If Telluride isn’t the only town in North America to provide free gondola rides for mountain bikers to the top of their bike park, then we missed the memo. Unlike most (if not all) ski resort lifts, Telluride’s gondola is officially considered public transportation between town and Mountain Village on the other side of the ski hill, and allows cyclists to get off at the top of the bike park.
The catch? Short of paying taxes in San Miguel County, there is no catch… in the summer. Skiers and snowboarders have to purchase a pass to play on the same mountainside in the winter.
Though one of the more scenic areas in an already-scenic Colorado, Telluride is somewhat limited on riding options. The Bike Park itself is rather small with only a handful of trail options branching off from the same starting trail – “No Brainer”. This easy, blue-rated 1.5-mile trail runs top to bottom with a couple of small spurs that allow a slight variation of runs.
The more challenging trails that have been used for downhill race courses like the Fall Tilt in Telluride are all off to the rider’s right, and offer a handful of gap jumps and technical sections that are either safe to roll, or have safe bypass routes around them. The small handful of black-rated trails will take 3-4-minutes at a decent pace from top to bottom, and eventually funnel back into No Brainer towards the resort base, making it easy to meet up with friends that take alternate routes down.
Gap jumps on the black-rated runs are about as close to man-made features as Mountain Village Bike Park currently has. There are no drop zones, bridge sections, pump tracks, or dirt jump parks. The ‘Park staff are all trying to add as much variety as they can, but chances are that any big changes to the Bike Park are more than a season or two away.
Outside of the park, the trail options are still somewhat limited in quantity. But Wilson Mesa, Deep Creek and Prospect trails all make for a great day of earned turns, especially with the latter two leading up to the very picturesque Atlas Lakes.
While Bike Park access is free, nothing else in the Mountain Village is. Parking will cost $24 a day, and requires either taking a 5-minute gondola ride over to the other gondola needed for the Bike Park, or an equally timed bike ride through a hilly neighborhood – not the best option for gravity sleds. So the summer cycling culture of pulling a truckload of bikes and friends up to within coasting distance of the lifts for an afternoon of tailgating and trail riding is all but non-existent here. Even the hotel we stayed at charged $20 for valet parking, with no self-park option. Everything else is rather expensive, too. For instance, a burger, fries, and a beer set us back almost $30 in Mountain Village.
Nightlife in the tiny town of Telluride is impressively good, even when there isn’t one of the many summer festivals in town. In addition to the usual array of food spots, we were able to catch a local reggae band playing a coffee bar on Friday night, and ended up spending our cash from Saturday’s Fall Tilt in Telluride 12-hour Downhill race win on bacon-whisky shots with a mix of wedding attendees and locals that night.
Overall, Telluride is a better place to visit for one of their many music, food, or film festivals than specifically making a trip to ride mountain bikes there. But, definitely bring a bike to one of the festivals, as the limited riding is good, the views are amazing, and there are endless options of fantastic riding in the region.