History of Telluride

Our Mining History

Founded in 1878, Telluride’s history is as colorful as the Victorian homes lining the streets.

Originally named Columbia, the fledgling town was forced to change its name in 1887 due to post office confusion with Columbia, California. From 1887 on Telluride began to earn its place on the map as a budding mining town.

Most say Telluride is named after tellurium, a nonmetallic element associated with rich mineral deposits of gold and silver. Others say it originated from the castaway call “To-Hell-You-Ride” shouted by loved ones who knew of the town’s boisterousness. Either way, folks were attracted to the young town full of promise and opportunity.

In fact, at the turn of the century, more millionaires (per capita) lived in Telluride than in New York City. The Tomboy Mine was one of the world’s greatest gold producers and contributed to more than $360 million dollars of gold pulled out of the area.

The wealth of Telluride attracted the likes of Butch Cassidy, who began his illustrious bank robbing career in town. In 1889, Butch walked away from his first heist at the San Miguel Valley Bank with $24,580, never to be recovered.

All good things came to an end when Telluride’s boom days started moving toward bust. The final blow came when many of the area’s mines shut down in 1953. Families left town in droves and those who stayed realized Telluride’s heyday was a thing of the past. After the 1950’s mining bust, Telluride faded into a sleepy ghost town.

Skiing Comes to Telluride

Snow, once despised by miners, falls in glorious abundance in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Snow put Telluride back on the map. The Scandinavian sport of skiing was introduced to Telluride by Swedes and Finns, maybe for the sheer joy, but more for the quick means of transportation.

Nearly 40 years after the mining bust, an entrepreneur from Beverly Hills envisioned how snow could transform Telluride. Joe Zoline’s dream of building a ski area came to fruition in 1972 when Telluride Ski Resort opened with five lifts and a day lodge. Six years later, two Colorado natives, Ron Allred and Jim Wells, purchased the ski area and began to transform Telluride into a world-class resort through mountain upgrades, the development of Mountain Village, and the creation of innovative public transportation systems – the gondola and chondola.