On the mountain: The No. 1 rule at Telluride | AspenTimes.com

On the mountain: The No. 1 rule at Telluride

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

TELLURIDE, Colo. – Telluride is a town that doesn’t live by the rules. Or, to phrase it differently, rules are not a big part of life there.

A bluegrass band playing on a downtown street corner till 3 a.m.? Sure – just make sure it’s good picking. And last weekend, at the luxurious but laid-back Capella Telluride Hotel, when I asked when checkout time was, the accommodating response was, “Checkout time is whatever time you would like it to be.”

But there is one inviolable rule that Telluride lives by: You don’t miss the last gondola back to Mountain Village. I learned the consequences of that rule by, of course, breaking it.

Seems J., my running partner for the weekend, and I were having too good a time at the Sheridan Opera House Saturday night, taking in a NightGrass concert, part of the bigger Telluride Bluegrass Festival. J. was inebriated, but I can’t claim such a solid excuse. I was just spacey and stupid, half expecting the band would announce from the stage when it was 1:45 a.m., and that all gondola riders should head for the exits.

By the time I realized no such announcement was coming, it was after 2. We hustled out, but by the time we biked to the gondola station, we were screwed. Last gondola is at 2 sharp (midnight when Bluegrass isn’t in town). We tried taxi companies; none seemed to be in operation. I floated the idea of finding a party to crash – it seemed like an easy proposition – sitting on a couch, drinking a beer and enjoying some bluegrass till we fell asleep. Or ducking back into the Opera House and finding a dark corner till 7 a.m., when the gondola got rolling again.

Not on the table of options: hiking up the mountain (nearly 2,000 feet vertical, I was told) or biking (a 10-mile ride, up steep hills).

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Instead, J. called the hotel and persuaded the lone overnight employee to pick us up, which involved 1, going to get his own car; and 2, convincing the overnight guy at a neighboring hotel to cover him for a half-hour. When he arrived to pick up our sorry, chilly butts, he was understanding and kind. We got into a well-informed discussion of mountaineering films. (I recommended “North Face”; we agreed “The Edge of Never” was top-notch.)

We got into bed at 4:15 a.m., and when I woke, five hours later, I was given the good news about the easygoing checkout policy. Rarely have I been so pleased to be reminded of Telluride’s casual approach to rules.

stewart@aspentimes.com