Established as a gold mining town after gold was first discovered in 1858, the town of Telluride was founded in 1878. The town was named after the chemical element tellurium, which was never actually found in the mountains of Telluride. Telluride began slowly because of its isolated location, until in 1890 when the railroad reached town, which brought in more mines and brought out more ore.
In June 1889, Butch Cassidy before becoming associated with his gang, "The Wild Bunch", robbed the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride. This was his first major recorded crime. He exited the bank with $24,580, and later became famous as a bank robber.
Mining was Telluride’s only industry until 1972, when the first ski lift was installed by Telluride Ski Resort founder Joseph T. Zoline and his Telluride Ski Corporation (Telco). Zoline bought the land for the future resort in 1969 and began to craft the slopes. Along with his mountain manager, Telluride native Bill "Sr." Mahoney, they slowly and thoughtfully put together a plan for sustained development of Telluride and the region. As mining phased out and a new service industry phased in, the local population changed sharply. Mining families fled Telluride to settle in places like Moab, Utah, where uranium mining offered hope of continued employment. Mining families were replaced by what locals referred to as "hippies", young people with a 1960s worldview which frequently clashed with the values of Telluride's old-timers. These newcomers were characterized as being idle trust funders who were drawn to the town for a casual life style and outdoor excitements such as hang gliding, mountain climbing, and kayaking.
As the final ore carts were rolling out of the Pandora mine, tourists began to seriously discover Telluride for its magnificent views, expert skiing, and famous autumn color changes. In 1978 a stake of the ski area was purchased by Ron Allred and his partner Jim Wells to form the Telluride Company. The new owners expanded the infrastructure which Zoline had put into place by adding a gondola connecting the Town of Telluride with the Mountain Village.
During the 1980s, Telluride developed a reputation for being "Colorado's best kept secret", which paradoxically made it one of the more well known resort communities. In 2003, Prospect Bowl, an extension to the ski area opened, providing the resort with many new trails and runs. In 2007-08, the ski area opened some of the most extreme, in-bound, hike-to terrain in the country. Most lifts in the area are high-speed quad chairs capable of holding four passengers. The highest lift on the mountain reaches an altitude of 12,255 feet.
Aside from being a premier ski resort destination renowned for exciting winter activities, Telluride also offers an extensive array of things to do and see during the summer. Not a day goes by without something fun to discover or exciting to do in Telluride. The Ute Indians described Telluride as "The Valley of Hanging Waterfalls." You can hike to the Bridal Veil Waterfalls, which cascade 365 feet down the mountain, creating the tallest free-falling waterfall in Colorado. The Bear Creek Preserve is another terrific hike that features several waterfalls, as well as fascinating old mining buildings and equipment. Our staff would be happy to recommend hikes.
Telluride also serves as the ideal base camp to explore the natural wonders of the region, such as the famous San Juan Skyway, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and the majestic Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
Mountain Lodge at Telluride is the gateway to scores of fly fishing opportunities. Superb lakes and streams spangle the mountains around Telluride, full of vibrant, wild trout. Feisty rainbows, beautiful deep-chested browns, orange-spotted brookies you want to save as art and native Colorado cutthroat you feel privileged just to see. A timeless Zen: diamond-clear waters, the luminous light on the riffles, and your soul at peace. The Colorado Division of Wildlife also offers a one-day license for $5.25 or five days for $18.25, all of which are for sale at any local sporting goods shop.
Telluride celebrates everything and anything with myriad festivals - from its annual Bluegrass Festival to festivals of film, the arts, food and wine. Throughout the summer, visitors and locals alike enjoy performances, races, rallies and air shows. Designated a National Historic Landmark District, Telluride also offers a self-guided walking tour through its Victorian architecture - including the historic brothels of Popcorn Alley and the location of Butch Cassidy's famous first heist.
San Juan Mountains
The San Juan Mountains are a rugged mountain range in the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Colorado. The area is highly mineralized (the Colorado Mineral Belt) and figured in the gold and silver mining industry of early Colorado. Major towns, all old mining camps, include Creede, Lake City, Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride. Large scale mining is now uneconomical in the region, although independent prospectors still work claims throughout the range. The last large scale holdouts were the Standard Metals operation near Silverton, which operated until late in the 20th century and the Idarado Mine on Red Mountain Pass that closed down in the 1970s. Another hold-out was the ill-fated Summitville mine on the eastern slope of the San Juans.
There is some tourism in the region, with the narrow gauge railway between Durango and Silverton being an attraction in the summer. Jeeping is popular on the old trails which linked the historic mining camps, including the notorious Black Bear Road. Visiting old ghost towns is popular, as is wilderness trekking and mountain climbing. The San Juans are extremely steep; only Telluride has made the transition to ski resort. Purgatory (now known as Durango Mountain Resort) is a small ski area north of Durango near the Tamarron Resort. There is also skiing on Wolf Creek Pass at the Wolf Creek ski area. Recently Silverton Mountain ski area has begun operation in Silverton. It is a highly rated extreme ski area. Early and late season unguided skiing is possible but for most of the year it is guided skiing only.
The Rio Grande rises on the east side of the range. The other side of the San Juans, the western slope of the continental divide, is drained by tributaries of the San Miguel, Dolores and Gunnison rivers, which all flow into the Colorado River.
The San Juan and Uncompahgre National Forests cover a large portion of the San Juan Mountains.