tourism

Matthew and Alexandra Murray of New York City on holiday in Telluride. (Photo by Leslie Vreeland/Telluride Daily Planet)

It is rare for humans to agree on one thing, but on a sunny Friday afternoon on Telluride’s Main Street, reports seemed unanimous: It has been a splendid holiday season.

However you broke it down — sales figures, visitation numbers, or simply in sheer, unalloyed pleasure (a sensation both incalculable and priceless)  — visitors and shopkeepers pronounced themselves delighted about the past few days.

“It’s been really busy,” said Erik Dalton, the owner of Jagged Edge Mountain Gear. “Our Christmastime has been even busier than last year. It’s been fantastic.”

That made sense: The Telluride Ski Resort has received nearly 3 feet of snow over the past week, and as its website proclaimed “already over 10 feet for the season.”

Visitors need fresh togs and equipment for all that snow. But what about commodities more suitable for, say, a different time of day?

It turns out, the fluffy white stuff drives the sales of everything in this town. “It’s been a very busy year,” said Scott Mueller, the owner of retail marijuana store Delilah’s.

Mueller had a theory why this season, in particular, has seen so very many visitors, even though “we do very minimal advertising. Most businesses in town are saying this has been one of their busiest, or maybe even the busiest season ever,” Mueller said, echoing the report at Jagged Edge.

“I think a big part of it” is the advent of the new Epic Day Pass, which offers reciprocal access to Telluride (and Sun Valley, Snowbasin and Resorts of the Canadian Rockies) to guests who purchase four or more days of skiing to Vail, Beaver Creek, Whistler Blackcomb and other resorts.

“People choose Telluride over Vail for certain weekends, which is good for us,” Mueller said. “The thing is, people won’t come if there’s no snow. Even if they don’t cancel” or pay cancellation fees (which allows hotels to still make money) “they just won’t come,” which can make it especially difficult financially for local shops and restaurants.

Snowfall benefits everyone, in other words. Exactly how much it has boosted local businesses this holiday season, it’s too soon to say. Telluride Tourism Board President and CEO Michael Martelon is optimistic, however. As he put it in an email to the Daily Planet, “December, with its spontaneous endowment of white, is certain not to disappoint. … It’s very positive that we’ll end the year strong and start the year strong. We clearly saw an overall increase in destination guests over the holidays.”

In sum, Martelon said, “It appears as though our bed base was approaching capacity, more self-managed properties were available, and destination visitors’ utilization of accommodations exceeded initial forecasts. The picture will be much clearer a month from now, when all the numbers settle. But it certainly felt like all the (town’s economic) cylinders were firing.”

Visitors don’t have to wait for official statistics to become available; they step right up and tell you how they’re feeling right now. On Friday afternoon, Alexandra and Matthew Murray of New York City did just that.

The Murrays were in Telluride with their 13-and-15-year-olds for the first time this season.

“We have friends from New York, LA and London who all own homes here,” Alexandra explained.

This year, the friends insisted the Murrays join them in Telluride for the holiday season.

“We go skiing every Christmas,” she said. “Last year we were in Zermatt, and the year before that, we were in Aspen.”

The year before that they were in Whistler.

So what did they think of Telluride? “It’s a spectacular mountain,” she summed up, “and a charming town. People are religious about this place,” she went on. “Some are sure you should stay in Mountain Village. Others are absolutely insistent you need to be downtown.”

They may have been divided when it came to accommodations, but those the Murrays chatted with each day on the mountain were seemingly united about one thing.

“We heard it again and again on the chairlift,” she said. “People would say, ‘Yeah, I used to go everywhere, and ski all over. But I stopped once I found Telluride.’”