Somewhere on the dark cliff above us, a wolf howled.

It was 12* on the icy wooden deck when we slipped into the cliffside hottubs for our moonlight soak. Our Jacuzzi-ed arms stretched out along the tub’s edge, steaming upwards to the star-strewn sky and to that lone, howling wolf.

The howl was otherworldly. Then it struck again,.

Its clarity so seamlessly matched the brilliant, frigid sky, that I felt suspended between that dark umbrella above and the twinkling village of Ouray below… soaking with wolves!

I had arrived in Telluride 5 days before and knew right away that it was MY kind of town! More than scenery and powder and cowboy charm (just grungy enough to be authentic), the town was easily walkable and, thanks to a Green initiative, so was the mountain! Telluride is molded right into the box canyon of the San Juans– into such a corner, as a matter of fact, that, in decades past, smog had plagued this pristine outpost. With a vengeance, the town declared a Green plan (see the sidebar), starring a free gondola system which connects the town with the mountain village, all ski runs, and the entire network of ski-side restaurants and activities, from 7am til midnight! I realized that, with this setup, I could enjoy a completely car-free adventure!

We found our hotel clean and comfortable, with a BBQ grill sticking out of a snowbank only 20 feet from the courtyard Jacuzzi. (We spent at least one memorable night in the hottub, doing rock-paper-scissors for who had to flip the steaks and who had to replenish the beers) Only 2 minutes down the street was the free gondola, and a short walk the other direction took you to more than a dozen dark taverns like The Last Dollar and Fly Me To The Moon—or Smugglers with homebrews and local bands. We considered a more elegant evening at the wine and champagne bar, Bubble and O2 Bar, but could never seem to get out of our ski bibs!

Right there in the village is great food too! Fine steak houses like the Chop House (good competition for AllRed’s at the top of the gondola) compete with the clever open kitchen at the Mexican joint, La Cantina… and even Baked In Telluride is tempting, where from 5:30 am til 10 pm you can get homemade breads, tacos, soups, and Telluride’s favorite pizza. Town had so many choices, as a matter of fact, that we instituted a Progressive Dinner, to let us enjoy a different venue for each course of dinner!

Of course, in order to enjoy the town, you have to leave the mountain, and, at Telluride, THAT’S not easy! Our favorite après ski was right down the Village Express run, at the Gorrono Ranch cowboy bar. It’s “the beach”– loads of lawn chairs spread over the snow under the wide, toasting sun. Check it out in the top photo! Cold beers, warm rays, fun guitar tunes off the outdoor mic…. our legs turned leaden and begged us never to leave!

The mountain invited us to 120 trails, with over 300 annual inches of snowfall, but our favorites were Magnolia, with its tree islands and sunny runs, the Upper See Forever along the ridgeline, and the best…. the hike-to Black Iron Bowl, where we found fresh tracks on every run!

We had also read about Revelation Bowl, where the terrain challenges even the old timers! My ski mates sluiced around boulders and moguls, and when I could no longer keep up, I settled myself onto the deck in the belly of the Bowl, unpacked my dark chocolate and clementines, and enjoyed the snow show!