The Snow Isn’t Falling Yet – Four Festivals to Visit in Telluride BEFORE Ski Season

Telluride, Colorado is traditionally thought of as a winter destination. A mining town-turned-posh ski resort, Telluride attracts visitors from all over the world for its steep runs, top-notch snow, and spectacular natural beauty. But when the snow stops falling and the lifts stop running, the town of Telluride doesn’t shut down. Instead, it gears up for another season – festival season.

Telluride is the unofficial festival capital of Colorado, and it seems like there is another major festival each weekend throughout the summer and into the fall. Telluride Bluegrass Festival, The Wine Festival, and The Jazz Festival are just some of Tellurides signature events. And while the nights are starting to get chillier and the skiers and snowboarders are beginning to look forward to their first trails, there is still plenty of time left to experience all that Autumn has to offer in Telluride.

Here’s a rundown of some of the festivals and events left in Telluride this Fall.

Telluride Film Festival – August 31 – September 3

The Telluride Film Festival is one of the town’s signature events. Every Labor Day weekend, the small mountain town fills with filmmakers, celebrities, and movie buffs eager to see the new crop of films alongside lauded classics. Recently, the festival has gained significant notoreity and has even been named one of the top 10 film festivals. Major films such as Brokeback Mountain and Mulholland Drive were first discovered at the festival, and several filmmakers first gained notoreity in Telluride, including Michael Moore and Robert Rodriguez.

Telluride Film Festival

Each year the festival screens over 50 films across nine different venues in Telluride, with the hottest movies replaying over the weekend as demanded. Passes to the festival range in price from the $390 Cinephile Pass which grants access to limited programs and events to the $3900 Patron Pass which is essentially the golden movie ticket, granting the ticket holder priority seating at any movie and access to several VIP events.

Imogene Pass Run – September 8

The official warning of the event says it all. “THIS IS AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT RACE FOR WELL PREPARED ATHLETES.

This race isn’t for the casual runner or the faint of heart. The Imogene Pass Run is 17.1 miles of grueling climbs, subfreezing temperatures, wind, rain, snow, and fog. The race starts in Ouray and climbs an old jeep trail across the San Juan Mountains and over the second highest vehicular pass in Colorado. The ultra-thin air will leave even the most seasoned runners gasping for every last bit of oxygen to saturate their bloodstream when crossing the pass.

Imogene Pass

Topping out at 13,144 feet, race participants not only have to contend with the elements, but also the fatigue of extreme altitude. After cresting the pass, runners begin the long descent, negotiating rocks, ice, and treacherous switchbacks as they hurdle down the mountain into the town of Telluride where the finish line awaits.

Blues and Brews Festival – September 14 – 16

Not to be overshadowed by its larger, flashier cousin the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Blues and Brews attracts blues music luminaries as well as mainstream popular artists. This year, the lineup includes names such as The B-52s, Trombone Shorty, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, and Phil Lesh & Friends.

Telluride Blues and Brews

But blues music isn’t the only focus of this festival. At Blues and Brews, great beer is paired with worldclass musicians to create a one-of-a-kind experience. Legendary craft breweries such as Avery, Odells, Sierra Nevada, and Stone pour their beers alongside smaller local breweries such as Horsefly, Kannah Creek, Durango Brewing Co. and the hometown favorite Telluride Brewing Company.

Of course, it’s the location of the festival that really sets Blues and Brews apart. When blues legend B.B. King graced the stage back in 2004, he remarked, “Out of the 90 different countries I’ve been to, I’ve never seen anything more beautiful than what you have here.”

Horror Show – October 12 – 14

If the Telluride Film Festival is for serious cinephiles who view filmmaking as fine art, then the Telluride Horror Show is for those moviegoers who love a good thrill – even if it may be a bit cheesy. The film festival’s poster says it all – a 3-Day Horror Film Festival depicted by crowds of mountain-folk (many carrying bluegrass instruments) fleeing the flames of a Godzilla-like creature wreaking havoc on the small mining town in the scenic Colorado mountains.

Telluride Horror Show 2012

The festival runs screens the best and latest horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films to movie goers eager for a shriek. But fans don’t just come for the movies. At the Horror Show, the events outside the theater are half the fun. One such event is the ‘Hannibal Lecter Race’ where two person teams compete to race down the main street of Telluride, with one person dressed as a cop wheeling the other (dressed as Hannibal Lecter, appropriately) in a dolly to the finish line. The winning prize? Some fava beans and a nice chianti.

Imogene Pass image courtesy of markdvk


John Andrew is a Colorado native who spends the majority of his days on the road for business and leisure. He chronicles his journeys and tricks for making the most of every travel opportunity at his site Travel Rinse Repeat. To connect, find John on twitter @travelrinserept or on facebook.


John Andrew is a Colorado native who spends the majority of his days on the road for business and leisure. He chronicles his journeys and tricks for making the most of every travel opportunity at his site Travel Rinse Repeat. John is also an ambassador and contributor to Mountain Reservations.

Connect to John: Twitter or on Facebook.

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