The History of Arizona Days


It all began in late December of 1979!


While everyone (and I mean everyone) else in Phoenix traveled to the traditional ski destination –Purgatory, a group of 12 college friends from Central Phoenix decided to explore a “new” Colorado destination – TELLURIDE. We skied for 3 days and stayed in the “brand-new” Telluride Lodge condominiums.


What a GREAT experience!

This was not your typical Phoenix ski trip to Sunrise, Snowbowl or Durango, but a true adventure. All new terrain with NO LIFT Lines, FUN bars & nightlife, and friendly (interesting) locals, we knew we had stumbled on something VERY special and unique. It’s AMAZING that not much has changed in 37 years! The legal drinking age back then was 18 for Arizona and 21 for Colorado. Of course that did not stop our group from exploring ALL Telluride had to offer – thank God for fake ID’s. The fun bars back then were the Roma, Senate and the Trinity. I came home and begged my Dad to buy this old house on main street for 5K – he thought I was CRAZY! We returned to Phoenix and shared/embellished stories of fun that we had in this little, unknown town. Our good friend, Mike Hess (Phoenix local then) took the lead and organized the Telluride trip for the following few years. We called it ARIZONA DAYS! Twelve goofy friends turned into a full bus the following year, two buses the year after that and eight buses the next. Telluride was so impressed, they hired Mike Hess to come run the Telluride Sales and Marketing. We never looked back and made sure that our Arizona Days was an annual event! Mike moved to Telluride and has been VERY instrumental to the towns’ growth with various “new” development projects over the past 3 decades. While many folks would still travel to Purgatory (Durango) with Gerry Cline’s Alpine Days, we would continue to drag more and more friends (and friends of friends) to Telluride each year. Why deal with daily mountain transfers IF you don’t have to? Popular spots at this time include; Fly to the Moon Saloon, One World, Leimgrubers, and Swede Finn.

The Original AZ Days Crew from 1980
3-gorrono photo 2
1-RCPM photo
4-gorrono photo 3
2-gorrono photo1
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8-sunset photo
5-gorrono photo 4
11-fire 2

It’s now 1989 and I (Mike Clark) decided to start a travel business. Mike Hess had moved to Telluride and was working on National programs, but did keep our original program running – albeit from afar. I thought it could use some more attention from a Phoenix-native that knew and cared so much about Telluride and especially, Arizona Days. Of course, I started with what I knew best and made AZ DAYS my main/signature trip of each year. It’s the early 90’s and BOTH Phoenix and Telluride are really growing. My favorite watering holes are now the Buck (Last Dollar) and Sheridan, but there are many places to choose from in the old-mining town. Word of mouth traveled fast and various groups, schools, churches and companies started trying the newer, more hip destination. The Mountain Village was introduced along with many more properties and the (famous) Gondola connecting the Mt. Village to the original town. Our Telluride trips became VERY popular and our Arizona Days was HUGE – over 800 people at times. Arizona Days is still our most popular trip, but many groups now travel on different weekends throughout the ski season and escape the valley heat in summers. We are proud to say that OUR Arizona groups and customers have helped open many NEW (at-the-time) lodging properties in Telluride. This shows the years of commitment from AZ customers. Many units were BRAND NEW as we blocked space for groups and upgraded their Telluride experience: Lulu City, Plunge, Cimarron, Etta Place, Viking, Ore Station, Ghost Rider, Riverside, Mountainside Inn (old Coonskin Inn), Hotel Telluride, Peaks (twice), Mountain Lodges, Bear Creek, Tristant and many others.

We are so fortunate to have met AND still meet so many GREAT people. It is FUN watching customers evolve from their single days, to couples and now families – ALL enjoying Telluride and all it has to offer! Many past customers have bought properties or moved to Telluride to work and live. My favorite experiences TODAY are introducing brand NEW participants to Telluride for the first time. I can see the enjoyment and excitement in their smiles– the same feelings I felt some 37 years ago.

Over the years, everyone ALWAYS asks me my favorite thing about Telluride. I normally give them the standard (but VERY true) answer. Telluride is a charming, beautiful town surrounded by majestic mountains, has amazing history, FUN bars & nightlife, tons of festivals and things to do, NO LIFT LINES or commutes! Simply – it’s the BEST! I then tell them the about the BEST KEPT SECRET – the LOCALS! I explain that I TRULY believe what makes Telluride so AWESOME – are the LOCALS. ALWAYS has been – ALWAYS will be! They work hard and play hard. Over all the years, I have met and worked with so many different people that ALL have the same cool, friendly, genuine, hip vibe. Customers and friends always talk about the scenery, the beauty, the festivals, the snow, the history, the many different excursions, etc., but to me – the LOCALS are what make Telluride so special and unique.

 Interview with Winter X-Games Host – Ramona Bruland

I feel VERY fortunate to spend so much time in Telluride every year AND meet so many GREAT people. Over the years in Telluride, I have been engaged, gotten married, crashed in an airplane, run into celebrities, rode jeeps, horses, snowmobiles and horse carriages, played golf and tennis, met and worked with so many interesting people, listened to great music and experienced a variety of FUN festivals, drank way too much at the Sheridan, Gorrono, the Buck and others and LOVED every minute of it. Hopefully, we can continue to do this AND share this SPECIAL place with others for another 30+ years!

These days, Telluride has become a year round destination and is VERY popular with Arizona guests. I like to think that in our own little way, our original Arizona Days group had something to do with that.

Today we offer BOTH scheduled trips and individual bookings to various lodging properties throughout Telluride (both Mt. Village & town of Telluride) – saving our customers/friends lots of money via our buying power and help them find and receive the BEST experience available.


Mike Clark | AZ Fun & Leisure

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