About Telluride

Telluride is a former gold mining town located in a high-altitude box canyon in southwestern Colorado. Now known more for its ski resort than its mining days, Telluride draws celebrities and people of influence year-round for its mountain scenery, weather, and quality of life.

Gold was first discovered in the Telluride area 1858 and a mining town was created 20 years later. It was originally named Columbia but the post office changed the name after confusion with a town of the same name in California. It was telluride gold and silver ore, instead, that gave name to the town.

Isolation in the box canyon meant that Telluride grew slowly. But when the railroad arrived in 1890, more miners came into the canyon and more gold ore went out, bringing wealth and prosperity. For 100 years, Telluride was a one-industry town, living and dying in the mines.

But in 1891, Telluride was the site of an engineering first. Telluride resident L.L. Nunn partnered with industrialist George Westinghouse to build one of the nation's first hydroelectric power plants. The Ames Hydroelectric Generating Plant sat on top of a cliff just east of town and generated AC electricity from the cascading waters of Bridal Veil Falls, sending it over three miles away to a gold mine. It was the first time AC current had been transmitted that far. The inactive plant still stands above the picturesque falls.

Telluride's final working mine, the Pandora, closed in 1978 but, by then, mining had ceased to be the biggest draw of the town. Skiing became the town's top draw in 1972, when the first ski lift was installed at Telluride Ski Resort. As a result, a younger population moved into the valley and the whole demographic of the town changed from blue collar mining families to young adults. Festivals followed along with a surge in tourism.

Now, tourists flock to Telluride for its natural beauty, ski resort, historic downtown, shopping, and small town charm. The downtown area of Telluride has been designated a National Historic District for its architecture and historical value.

The town's population has fluctuated through the decades, with up to 5,000 people occupying the box canyon floor during the 1880s gold boom but only one-fifth of that total during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Telluride bounced back in 1940 but crashed again right before the ski resort opened in 1972, bringing new life to the town. Now the town is back where it once was in 1900, at an estimated 2,300 permanent residents.