My Telluride: Garrett Russell and the Quintessential Colorado Ski Town

By Ryan Dunfee

Garrett Russell likes Telluride powder so much, he bathes in it. Photo: Chason Russell


The Russells have their roots woven deep in the fabric of Telluride. Jim Russell came to town in 1972 after a tour in Vietnam, bought a mining claim off the back of the ski mountain with a partner, and after drawing the design for a dream backcountry lodge on the back of a napkin at the bar in The Sheridan, built the Alta Lakes Observatory. The stone, concrete and timber structure has an in-ground hot tub and sits at the foot of a high-alpine lake and a gallery of steep, long couloirs, and is without a doubt one of the most stunning backcountry lodges in the country. His sons, Chason and Garrett, are fully emblematic of both the soulfulness and adventuresome spirit this tiny town high in the San Juan Mountains engenders. Chason is an accomplished ski mountaineer and his younger brother Garrett is one of the most creative personalities to have ever strapped on skis–known for a wacky and inventive style of freestyle skiing that has inspired a cult following across the ski community. While neither brothers currently call the small box canyon home anymore, there is still a lot of Telluride in both of them.


Place to ski on a Powder Day:  It all depends on how skilled you are in the backcountry or how stoked you are to do chair laps. Having said that, I would say chairs 6, 9, and 14 are all time. Whatever you do, don't follow ski tracks out of bounds—the mountains and the consequences in the San Juans are very, very serious.


Place to get snacks for the powder day backpack: Shop locally and you make it a better place—go to the Village Market or Clarks but not the expensive market in Mountain Village unless you have to.


The backlit Powder dream in Telluride. Photo: Courtesy Telluride Mountain Resort


Place to ski on a spring day:  Chair 14 and 6 are super fun in the spring, as they are mostly southwest aspects.


Place to take the family skiing:  Chair 10 to look at all the ridiculous vacation homes.


Place for Dinner: The Chop House, Hongas, and La Cocina if you have some money.  The Corner House and Oak if you have less and want to hang with some locals.  And if you have a lot of dough, go to La Marmotte…


Place for Aprés:  Oak at the bottom of chair 8 or there's a couple in Mountain Village but they're always changing their names. Good luck!