|Old Telluride Trail Maps:
|Left: Part of Telluride's new Prospect Bowl
Right: The Town of Telluride
The town of Telluride was founded in 1878 under the name of Columbia.
Due to confusion with other towns called Columbia, residents renamed
their town to Telluride. Most residents believe the name “Telluride” stems
from the metal Tellurium. Others believe that it is derived from “To-hell-
you-ride” because of its remote location.
Mining was Telluride’s claim to fame in the early days. Typical minerals
mined were gold, silver, lead and zinc. Land during this time in town was
about a dollar per acre. At the height of the mining era, the town’s
population topped out at about 5,000 people, a decently sized town for
southwest Colorado. In 1889, the famous bank robber Butch Cassidy
robbed his first bank in town. This gave Telluride a true western-type
During the 1950’s, the town was under decline. A large worker strike at
the Smuggler-Union mine left many people without jobs. The area’s
population plummeted to the point where it was almost a ghost town.
By the early 1970’s, California resident Joe Zoline found an opportunity
to develop a ski area. Telluride Ski Area officially opened in 1972 with
five chairlifts and a day lodge. Initially, all of the ski lifts were up in the
Mountain Village area. By 1975, the Coonskin lift was installed by SLI
and linked the town of Telluride to the ski area. In the early 1980's, Ron
Allred and Jim Wells bought the area from Zoline.
For the 1981-82 ski season, Telluride installed their first snowmaking
system. The year before, Colorado experienced one of their driest snow
seasons on record. Many areas struggled to open for Christmas. The
system included two miles of welded steel pipe, buried three feet
underground. This allowed the area to ensure adequate bases on their
lower terrain near the base of Mountain Village and the Town of Telluride.
Another major mountain upgrade occurred during the summer of 1985.
CTEC of Salt Lake City was contracted to install two triple chairs and
relocate an old SLI double chair. The two triple chairs included Lift #9
and Lift #4, which are the current locations of the Village and the Plunge
lifts. The double chair is the current Oak Street Lift. The whole cost of
the project was 3.5 million dollars and added 180 acres of new terrain.
Telluride installed its first high-speed lift the following summer.
Doppelmayr USA installed the longest high-speed quad in the world. The
chair’s ride time is 10.5 minutes with a vertical drop of 1,735 feet.
The 1990’s brought big changes to the Telluride Ski Area. The country’s
first chondola system was installed. A chondola consists of both chairs
and gondola cars. The lift was manufactured and installed by CTEC-
Garaventa. Telluride continued their upgrading of lifts by completing the
nation’s only free gondola transportation system. It consists of three
different legs, starting in the town of Telluride, descending to Mountain
village and finally to the main parking facility. The system was also
engineered by CTEC-Garaventa and had a combine cost of over 19
Ron Allred first envisioned having the gondola as a public transportation
system for the town in the early 1980’s. The lift was incorporated into the
resorts master plan in 1986 and finalized in 1995 after many legal
disputes. Since the project is considered a public transportation system,
the ski area only paid a total of 72 percent of the total financing, while the
Mountain Village Metro District paid the remaining 28 percent. There are
many environmental advantages to such a system. Since the prior way of
reaching Mountain Village was via a bus route around the ski area, the
gondola has been able to minimize traffic on community roads as well as
In 1999, Telluride brought in an additional investor into the ski area.
Hideo “Joe” Morita of Japan became a partial owner of the area and
allowed the resort to further invest in its slopes. That summer,
Doppelmayr was brought back to install the new Village and Palmyra
Express Quads. These new chairs provide the area with much faster lift
access to some of the most popular intermediate trails. The old Village lift
was relocated to the current location of the Apex Triple.
Telluride continued its aggressive upgrades with the Prospect Bowl
expansion in 2001. This new bowl opened mostly intermediate and
expert terrain above the Palmyra chair. During the summer of 2001, three
new Doppelmayr Express Quads were installed, providing excellent
access to some of the state’s best steeps.
With all of the improvements recently, Telluride is quickly becoming one
of Colorado’s best all-encompassing resorts.
|Trails off of the Prospect Lift
|Skiing off of the Plunge area
|Riding Coonskin from town
|Pros and Cons to Skiing Here:
|Telluride's free gondola system.
|+ Varied terrain from each lift
||- Area is far from major cities and
difficult to travel to via roads
|+ Fast chairs and few crowds
||- Lower elevations can mean early
|+ Town is very progressive and has
an original 'mining era' feel to it
|- Lift tickets and hotels are
expensive during peak seasons
|+ Challenging steeps can be found
in the Prospect Bowl
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All Rights Reserved.
*Resort Stats Current for 2009-10
The Colorado Ski Museum
|Insider Tips to Skiing Here: