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Telluride Colorado

10 Years of Snowshoe Guiding and Still Loving It

Interviews with Snowshoe Guides Jane Watenpaugh and John SirJesse

Explore a part of Telluride Ski Resort that is normally unseen by the average skier or snowboarder, or snowshoe through the exquisite backcountry of Ophir or Lizard Head. Telluride Adventure Center’s expert naturalist snowshoe guides will lead you through a winter wonderland, as you search for signs of wildlife and learn about our surrounding trees, geology, history, climate and captivating natural world.

One thing that stands out to everyone that participates during one of our Telluride Adventure Center Snowshoe Tours are the guides. Such personalities and insight comes from these people and you can really tell the passion they have for what they do and where they live, work, and play.

We sat down and interviewed two of the guides who have been doing snowshoe tours for over ten years and picked their brains about their experiences and why they love what they do.

Jane Watenpaugh

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Denver.

Why did you decide on Telluride? Moreover, what made you stay here?

There was an ad in the Denver Post for a part time pharmacist in a small ski town called Telluride and my husband and I came and looked at the town and two weeks later moved here. We are really big skiers and Denver was already so crowded driving up to the mountains on the weekends. Mark (her husband) started Sunshine Pharmacy in 1975 and in 1976, I became the first woman ski patroller hired in Telluride. It was hard work but was also the best job I ever had, did it for 10 years even with a newborn baby. I also was a server and worked on trail crew in the summers, we pretty much did anything we could to be able to stay here in Telluride. When my second son was born I retired from ski patrol. I then taught Nordic skiing from the ski area prior to the Prospect expansion because it was more flexible and do able with my family, and then that just morphed into snowshoe tours and I’ve been doing it ever since.

What’s special about snowshoe tours?

It’s a great way to showcase our mountain to people that don’t ski. We get to go up on the ski resort and see the surrounding mountains and experience the ski resort doing something other than skiing.

How long have you been doing this?

10 years now.

Favorite memory/story of a trip?

Highlights of my tours are always when we see wildlife. The experience of it is amazing because it’s so rare. Most animals that you could see up on the ski area are nocturnal. We have the potential to come across animals like snowshoe hares, short and long tail weasels, porcupines, squirrels and coyotes. I’m still waiting to see my first lynx.


John SirJesse

Where are you from?

I grew up in Los Angeles and before I left, I was caretaking a small ranch outside of the city. I left in 1973.

Why did you decide on Telluride? Moreover, what made you stay here?

A friend convinced me to come visit him in Telluride when I was 22 and I didn’t know how to ski or anything but I love the mountains and couldn’t stand to leave the San Juans so I’ve lived here ever since. I started working in wood carpentry and started carving signs on the floor of my tiny apartment that I shared with my friend. Flora Dora was one of the restaurants I made a sign for; it’s the sign that is hanging in front of Flora Dora now. I was a jack-of-all-trades and did odd jobs to make enough money to live here. I love the lifestyle of Telluride and, after reading a lot of books, I wanted to learn how to take care of myself, so I started learning about edible and medicinal plants. I even designed and built house on Wilson Mesa with solar panels and in-floor 

heat, I still live in it today. I have a pickup truck with a plow because of the amount of snow up there, but I love it.

What’s special about snowshoe tours?

A big part of my life is mushrooms and summer mushroom hikes that I guide people on. I go on backpacking trips with barely any food and forage for the rest where I make wild soups with roots and leaves. I even inspect mushrooms for restaurants in towns to serve in their dishes; I’m the local mushroom expert. But the special thing about snowshoe tours are the rarity of seeing plant and wildlife, it makes it so special, I get so excited to see it. I use every chance I can to talk about mushrooms on these tours. Unsea, is a liken that grows on tress in the winter; it’s actually a cousin of a mushroom, so I can breach the topic of mushrooms without actually finding them. Also, animal tracks, they’re so beautiful to see in the snow. In the summer you’re lucky to see any animal tracks.

How long have you been doing this?

It’s my 11th year doing snowshoe tours. My flexible schedule allows for the hikes, which has allowed me to do it for so long.

Do you have a favorite memory or story of a trip?

I always love kids’ reactions on private tours where you can bring the family to snowshoe tours. The kids really get into it and just are in awe of nature, they really get into the knowledge of it 

all. On every tour I show the kids food from the woods around them. During the winter, 90% of the stuff you can talk about isn’t there but there’s definitely some stuff. Acorns and pine nuts are a big part of how the Indians survived during the winters and it’s so fun to talk about the history of Telluride and showing people what they used to eat in the woods. I like to quiz people too, like when you see a dead tree with bark eaten off, I ask them who ate it (it’s porcupines).

The Telluride Adventure Center is your one-stop-shop for everything adventure in and around Telluride. The snowshoe tours are a fun and unique way to get outside and do something different, especially when you get to see the ski resort. Other adventures they offer include snowmobiling, ice climbing, cat skiing, heli-skiing, backcountry skiing and even bungee trampolines. To book your adventure today stop into the Adventure Center offices in the glass building right across from the gondola or call or email them at (970) 728-7422 and

If you haven’t booked your adventure to Telluride yet, The Peaks Resort & Spa, Telluride's only ski-in/ski-out and golf-in/golf-out resort, is right in Mountain Village where you can walk to the slopes and Closing Day concert venue.  A short, free gondola ride away from the historic Town of Telluride, The Peaks is a great option year-round. If you’re looking for a vacation rental or lodging destination in town, explore all of Telluride's lodging options and our trip planning guide.


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