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Telluride has come a long way from its roots as the nineteenth-century mining town where Butch Cassidy kicked off his bank-robbing career. It's been reborn as a year-round resort destination, boasting one of the country's top ski resorts, popular summer festivals, and just about any outdoor activity you can think of (winter fly fishing, skiing, dog sledding, etc.). Perhaps the best view in town is from the three-stage gondola, which connects Telluride to Mountain Village, a midmountain, European-style, ski-in-ski-out haven. It keeps pollution and congestion low while giving riders a stunning view of the still-pristine alpine environments below. But don't mistake nostalgia for being out of date. Telluride has leapt into the twenty-first-century green movement with everything from electric cars to eco-conscious events. And the newly opened Lumiere Hotel (lumieretelluride.com) provides an environmentally friendly lodging option. The resort provides a hybrid SUV shuttle service, a sustainable laundry service, and energy-efficient heating system. Snag a studio suite during the spring low season for $219 a night, and enjoy the view of the 14,000-foot peaks surrounding this secluded mountain retreat.
People here have been focusing on conservation since before it was popular, with a citywide green building code, and things like the Free Box, where you can drop off anything you don't need (too-small clothes), and pick up something you do (used ski boots). And there's absolutely no need to drive here. Just park at the central parking lot, then walk, rent an electric car (Go Green, gogreentelluride.com), or take the shuttle (powered by biodiesel, of course) around the historic town and visit charming local shops like Baked in Telluride (toski.com/bakedintel), where all of the tasty selections are made from scratch. Another sustainable culinary option is the 9545 Restaurant at the Inn at Lost Creek. It serves seasonal dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, and seafood only from ecologically sustainable fisheries (innatlostcreek.com). The city lights up the night using solar energy, and buys carbon credits to offset its impact on the environment. And let's not forget that Telluride is home to one of the only free, energy-efficient gondolas. If you want to get off the beaten path, try a purely muscle-powered dog-sled ride (Winter Moon Sled Dog Adventures, 970-729-0058), a hut-to-hut cross-country skiing or mountain biking adventure (San Juan Hut Systems, sanjuanhuts.com) or, if you're really daring, climb the frozen 365-foot Bridal Veil Falls (Mountain Trip, mountaintrip.com). Just reopened to the public in 2008, it's a low-impact way to get out and enjoy the scenery.
Save the World
The focus on public transit, including the gondola, green car rentals, and biodiesel shuttle buses, makes Telluride one of the most pedestrian-friendly, and therefore low-impact, destinations in the country.