Let me make this clear: YOU SHOULD NOT TRAVEL RIGHT NOW IF YOU DON’T HAVE TO.
That said, I just got back from an absolutely extraordinary trip to Colorado where I visited pretty much the best the state has to offer in the short week I was there. Exploring first Denver with it’s hip RiNo arts district and luscious brunches down at Snooze. Then over to Aspen to see how the other half do it up staying at the strange and wonderful Bauhaus resort “The Meadows” and eating at the exquisite very farm to very table Bosq. Finally, driving through Grand Canyon’s rival Black Canyon and depositing myself in the fabled little mountain town of Telluride, which simply blew my mind.
Now I mention COVID travel because, well, it’s on my mind. As a travel professional this was the first trip I’ve taken since the quarantine, and didn’t quite know what to expect. It’s still not completely safe to travel, and I’m sure any destination is weary of people coming into their bubble. That said, I also hear the horror stories of how businesses are failing (entire countries to some degree) because tourism has taken a nosedive. It is a unachievable balance; do you lock down for health safety, or perish economically because you are locked down?
What I found in my time in Colorado was a well functioning, safe and friendly vacation wonderland that immediately brought back the glory days of 2019, albeit a bit more muffled by facewear. Colorado folk are generally extremely welcoming, kind, and considerate, and no matter what city I found myself in I found everyone behaving correctly, conscious of safety and health standards. While all was expectedly concerned about COVID, employees and owners were thankful they were able to operate, and had customers to keep their way of life at the very least sustained. I found wonderful adaptation here that limited the chance of COVID spread; open air eTuks instead of closed tour busses to show you the best of Denver, eBike rentals to visit the glorious Maroon Bells in Aspen, and of course, all the hiking you could ever want in Telluride.
While each area of the state had some magic to offer, it was Telluride that personally took my socks off. It is first and foremost an overwhelmingly beautiful place on earth. Dramatic and bright with color, full of life, and all of natures glory. Then, the town itself is a little piece of magic. Authentic, rustic yet refined, accessible while still being special. You will find no big chains in Telluride by design, there are no McDonalds or Walmart’s or Starbucks (if you can believe it). This town keeps it’s identity sacred, and that, especially in this day, is unlike any other major travel destination I’ve been too.
The folk that call this town home are viciously guarded not only about this identity, but of keeping Telluride, well, Telluride. While everywhere I went during my trip I was greeted with open arms (at 6 feet distance), you definitely get a sense that tourism is a bittersweet element to their existence; while no one wants their home’s identity absorbed by tourists, it does make up 79% of all their jobs, an estimated 87% of their entire economy. The thing they are guarded against makes their existence possible.
Who can really blame them? When you arrive in Telluride you feel like you are in an honest Shangri-La, some mythical mountain valley paradise, where the booze is local, the weed legal, and the food world class. Really however Telluride’s riches lie above the valley, in nature, where you can hang, sorry, hike, the first Via Ferrata in the United States, 600 feet off the valley floor, or if you prefer, race through gold lined trails in a Razr ATV to see the best of nature in fast forward. Telluride my be best known for its skiing, but summer for me is when it really shines, when the town is at its most friendly, and the colors and activities of the outdoors call to you.
While the world locks down and shores up against the pandemic, Telluride is poised to deal with it while letting you enjoy the best nature has to offer. Streets have been blocked out to allow outdoor seating, restaurants and bars are safely serving, even the gondola is running with teams of teens disinfecting between each use . Beyond the streets you can loose yourself in nature with as much mountain biking, hiking, climbing, kayaking as your heart desires, then find yourself back at your lux apartment at the Madeline Hotel in time for a quick steam before happy hour (which is anytime I found out, happily indeed).
The biggest take-away, and the greatest endorsement I can give is that while I was there, I forgot it was 2020. I forgot about the election. I forgot about COVID. I forgot about the world coming to a halt. In Telluride the Earth is still turning, beer is pouring and people are thriving. That said, as you will see in the comments, they really don’t want you to come. But they kinda do. Maybe not. Oh who knows. You should probably just stay home and let COVID win. Also, don’t forget to vote, as if that mattered.