Telluride: Colorado's Best Kept Secret

April 6, 2010

Since America is still so relatively young (almost 234 years), it's not too often that we get the chance to visit a place steeped in history. Of course, there are those rare magical towns where the history has been preserved and celebrated. Telluride, Colorado is one of them. In fact, it has such a strong historical significance that it was named a "National Historic Landmark." Simply stated, Telluride is historically significant and significantly colorful!

Let's go back a few thousand years. Nestled on three sides by mountain peaks, Telluride was a summer camping ground for the Ute Indians for centuries. Summer after summer they came to camp here, only to pack up in the fall and move on; knowing that they would be back after the winter cold. Even then, Telluride was both beautiful and fruitful during the long summer days. But the Ute Indians were not the only ones to appreciate this area.

As migration moved west and mining started to create a buzz, Telluride, then called Columbia, began to form. As Columbia grew in population, there was confusion between the town and Columbia, California. So Columbia, Colorado was renamed Telluride. The origin of the name "Telluride" has two potential stories: the first is that it is a derivative of the word "tellurium," a metal element found in the area. While this is the most plausible origin, local lore counters that "Telluride" comes from the phrase "to hell you ride," a name surely based on Telluride's reputation for characters and community life as rugged and colorful as its landscape. Regardless of how it was named though, Telluride boomed, especially after the toll road and then the Rio Grande Southern Railroad went through the town.

Unfortunately, this prosperity was undermined when the worth of silver crashed in 1893. The town began to dwindle, even though mining began to pick up again a few years later. However, with the first World War, the mining industry suffered a fatal blow and the town began to waste away again.

Telluride's second chance (or third chance, if you're keeping track) came in the 70s because of a man by the name of Joe Zoline, who worked tirelessly to develop Telluride into one of the best mountains in North America for expert skiers while respecting the community's desire to stay small and pristine. In 1973, Zoline opened the Telluride Ski Resort and a whole new era was born. Now, almost 40 years later, Telluride is known as a hip counterpoint to Aspen, holding onto its colorful character in the form of impressive festivals, celebrity chic, and some of the finest skiing on the continent.

But more about that next time. For now, it's enough to know that a place that began as a campground for Ute Indians, grew wild and free through the mining boom, died and thrived to die again, is back like a phoenix for you to enjoy. Telluride is a special something else, a well kept secret most people in Colorado are more than happy to keep to themselves. So Quintess is here to let you in on the secret: Telluride is an amazing year-round destination for explorers of all ages, and our members get to experience all that this mountain town offers from the vantage point of our two club homes.

So when are you going to Telluride?

With thanks to ellenm1 and Rob Lee for their pictures!

~ Laura, Guest Contributor