#9: Telluride, Colorado

adventure guide: Telluride

Born a hardscrabble mining town, this out-of-the-way skier's paradise wedged into a box canyon emanates a hip yet down-to-earth persona. Legends endure here, like the one about a local cowboy who got drunk on his horse in the New Sheridan bar. Telluride succeeds at balancing old quirky attitude with new ritzy sheen. You don't see monster homes among the colorful Victorians downtown, for example -- they've been shunted off to slopeside Mountain Village.

The ski area's reputation for predominantly bad-ass terrain is only partially true. Sure, the side looming over town is downright hair-raising, and megamoguls litter the precarious pitches under Lifts 6 and 9. But the mountain also offers miles of wide cruisers, like See Forever, with jaw-dropping views of the red-banded San Miguel Valley, the San Juans, and Utah's La Sals.

This season's big news is the unveiling of 733-acre Prospect Bowl. Straight-line chutes and bowls, serviced by three high-speed quads, and hike-to shots off Bald Mountain and Prospect Ridge seriously up the ante. One by-product: Gold Hill is now lift serviced, so get up there even earlier for fresh tracks.

Play: When the lifts close, hoist a few beers at the Swede Finn Hall or sip cocktails at Cosmopolitan. For dinner, gorge on hickory-smoked brisket at Fat Alley BBQ or savor wild game at the PowderHouse. Then catch live oompah music at Leimgruber's, make friends at O'Bannon's Irish Pub, and top off the night on the spring-loaded dance floor at Fly Me to the Moon Saloon.

Stay: For plush, go to the Hotel Columbia in town; B&Bs like the Johnstone Inn or Bear Creek are less expensive. In Mountain Village, the Inn at Lost Creek and the Wyndham Peaks Resort are tops for pampering.

Save the Date: Four days of festivities, Jan. 10-13, celebrate the opening of Prospect Bowl.

866-287-5016; www.telluride-ski.com