Telluride History

Turn of the Century

Telluride was founded in 1878 as the town of Columbia. However, as post office confusion grew between Columbia, Colorado and Columbia, California, the town agreed to change its name. Debate continues a millennium later whether the source of the name Telluride originated from the element associated with deposits of gold and silver or if it was from the farewell shout “To-Hell-You-Ride” from families sending their young men to claim their fortune in a budding mining town that was quickly developing a boisterous reputation.

Gold Rush and Bank Robberies

At the height of the gold rush, there were nearly 5,000 people living in Telluride and the number of millionaires (per capita) outnumbered those in New York City. This wealth did not go unnoticed. The notorious bank robber Butch Cassidy actually began his stick-up career here at the San Miguel Valley Bank, getting away with a cool $24,580!

Ghost Town

With all booms, there is an inevitable bust and Telluride was no different. As the mining dried up, families packed up and left in droves. In 1953, the last mine closed and Telluride, for all practical purposes, became a ghost town until the early seventies.


The beauty of this region is undeniable and with the epic annual snowfall, it didn’t take long for an entrepreneur named Joe Zoline, hailing from Beverly Hills, to descend upon this place with a grand vision. He brought his dream to fruition in 1972 opening the Telluride Ski Resort with five lifts and a day lodge.

Becoming World Class

The ski resort was purchased by Ron Allred and Jim Wells and transformed into the world-class destination resort we see today. Development continued with the creation of the Gondola transportation system, the incorporation of the town of Mountain Village and expansion to new terrain. In 2004, Chuck Horning purchased the resort and has dedicated further resources to expansion including Black Iron Bowl (Lift 12), Gold Hill Chutes and Palmyra Peak (Lift 14), and Revelation Bowl (Lift 15).

Today – A Year-Round Resort

Summer visits have increasingly grown in popularity and the area now sees guests coming for extended 3-4 week stays during July and August. There is plenty to do with festival-filled weekends, an old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration and plenty of scenic hikes exploding with wildflowers throughout the area.