About Telluride, Colorado & History

Ooooh! That’s what most people say when they enter this town wedged in a picturesque glacial canyon at the base of the dramatic San Juan Mountains. Once a remote mining area, today Telluride has become a destination (and home) for artists, skiers, celebrities, second homeowners, hippies, and just about any other human type you could imagine. But that’s what makes it so special.

A restored Victorian main street is delightful for shopping, munching, and people-watching; you can sign up for a walking tour at Historic Tours of Telluride, or guide yourself with a map available from the visitor’s center. Make sure you include a visit to the 1895 New Sheridan Hotel, which in its refurbished state, accepts overnight guests. The Telluride Historical Museum is also a good resource for a quick history lesson on mining to the ski boom trivia.

Almost any outdoor adventure is at your fingertips here, although because of the rugged and steep terrain, many opt for popular jeep rides rather than mountain bike spins. One hair-raising route is Imogene Pass to Ouray where you’ll pass an old mine and fort. A hike every visitor should consider is the one straight out of town to 425-foot Bridal Veil Falls (Colorado’s largest). Stream fishing is good along the Dolores or San Miguel Rivers. Of course, world-class skiing is available “up the road” or via a connected gondola at the Mountain Village and ski area; lifts run in the summer, too.

Telluride has been coined the “City of Festivals,” but the mocking title at least guarantees that any summer weekend you’re likely to stumble on some happening. This mountain community’s most famous fest is the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, which draws national acts to the outdoor amphitheater each June.

Population less than 2,221, with summer festivals we can have more than 10,000 in the two towns. WOW!  Historical Perspective/Buildings of Telluride

With over 1,700 skiable acres closely divided between beginner, intermediate and expert terrain, a 10-acre snowboard park, and not a lift line in sight, Telluride is a paradise for winter adventurers.  Location: 364 miles southwest of Denver on Colorado145.

One of the only true ski-in, ski-out destinations in the Rockies, Telluride provides guests with a level of convenience as distinctive as the breathtaking 360 degree mountain views. Both historic downtown Telluride and the European-styled Mountain Village border the slopes and are connected by a free Gondola. The resort also offers over 50 restaurants ranging from gourmet to barbecue and nightlife just minutes by foot from most Telluride lodging. At 8,750 feet, Telluride, Colorado, combines the relaxed, western spirit of winter in the mountains with an unparalleled sense of ease.

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On-Mountain Winter Adventures in Telluride, Colorado:

  • Free, guided snowshoe tours into Prospect Bowl
  • Free guided mountain tours of the ski and snowboard terrain
  • NASTAR race course available for individual party rental
  • 733 spectacular new acres of terrain in Prospect Bowl
  • Extensive ski school and childcare opportunities

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Off-Mountain Winter Adventures in Telluride, Colorado:

  • The only heli-ski operation in Colorado
  • Over 30 kilometers of snowshoe and Nordic trails
  • Sled dog, snowmobile, horse and sleigh rides
  • Ice skating, shopping, and a variety of spa treatments
  • Hot springs located a scenic 40 minutes away

In the winter, much of the San Juan Mountains' wildlife hibernates or retreats to lower elevations. Birds such as dark-eyed juncos and mountain chickadees remain. They seem as comfortable and active in winter as they are in summer. Gray jays (camp robbers) work the ski area crowd, readily accepting handouts. The white-tailed ptarmigan molts its granite-colored plumage and turns a snowy white, while the snowshoe hare's coat turns the color of milk. Beneath the snow pack, voles and pocket gophers create a network of tunnels stuffed with grasses and forbes, creating a microclimate that allows them to stay active throughout the winter. The winter-white ermine with its black-tipped tail digs into the snow pack to hunt this elusive prey. The quiet observer can watch as its cousin, the chocolate-colored pine marten, or a quill-covered porcupine work their way through the evergreen treetops. On a full moon night, coyotes call to each other across fields of incandescent snow. Honor these winter residents' need to conserve energy in this cold and fragile environment and don't disturb wildlife.

Winter in the San Juan Mountains is also a recreation haven. Outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds venture into the backcountry to experience the abundant snow and shimmering blue skies that have made this area famous.

When traveling in the winter, respect the awesome powers of nature that have created this rugged landscape. Winter storms can be fierce and unpredictable. Sunny, warm mornings often give way to fast-moving cold fronts and fierce snowstorms. Temperatures drop quickly. Blowing snow reduces visibility and is disorienting. Whether in a vehicle or on foot, be prepared for winter travel.

Telluride's towering peaks wear a facade of gentle beauty. Keep your guard up. Many an unwary backcountry enthusiast has witnessed the power of an avalanche. Outfitters and guides can take you to safe terrain that will allow you to experience and enjoy the backcountry safely. For a report on regional conditions, call the avalanche recreation hotline at 970-247-8187.

Long winters and deep snowpacks create an environment that bursts to life each spring in a short but spectacular growing season. Still, the tundra, mesas, peaks, forests and riparian habitats are surprisingly vulnerable mountain ecosystems. When enjoying the backcountry, minimize your impact. Enjoy the San Juans - and please tread lightly.

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Mesmerizing Summers in Telluride, Colorado
To visualize Telluride, Colorado, in the summertime, picture the vibrant hues of rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and amethysts. No, these aren't the gems that drew 19th century miners high into the surrounding 13,000-foot mountains. These are the colors of Telluride when the snow melts and the region explodes into a vivid landscape abounding with recreational and cultural opportunities.

Whether you prefer to hike or mountain bike through wildflower meadows, take a jeep tour up to the historic mines, or spend a tranquil afternoon fly-fishing the San Miguel River, Telluride provides adventures suitable for every age and inclination, making it the ultimate summer destination in the Rockies.

Located at the southern tip of the Rockies, the San Juans are one of the West's most beautiful mountain ranges. Rugged yet inviting, challenging yet accessible ... a world of wonder awaits you.

The Ute Indians cherished the Telluride valley and the San Juans as sacred lands. The mountains held vast riches: healing springs, game, timber, medicinal plants and replenishing waters. Long winters and deep snowpacks create an environment that bursts to life each spring in a short but spectacular growing season. Telluride's towering beauty wears a facade of impenetrable strength, but the tundra, mesas, peaks, forests, and riparian habitats are surprisingly vulnerable. High-altitude environments are particularly susceptible to erosion and pollution. When enjoying the San Juans Mountains, minimize your impact - tread lightly.

The most abundant wildlife you will see throughout the region are mule deer (named for their long, mule-like ears), elk, marmot, pica, chipmunk, squirrel, porcupine, beaver and a large variety of birds. Mountain chickadees and song sparrows dress the woods with their songs. Bear, mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, weasel and even the recently reintroduced lynx are found here. As with any wildlife, keep your distance, don't frighten or feed them, and stay away from their young. A young deer lying in the grass may appear abandoned, but its mother is probably not too far off, waiting for you to leave before she returns to her fawn.

Additional Summer Adventures in Telluride, Colorado:

  • A championship 18-hole golf course just minutes from Telluride via the free Gondola
  • Renowned festivals such as Bluegrass, Jazz, Wine, Film, and Blues & Brews
  • Guided fly fishing, horseback, jeep, and river rafting trips
  • Thousands of acres of national forest and wilderness areas (much of which is accessible from either downtown Telluride or Mountain Village) for hiking, biking, and rock climbing
  • Hundreds of miles of old jeep and mining roads to explore
  • The tallest free-falling waterfall in the state just minutes from downtown Telluride

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The Ute Indians first inhabited San Miguel Park. For Centuries every summer and fall they would live by the San Miguel River and fish. They hunted for deer, elk and mountain sheep in the surrounding mountains. In the winter when the climate was harsh they would head for the safer desert canyons.

Spanish explorers named the San Juan's in the latter 1700's. It wasn't until gold was found in the San Juan's that the San Miguel Valley started to prosper. The mountains were rich in zinc, lead, copper, iron, silver and gold. This began the mining boom. Telluride was founded in 1880 and was originally named "Columbia". Conflict with an already existing Columbia, California and for the town to have a local post office branch they changed the name to Telluride. The name "Telluride" is derived from tellurium, which was never found in the San Juan's, but is a non-metallic mineral deposit associated with gold.

In 1877, with the railroad, advertisements, pictures of the mountain ranges and the "gold rush" proved to bring many walks of life to the valley in search of mining and the like. Telluride's main street, Colorado Avenue had many first businesses; grocery stores, a law office, hardware stores, a general store, meat market, lodging house, post office, bakery and the American House to name a few. Even before churches were built, Telluride had many saloons and the famous red-light district from which those houses are still standing today.

Butch Cassidy and his gang robbed their first bank - the San Miguel County Bank in 1889. The Owner of the bank and his posse went in pursuit of Cassidy's gang. The thieves escaped en route via Trout Lake with around $24,000 and none of the stolen money was ever retrieved.

After the beginning of World War I, Telluride's mining came to a halt with prices of precious metals declining. Not until the 1970's did a new era come upon Telluride - skiing. The community came together to sculpt a ski area, which helped to revitalize Telluride's economy. Founder Joe Zoline installed the first chairlift in 1974 and in 1978, Ron Allred and his partner, Jim Wells formed the Telluride Company and bought the ski area.

The Telluride ski season operates from mid-November through mid-April. Average annual snowfall for the region is 300 inches. In November 1996 the Gondola opened, which was the first of its kind in the United States, providing both ski access and public transportation, taking tourists, commuters, skiers and bikers from the Town of Telluride to San Sophia Station to the Mountain Village in just a 12-minute ride.

Summer, spring and fall are wonderful seasons with a wide range of festivals and celebrations. Mountain Film, Steps to Enlightenment, Annual Balloon Rally, Wings over Telluride, The Hang gliding Festival, The Telluride Ideas Festival, The Bluegrass Festival, The Wine Festival, The Fireman's Fourth of July, The Wild West Fest, The Sunset Concert Series, Theatre in the Park, Hard Rock 100, Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, Mountain Bike Classic, San Miguel Basin County Fair, The Jazz Celebration, The Chamber Music Festival, Tech Fest, Ah Haa Art Auction, Playwriting Festival, KOTO Duck Race, Mushroom Festival, Mudd Butts Theatre, The Telluride Film Festival, Imogene Pass Run, The Blues & Brews festival and more.

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