Telluride rivals and perhaps exceeds any mountain town in Colorado in terms of number of major festivals. Telluride Bluegrass, Film, Mushroom, Yoga, Wine, Blues & Brews and Balloon Festivals are just the tip of the event iceberg. Plus, there is amazing scenery, outdoor activities galore, and ramped-up air service this winter connecting Montrose Regional Airport, which serves Telluride with nonstop flights from 10 metropolitan airports and nine major U.S. hubs.
The former mining town turned year-round destination tends to attract corporate, incentive and continuing education groups that are “looking to inspire and drive attendance to their events,” explains Todd Gehrke, CMM, director of sales and marketing for Hotel Madeline Telluride, who previously worked in a similar capacity for Telluride Tourism Board and earlier for a destination management company. “Organizations whose visions and missions align with the Telluride ethos such as health and wellness, adventure and the outdoors, and science and sustainability fit well.”
Venues with Views
It’s fitting that holding events outdoors at private properties is becoming more prevalent in the last year, says Deana Mitchell, CMP, DMCP, owner of Realize Planning, a Global DMC Partner. As a destination management company based in Telluride, one of her clients recently held a gathering at the 900-acre Schmid Ranch, a longtime family ranch situated below Wilson Peak. “I have a photo of a tent set up at the ranch posted on my Facebook page, and it gets the most hits,” Mitchell says. “It’s very rustic, and we bring everything in.”
Other landowners recently have expressed interest, so there are several new options for venues, she says. Gorrono Ranch, a Basque sheepherder’s farm in the 1800s that is now owned by Telluride Ski & Golf Company (TelSki), is a longtime favorite of groups with multiple outdoor decks and capacity of 200. There also are two small historic cabins that can be set up for tastings and used as gaming rooms for group events. In winter, skiers can stop by for lunch, and in the evening Gorrono Ranch is accessed by snowcat-drawn sleigh.
Telluride Conference Center, Alpino Vino, and Allred’s Restaurant also are classic and popular choices, Mitchell notes.
The conference center, managed by TelSki, is adjacent to a large outdoor plaza and features more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space, including a ballroom, three boardrooms and multiple reception areas.
A winter evening spent riding a snowcat-pulled coach to Alpino Vino and enjoying a five course northern Italian meal paired with regional wines is “absolutely the best experience I’ve had in Colorado,” Mitchell emphasizes. The European-style chalet, situated at around 12,000 feet in elevation, holds a maximum capacity of 28 and can be booked for private events during the winter. At lunch, Alpino Vino is accessed by skis and snowboards and serves as a respite from exploring 2,000 acres of snowy wonderland.
Allred’s Restaurant, situated midway on the free gondola that runs between town and Mountain Village, is easily accessed year-round. With 25-foot, floor-to-ceiling windows, Allred’s rivals Alpino Vino for stunning views and also has a focus on terrific wines with a menu featuring approximately 750 different labels and more than 5,000 bottles in the cellar. The 12,000-square-foot restaurant known for gourmet American cuisine can hold up to 130 for buyouts; plus, there is a private dining room with a fireplace that can host up to 30.
Tomboy Tavern, located slopeside at the ski area base, pays tribute to the town’s mining heritage with its décor and is known for its extensive menu of craft beers and occasional beer pairing dinners. The tavern can host groups of up to 120 with interior and exterior spaces, including a small private dining room that holds up to 25. The newest on mountain restaurant is the outdoor Bon Vivant with a 39-foot umbrella covering the massive deck so up to 75 can savor classic country French cuisine, top wines, handcrafted hot chocolates and outstanding vistas.
Vibrant Base Village
With various hotels and venues partnering, Telluride has been able to host large groups like Colorado Defense Lawyers Association (CDLA) with Mountain Village serving as a campus for its annual conference in July. The 250 attendees moved back and forth between the 22,000-square-foot Telluride Conference Center, host property Hotel Madeline Telluride and The Peaks Resort & Spa, location of the opening reception and additional lodging.
Since many of the attendees drove in from Colorado’s Front Range, massage chairs were set up along the route to guest rooms in Hotel Madeline for a relaxing welcome. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was the keynote speaker on Friday morning, and attendees ended the day networking and relaxing at a reception for 450 (including guests) held in the area next to Hotel Madeline that is used as an ice rink in the winter.
“It was a spectacular summer Colorado evening with a band, people dancing and a farm-to- table atmosphere,” says CDLA Executive Director Bo Donegan. Colorado lamb and Olathe sweet corn were among the many local dishes served, and several farmers were on hand to represent their foods. A shorter Saturday evening reception was held on the Hotel Madeline’s patio, leaving plenty of time to take the gondola into town for firm dinners. Organizers also made arrangements with Hotel Colombia for those who wanted to stay in town instead of in Mountain Village.
One of the major benefits of holding a conference a fair distance away from the Front Range is that attendees don’t miss the ending reception and extend their stay into Sunday, Donegan says. “Towns like Telluride also have a real appreciation for guests,” he says. “They really want the customer there and are all in. We had a wonderful experience in Telluride.”
Hotel Madeline Telluride has 4,000 square feet of indoor function space, two restaurants and one of the larger guest room counts in Mountain Village with 96 rooms, 11 suites and 23 condominium residences. The property was acquired in August by Northview Hotel Group, which plans to invest $7 to $10 million in the short-term to improve public spaces, re-concept amenities such as the spa and pool, and upgrade the condominiums.
With 10,000 square feet of meeting and event space indoors and 9,000 more outdoors, The Peaks Resort & Spa also is well-suited to host groups. Guests can choose from 160 guest rooms (including 32 suites), four penthouse condominiums and more than 30 additional condos and cabins and will find a variety of dining options from the hotel’s signature restaurant Palmyra to the Deep End Pool Grill & Bar. A 42,000-square-foot spa with 32 treatment rooms is another highlight.
Other lodging properties in Mountain Village that work well for groups, Mitchell says, are Lumiere, Mountain Lodge, Inn at Lost Creek and The Fairmont Heritage Place, Franz Klammer Lodge.
While the majority of meeting and event space is in Mountain Village, there are options in town at the historic 26-room New Sheridan Hotel with the American Room for up to 35 seated and 50 reception-style; Chop House Restaurant that holds 85 for dinner and 150 for cocktails; and bar that can host up to 135. The 59-room Hotel Telluride adds additional boutique-type lodging, and there are attractions and restaurants in town available to serve groups.
More to Explore
Realize Planning has created a historic pub crawl that includes Telluride Historical Museum, Sheridan Opera House, and longtime downtown watering holes New Sheridan Bar and Last Dollar Saloon. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the museum’s building was constructed in 1896 as Hall’s Hospital, becoming Telluride Historical Museum in 1966 and affiliated with the Smithsonian in 2013. Sheridan Opera House, completed in 1913, is available for rent.
Telluride Food Tours are for those who like to sample culinary delights while touring. Locals lead the tours that include six to eight tastings as well as tasty tidbits about the history, culture, architecture and entertainment. For in-town group dine-arounds, Mitchell recommends La Marmotte, Rustico Ristorante, 221 Oak Street, Cosmopolitan and New Sheridan’s Chop House and the nearby Allred’s. Cosmopolitan, conveniently located at the base of the gondola, was recently remodeled and has two dining rooms and a wine cellar for parties of 10 to 25. Rustico has excellent private dining options and an outdoor patio that is hard to beat.
Another way to explore and embrace the area is Telluride Outside’s four-wheel drive tours to Imogene Pass/Tomboy Ghost Town (former gold mining area), Black Bear Pass, and Ophir Pass/Ghost Town of Alta. The halfday Ophir Pass tour can be expanded to a fullday tour to to Dunton Hot Springs. Telluride Outside also can lead groups on mountain bike and snowmobile tours, river rafting trips and fly-fishing outings.
“If groups have spent time in the mountains, even within Colorado, Telluride has a once-in-a lifetime, awe-inspiring landscape,” Gehrke emphasizes. “If you are looking to make an impression, this is the place.”