Telluride Dispatch: Ralph Lauren, Coors Light, & True Grit

One of the best things about visiting Telluride is the drive from the airport, and I’m not talking about the scenery (which, by the way, is breathtaking). Your shuttle driver will most likely be a tour guide in the off season, and will give you the dish during the hour-and-a-half journey. As we passed small towns, our driver Pete “Roma” announced that he’s lived in Telluride for twenty years and, man, the guy did not shut up. Surprisingly, it turned out it was all for the best.

The drive didn’t get interesting until we came to Ridgway, which was the setting of the original True Grit film. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll notice not much has changed. About twenty minutes into the drive, you’ll come to Ralph Lauren’s private, 26,000-acre ranch, which stretches on for a whopping seven miles. In fact, toward the edge of his land, there’s a prime spot for a photo opp of the landscape, as well as a sense of rebellious glee just standing on his private fence. It makes me wonder how often local rogue skateboarders jump the gated-off boundary just for the hell of it. (After all, every full moon, you can find almost twenty of them skating down a 4-mile road on longboards, thanks to its skate-friendly decline.) The landscape sort of changes as you turn a curve near a river, and the mountainside turns into red rocks, similar to Sedona, Arizona.

Almost forty five miles into the drive, you’ll come across perhaps the smallest town in Colorado, Sawpit, which comprises a streetlamp and a gas station. Tom Cruise’s home is just beyond the steep hill to the left, as is Oprah’s. But more important is the protrusion of Wilson Peak to the right, the iconic mountain on every Coors Light beer can. image Even as you pass Dan Quayle’s home and enter Mountain Village, the hub of resorts and condos, you’re not really ready to get out of the vehicle. At least I wasn’t. Roma kept me engaged, and it was probably one of the best driving tours I’ve ever experienced. But Hotel Madeline awaited, which I was equally eager to check out, if only because it’s had so much history in the two years it’s been open. Pretty much the only luxury hotel here, regulars threw a fit when it announced it was closing two months ago. Then the Manhattan Group saved it, renamed it (it was formerly the Cappella hotel), and gave it more swank, a little home-ish mountain decor, and a whole new culinary scene.

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