The Evolution of Telluride into a Ski Resort Superstar

Downhill Skiing Telluride
The Telluride region, its prehistoric setting for nomadic tribes over many centuries, ancient mining industry and unique lure for vacationers and residents were shaped over millions of years by its geology and changes in the global climate. Originally part of an inland sea, the area was underwater until mountains pushed up the land more than 70 million years ago. Volcanic activity added both mass and minerals to these mountains, setting the stage eons later for the first discovery of gold in the Telluride region in 1858. Mining was a very tough and problematic industry leading to boom-and-bust cycles for Telluride and the San Juan Mountain region. Many of the areas’ mines shut down in the 1950s. Population dwindled from thousands to hundreds in the Telluride area. The development of a ski resort in the 1970s proved to be an unforeseen blessing for Telluride.
Downhill Skiing

Scandinavian immigrant miners brought skiing to the region during its boom time. Then, in 1937, William H. Mahoney erected a primitive tow rope and engine near Telluride’s Town Park’s Beaver Pond. (Mahoney, who later served as the first ski area mountain manager, was deservedly inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 1997.) In the late 1960s word was spreading far and wide about Telluride among skiing enthusiasts. Word got to Joe Zoline, a Chicago businessman who, seeing the potential for creating a profitable ski resort in the Telluride area, bought two local ranches.

Obviously creating a ski resort from scratch would be no small task. Visionary Zoline hired Emile Allais, a French Olympic skier, to help design runs, lifts and the layout of the mountain; enlisted Bill Mahoney to help with acquisition of land-use and water rights; and also hired ecologists and environmental planners. No question for local preservationists, Zoline intended to protect the environment and the Victorian-era town as well as create a very successful ski area. The Telluride Ski Resort officially opened on December 22, 1972 together with the Telluride Ski School. Skiers had to ride five lifts to get to the top of the mountain and then ski to town and catch a bus back to the day lodge. Not until 1975 were the town and the ski area connected by a lift.

Telluride Colorado

In 1978 two Colorado Natives, Ron Allred and Jim Wells, purchased the ski area from Zoline and proceeded to transform Telluride through mountain and lift upgrades, construction of on-mountain restaurants and trails, and development of Mountain Village (1987). With the addition of an 18-hole golf course in Mountain Village in 1992, the Telluride Ski Area became the Telluride Ski & Golf Company (TSG). Incorporated in 1995, Mountain Village became a municipality. A Gondola connecting the historic town with Mountain Village opened on December 20, 1996. Providing a unique, sustainable and efficient means of transportation between the two town, the free 13-minute scenic ride was and still is the only transportation of its kind in the county. Millions of people ride the Gondola each year.

In July 1999, Allred and Wells acquired a remarkable joint-venture partner, Hideo “Joe” Morita. By March, 2001, Morita had acquired 100 percent of TSG. Morita’s investments enabled the resort to add significant improvements and expand terrain for all levels of skiers, including the opening of Prospect Bowl. In February 2004, the resort was acquired by Chuck Horning who remains the owner today. Year after year expansion of terrain continued. After purchasing The Inn at Lost Creek, in July 2015 TSG purchased all of the retail space within the Peaks Resort and Spa and assumed the management of hotel operations.

Skier Skiing Downhill

Between 2005 and 2009 the ski resort opened Mountain Quail, Black Iron Bowl, the Gold Hill Chutes and Revelation Bowl. The addition of access to 13,320-foot Palmyra Peak elevated the ski area’s vertical drop to 4,425 feet. Opening of the Telluride Adventure Center provided a hub for anyone looking for fun things to do in all seasons. The Telluride Ski and Golf Resort has come a very long way from its beginnings in a fading mining town. Picks, shovels, and hammers have been replaced in Telluride by a world class, year-round destination, high-end accommodations, fine dining, spas, shops, and memorable character, charm and friendliness.