The Telluride region is a place one must see to believe. As a small, twinkling jewel, situated off the beaten path and marked by intimate communities tucked amid massive peaks, the entire area could easily be overlooked on a map, in a plane, or on a road trip. That is why those who come here do so because they want to be here, because they have intentionally stumbled upon the towns and mesas that comprise this slice of southwestern Colorado.
As the alpine sovereign over its surroundings, the town of Telluride is only about one square mile in size, with its nearest traffic light 37 miles away. It’s an inherently spectacular place, paired with an entirely genuine demeanor. Telluride’s picture-perfect, protected Victorian architecture is unassumingly hidden at 8,750 feet beneath the jagged and precipitous San Juan Mountains. Its sophistication as a world-class ski resort, threaded with internationally-renowned cultural festivals and events, is disguised behind a casual, informal persona that even famous personalities love to escape to. And its overzealous enthusiasm for the outdoors and close-knit, progressive and conscientious community are both fronted by a small-town charm where familiar faces constitute virtually everyone. Although Telluride’s resident population is only about 2,500, those who visit once, or live here part time, could likely attest that hundreds, even thousands, more would love to call it home.
On the other side of the ski area and connected by the free 13-minute Gondola ride, Mountain Village is Telluride’s younger sibling and a community all its own. Incorporated as a town in 1995 and abutting the mountain’s ski runs and four lifts, Mountain Village is considered the true ski area base. It’s also home to the Telluride Ski & Golf Company’s headquarters, the Telluride Golf Course, Telluride Ski & Snowboard School and most of the region’s large resort hotels. At 9,545 feet, Mountain Village takes the term ‘ski town’ to new heights with its youthful grace and rapidly evolving infrastructure that includes new government offices and a 14,000-square-foot grocery store, as well as several new luxury development projects. It is the quintessential mountain escape, where sunlight bathes its nooks and crannies all day long and panoramic vistas dominate nearly every vantage point. Large homes sit along the golf course and border the ski area, while a pedestrian Village Center evokes a feel similar to European resorts. And with a refined elegance that offers decadent spa treatments, fine restaurants and stylish boutiques, Mountain Village is still a place where jeans with sneakers are acceptable any day of the week, and the state-of-the-art Telluride Conference Center is just steps from a hot dog stand.
Just beyond Telluride and Mountain Village are several mesas, as well as mining and agricultural communities like Ophir, Rico, Placerville and Norwood. Each of these outlying areas possesses a distinct character formed by the land and people who live there.
On the mesas, massive views, vibrant sunsets, roaming wildlife, and alpine tranquility reside. In just a short drive, a different world suddenly emerges, one where the mountains burst from the foreground and night skies are ignited by fistfuls of stars. Paying homage to the ranchers of the Old West, the mesas are where both hectic lifestyles and homesteads take a sigh of relief and stretch out — home is truly away from it all. A sincere love for big backyards with lots of room, relationships with four-legged neighbors, and a peacefulness transcend all seasons.
Particularly unique to the Telluride region are 35-acre mesa parcels that are only 10 minutes from the ski area and the amenities of Telluride and Mountain Village. These ranch properties are not only convenient for folks desiring space as well as proximity, they preserve the region’s open space landscape, helping to eliminate the sprawling feel experienced by other resorts.
Whether in a breathtaking box canyon, a sophisticated village, or on a high-altitude mesa, the Telluride region is a place of diverse landscape and personality. The Telluride community, however, shares a common ground, coming together on ball fields, ice rinks, at an array of restaurants, summer festivals, and on the slopes. No matter how long you’ve lived here or how many times you’ve visited, the intellectual, spiritual and cultural bond that flourishes in these mountains is forever inspiring. As for that dynamic spirit that follows dreams and never takes its surroundings for granted… be warned, it’s contagious.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Telluride’s towering and youthful San Juan Mountains create some of the wildest and most rugged terrain in the Lower 48. But the phrase “wild and rugged” doesn’t just describe Telluride’s mountains, it accurately describes its colorful past. Used by the Ute Indians as a summer camp for centuries, Telluride started receiving recognition between the 1800s and mid-1900s because of its deep pockets of silver and gold. Miners came in hordes to seek their fortune, and most were of the rowdy, woolly and free-thinking variety.
In 1878, Telluride, previously called Columbia, became a town. Its name stemmed from “tellurium,” a nonmetallic element associated with heavy mineral deposits of silver and gold, but many think the name really came from the conductor bellowing “To-hell-you-ride,” as his train wound through the approaching valley. Regardless, Telluride’s true past is highlighted by tales of lawlessness, prostitution, saloon fights and above all, mountains of riches.
During the 50s and 60s mining ground to a halt, but the community was revitalized with the birth of the ski area in 1972. Once again, the woolly free-thinkers returned but this time for different mountains of riches … deep powder snow.