Telluride, Colorado: Rank 17 West, 1997

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The ski company in Telluride calls its hill "the most beautiful place you'll ever ski," which may be the most believable PR proclamation in the industry. After its alpine backdrop, what sets Telluride apart is a dazzling selection of expert slopes (ranked 10th in the nation)¿from Lift 9 and its Volkswagen-sized bumps to Gold Hill, a wild area of steep glades and short couloirs. There are plenty of novice runs, too, but a shortage of true intermediate terrain. One happy but frustrated reader speaks for many in noting: "I wish it wasn't so hard to get to." Since the days when Butch Cassidy robbed a local bank,Telluride has always welcomed the outcasts and the runaways. Now, boom-town Telluride is morphing into an up-town resort, but locals are fighting to preserve its outlaw character every step of the way. Before skiing get in line with the locals at the Steaming Bean. After skiing, check out La Marmotte, a blend of the new and old Tellurides. Or kick back and enjoy "Telluride time"¿a mañana attitude in the mountains.

What's New Expanded terrain park; Mountain Village Activity Center; Biomechanics Learning Program; Camel's Garden hotel.
A Good Deal Choose daily among a free lift ticket, ski lesson, mountain lunch or a half-day of day care when staying with most Central Reservation properties, Nov. 26-Dec. 19, March 28-April 12; (800) 525-3455.
Medals Gold Snow Quality, Terrain, Challenge, Weather;Silver Grooming, Value, Service, Lodging.
High/Low Rank Weather (4); Accessibility (77).
Don't Miss Bar-hopping via the free mass-transit gondola from town to the Vail-esque Mountain Village.
Reader Remarks "No lines, killer weather, great snow." "For the high ticket price, the lifts are poor, and the lodging is too expensive."