The Ultimate Guide to Telluride Mountainfilm Festival

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What to do at Telluride Mountainfilm Festival

Every year at the end of May, hundreds of the world’s most accomplished and devoted climbers, mountaineers, skiers, sailors, explorers – in a word, adventurers – converge on Telluride, Colorado for a four-day festival celebrating the indomitable nature of the human spirit: Mountainfilm.

Sure, the weekend is a chance for filmmakers and artists from all over the world to share their projects – incredible stories only limited by the requirement that they inspire. But much more than that, it is a gathering of visionary human beings, people who have traveled to the middle of nowhere (or the middle of everywhere?) to share time and engage with others on the most pressing issues our world faces.

The setting – Telluride – is one of those mesmerising places in the world, an eddy in the flow of the planet where mystery and beauty collect. It is a year-round playground, and Mountainfilm is revered amongst the locals as the official start to summer – a time when, depending on the weather, you can ski off a summit down to your mountain bike, ride to the river for a few casts of the fly rod (and maybe a dip), then cruise down to Telluride Brewing Company for a pint at dusk.

Our Colorado correspondent will be attending Mountainfilm 2017 to report back on the content and festivities. This is our guide.

To See

Mountainfilm Gallery Walk. Photo credit: Ryan Bonneau

Gallery Walk – Telluride Arts exhibition

Mountainfilm is much more than a film festival – it is a place for artists, activists and globally-engaged citizens. Each year the festival organises a Gallery Walk to showcase selected artists’ works. This year’s gallery walk includes photographs by Renan Ozturk, paintings by Leighan Falley, a mural by Shepard Fairey, and works by recent National Geographic Young Explorers, among others.

Virtual Reality Studio

An emerging medium for telling stories, virtual reality has exploded on the filmmaking scene in the past few years. This year Mountainfilm has invited a representative from Google, along with pioneering immersive filmmakers, to curate a studio showcasing virtual reality films through the weekend.

To Attend

Deep Creek Experimental – Mountainfilm Mine Burn

‘The New Normal’ Symposium

Each year Mountainfilm kicks off with a full-day symposium themed on some relevant issue that year. This year’s: ‘The New Normal’, focused on encouraging action on climate issues.

Mountainfilm Mine Burn

It is becoming a tradition, maybe, for Deep Creek Experimental to throw the Sunday night closing party a few miles down valley. Worth the journey, and the price. May 28, 9:00 PM MST.

To Stay

New Sheridan Hotel, Telluride. Photo credit: New Sheridan Hotel 

Camp in Town Park

The best – and most affordable – place for visitors to stay during the summer is the Town Park Campground, at the eastern end of town. It is first-come-first-served, and will be tricky to snag a spot.
Cost: $18 – $28 per night, 4 – 6 people
Telluride Campground

AirBnB with a dozen friends

Less cost effective than the campsite, there are loads of short term rentals and hotels in town. Be sure to reserve ASAP as rooms are filling up for the summer.

New Sheridan Hotel

Colorado’s Victorian-mining-turned-ski towns tend to have an iconic hotel smack on the main strip. In Telluride, it’s the New Sheridan Hotel. If you can’t swing a room, a drink in the downstairs bar is almost as good.
New Sheridan Hotel

To Do

Barrels filled and ready to go. Photo Credit: Telluride Brewing Co

Ride the Galloping Goose to Telluride Brewing Company

Telluride’s free shuttle bus will run you out to Lawson Hill – about 10 minutes – where it can drop you off at Telluride Brewing Company. Catch the bus on the north side of Colorado Avenue right in front of the San Miguel Courthouse. The tasting room closes at 7 every day, and is closed Sundays.
Bus schedule
Telluride Brewing Company

Ganjala on the Gondola

While there’s no shortage of dispensaries in Telluride, Alpine Wellness is a locals’ favorite – clean, friendly, unintimidating, and serving excellent flower. Their flagship edible – the Ganjala – is a caramel chew with 10mg of THC. Catch the Gondola to Mountain Village just a few blocks away.

Fish the San Miguel

Telluride sits just below the headwaters of the San Miguel River, almost a hundred miles upstream of its confluence with the Dolores. Some excellent – and incredibly scenic – fly fishing can be had in its meandering currents on the valley floor.

To Eat

Brown Dog Pizza, one of the best places in Telluride to grab a bite to eat. Photo credit: Brown Dog Pizza

Brown Dog Pizza

We don’t like to sensationalise, but Brown Dog Pizza has been selected as the ‘World’s Best Pizza’. Can’t say more – try it, if you can get a table. Otherwise order take away. Just don’t miss it.

The Butcher & The Baker Cafe

Two seasons ago The Butcher & The Baker opened their Colorado Avenue restaurant, a significant upgrade from the deli counter down the street where the eatery got its start. Through talent, perseverance and love Meg Ossola has built a community institution: an approachable & innovative cafe, deli / bakery counter and full-service restaurant and bar, and an irreplaceable part of Telluride’s heart. Expect just about everyone in town to pop by throughout the weekend, especially for brunch.
Butcher & The Baker Cafe

Grocery stores

Clark’s Market is the best decent-sized grocery store in town. It’s pricey, but has a fairly broad selection. If you’re into something fancier, Over the Moon is excellent. If you’re looking to bring most of your groceries and minimize eating out stop at a big grocery store in Durango or Montrose – otherwise you’ll be paying ski town prices.

To Drink

Get in some live tunes at Fly Me to the Moon Saloon. Photo credit: Fly Me to the Moon

The bar and nightlife scene in Telluride is excellent, especially during Mountainfilm. You can find just about anything to suit your needs, or enroll others and create it.

Day bars are just as cool as the nighttime ones – Telluride Brewing Company is a cool jaunt down the valley floor (free bus – the Galloping Goose), and the cocktail lounge at Allred’s has one of the best views in North America.

Before it gets too late, though, head into town, where a night might start with a drink at the New Sheridan, maybe two, plus a game of pool if you’re feeling cheeky. Dinner and conversation – plus another cocktail if it’s your thing – at the Butcher & the Baker.

Or, if you’ve already eaten, check out Liberty Bar, the swank-looking spot that replaced O’Bannon’s, the pseudo-basement token Irish pub that Tarantino and his crew took over the winter of 2014, when they were shooting The Hateful Eight.

Fly Me To The Moon can be fun or even a spontaneous inversion to Mountain Village on the gondola…

The only requirements left for the evening are:

1 Do whatever you want, as long as you don’t harm anyone.
2 Drink water. You’re at 8000 feet.
3 Before you go home pop into the Last Dollar Saloon, AKA the Buck, for a nightcap. If you’re not feeling too wavy try your hand at Big Buck Hunter.
4 Get home safe.

Only last piece of advice is to go to the Mine party if you can. Not much else to say about that.

To Watch

The Last Honey Hunter. Photo credit: Mountainfilm

The Last Honey Hunter (Ben Knight, Renan Ozturk) – World debut.
Anything in Town Park – Free films each night under the stars.
Bears Ears (Fitz Cahall) – An immersive film, at the Virtual Reality Studio. Friday – Monday, 81325 Gallery.

To Climb

Depending on the conditions (avalanche hazard can exist as long as there is snow on the ground in the San Juans), Telluride offers direct access to fantastic climbing and hiking. Options include:
Via Ferrata
Ophir Wall
Sneffels Highline

To Explore

Bear Creek Trail, Colorado. Photo credit:

The Keystone Gorge

It’s an hour splendidly spent hiking the Keystone Gorge loop down from the Telluride Mountain School. Human foot traffic only, though the Galloping Goose Connector trail would get you views and the option to bring your mountain bike or dog.

Descend around a thousand feet along the cascading north fork of the San Miguel, down from the alpine into the canyons. Or better yet, take a few hours and immerse yourself in the energy of the place.

Bear Creek Trail

Just south of town one of the most stunning alpine basins in North America funnels Bear Creek down to join the San Miguel. Check at Jagged Edge for info on trail conditions and avalanche hazard, and be reverent in the space: it is rightly valued by many locals as one of the best things about Telluride.

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Accommodation near Telluride

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John Robison IV

John Robison IV is a researcher, explorer and entrepreneur based in Colorado. His current job entails building interactive data visualizations for an international NGO, but in the past he has worked as a international cycling tour guide, a wedding photographer, a Lyft driver, a technical project manager, a snowboard patroller, a startup co-founder and a professional cliff diver, among other vocations. John loves exploring the world by any naturally-powered means, be it sailboat, bicycle or splitboard.




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