. It’s also one of the hardest ski resorts to get to in North America; my excuse as a five-year resident of Colorado for sticking to more accessible Front Range resorts like Vail and Breckenridge.

In pandemic times, extra effort for fewer crowds has become a travel mantra. And news that Auberge Resorts Collection recently took over the slope-side Madeline Hotel made a visit this season all the more enticing. Telluride is…