Telluride is a beautiful mountain town, tucked in a remote corner of southwest Colorado. Today, Telluride is known as world class ski resort, attracting an array of wealthy second homeowners and ski bums alike. Conde Nast Readers voted Telluride the #1 Ski Resort in North America in 2012, 2013 and 2014. However, things weren’t always this way.
If you look back at the last 150 years, you will discover a town that is brimming with colorful history, diverse culture, action packed adventure and majestic alpine beauty. Modern day history starts with the Ute Indians who called the valley home for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and was soon replaced with an unbridled mining boom in the late 1800’s that fueled intense growth, immense wealth and some wild debauchery. The heady mining days were followed by a huge slump, with Telluride remaining almost a ghost town until the development of the Telluride Ski Resort began in the 1970’s.
You might have heard some of the more well known facts about Telluride. Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank here, and the world’s first alternating current power plant nearby gave Telluride the first street lights before any other place on the planet.
However, there are also some lesser known facts about our little mountain town that you will no doubt find no less interesting.
Below I have included a list of the 10 most well known facts, as well as 10 lesser known facts about beautiful Telluride, Colorado. Test your knowledge by seeing how many of these facts you were aware of!
10 well known facts about Telluride.
- Butch Cassidy and his “wild bunch” gang robbed the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride on June 24, 1889. Widely believed to be their first major bank robbery, they walked away with over $24,000 (a LOT of money in those days). Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid went on to become some of the most infamous robbers in US history.
- At 9,078 feet above sea level, the Telluride Regional Airport is the highest commercial airport in North America. Pilots have described the approach into Telluride as one of the most challenging, but beautiful airports in the country.
- Telluride has the only free gondola public transportation system of its kind in North America. Connecting the historical town of Telluride with the resort town of Mountain Village, the gondola cost about $16 million to build in 1996. Financed by the Town of Mountain Village Homeowners Association, it costs approximately $3.1M a year to maintain and about 100,000 man-hours per year to operate. It operates from 7 am to midnight in season, and is usually closed for 6 weeks every off season.
- Telluride is home to Bridal Veil Falls which sits at the east end of the box canyon, and is Colorado’s tallest free-falling waterfall at 365 feet. Sitting on top of the waterfall is the Bridal Veil Hydroelectric Plant which was built in 1895 and was the second oldest hydroelectric power plant in the world. In winter the falls freeze over, forming an imposing challenge to intrepid ice climbers. The falls were opened briefly in the 1990s to ice climbers, but the area is private property so climbing has been legally prohibited since. Referred to as a “mega classic” and “the most difficult waterfall ice climb in North America,” some climbers have trespassed to take a crack at the imposing and dangerous climb.
- Telluride is proud to be the home of Telluride Helitrax – Colorado’s sole helicopter ski operation. Started in 1982, the guides at Helitrax offer skiers and snowboarders a safe and personalized backcountry experience. Guests can choose from a variety of options including the standard day trip, multi day trips and custom tours. Helitrax flies in the beautiful San Juan Mountains at the highest elevations of any heli skiing operation in North America, ensuring panoramic scenery and powder turns. A day with Helitrax is likely to result in “best day of your life” comparisons.
- Telluride was the first town in the world to have alternating current (AC) power, thanks to the Ames Power Plant located just down the road. Once called the “City of Lights,” Telluride was the first city in the world to have electric streetlight. The Bridal Veil Hydroelectric Power Plant was the second AC generating power plant to be built, after the Ames facility.
- The Galloping Goose’s oldest bus, #101, runs on non-toxic, biodegradable, vegetable oil-based biodiesel fuel.
- There are no chain restaurants or shops in Telluride. And we consider that to be a good thing!
- The nearest stoplight is 45 miles away in Ridgway, Colorado. It’s kind of ironic that Telluride was the home of the world’s first AC power plant has no stop lights. In fact, there are no stop lights anywhere in San Miguel county. Again, we consider this to be one of many blessings of living in our little mountain paradise.
- The San Juan mountains surrounding Telluride contain the highest concentration of 13 and 14 thousand foot peaks in Colorado. That’s a lot of elevation! The dramatic and majestic peaks surrounding Telluride lead many visitors to draw comparison’s to the European Alps. While we can’t claim official Sound Of Music status, it is not uncommon to hear residents and guests marvel that “Telluride is the most beautiful place in Colorado”.
10 lesser known facts about Telluride
- The town of Telluride was originally named “Columbia”. Confusion with this name choice quickly prevailed, as there was another mining town in California with the same name. In 1887, the town was renamed Telluride, supposedly after the tellurium minerals found in nearby areas of Colorado. Some speculate that the name “Telluride” actually derived from the phrase “To Hell You Ride”, which described the treacherous journey to get to our remote mountain town back in the day.
- There are 350 miles of mining tunnels running beneath the mountains of Telluride.
- During the heady mining days of the late 1800‘s the per capita wealth of Tellurider’s exceeded those living in Manhattan. These days, Telluride attracts a different ind of wealth. Tom Cruise currently has his Telluride ranch on the market for $59 million. Any takers?
- “Welcome to Telluride, the best little stoner town in NorthAmerica” – Outside Magazine. Telluride was one of the first towns in the US to sell legalized marijuana. Shops started selling weed on January 1, 2014, and there are four recreational marijuana stores in town.
- Quentin Tarantino fans are in for a Telluride treat. Tarantino’s next film, “The Hateful 8” just wrapped filming in Telluride in March 2015. Hundreds of crew members and cast rocked into town in November, and stayed for several months. Filming was held up in February by a lack of snow. Tarantino supposedly called in the services of a shaman to perform a snow ceremony, and Samuel L Jackson, one of the film’s main stars was seen in the midst of the ski burning ceremony in town park. Suffice to say, a few days later Telluride experienced one of it’s biggest snow storms in memory. Film crew and skiers rejoiced together! The Hateful Eight, also starring Channing Tatum, Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh, is due to be released in the fall of 2015.
- Wilson Peak, the iconic mountain that represents the beauty of Telluride and it’s surrounds, is the mountain featured on the Coors beer bottle. Coors beer has filmed 3 ads in Telluride.
- Alpino Vino, a European inspired restaurant sitting at the top of See Forever ski run, is the highest restaurant in North America at 11,996 feet. You can ski right in during the day, or ride the enclosed snow coach up to the fine dining establishment for an extra special night time dining experience.
- In 1964, the Telluride Historic District, which includes a significant portion of the town, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also one of Colorado’s 20 National Historic Landmarks.
- In the 2010 United States Census, Telluride had a population of 2,325 people. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 122.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 127.4 males. It is reported that the town of Telluride was home to over 5,000 people at the height of the mining boom in the late 1800’s. The town’s population was at it’s lowest during the depression of the 1930’s and also during the 1970’s when the mining was dying out, but the ski resort had not yet begun. The population during these times was around 500 people.