Once upon a time…


Telluride was founded in 1878. It was named after valuable ore compounds of the chemical element tellurium, a metalloid element which forms natural tellurides, the most notable of which are telluride ores of gold and silver. Telluride began slowly because of its isolated location…


In June 1889, Butch Cassidy, before becoming associated with his gang, “the wild bunch”, robbed the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride. This was his first major recorded crime. He exited the bank with $24,580, and later became famous as a bank robber.

first ski lift

Mining was Telluride’s only industry until 1972, when the first ski lift was installed. As mining phased out and a new service industry phased in, the local population changed sharply. Mining families were replaced by what locals referred to as “hippies”, young people with a 1960s worldview which frequently clashed with the values of Telluride’s old-timers. These newcomers were characterized as being idle trust funders who were drawn to the town for a casual life style and outdoor excitements such as hang gliding, mountain climbing, and kayaking.


The new population opposed town growth and economic expansion, including growth due to tourism and skiing. At one point, a serious effort was made to ban cars from the city limits and force visitors to use horse-drawn carts. The 1970s had fluctuating snowfalls and economic recession. However, the town’s now famous music and film festivals were immune from anti-growth criticism and flourished. These festivals exposed hundreds of thousands to the grandeur of the valley for the first time and created iconic associations with elite entertainers.

Colorado’s best kept secret

During the 1980s, Telluride developed a reputation for being “Colorado’s best kept secret”, which paradoxically made it one of the more well-known resort communities. The different aspects of Telluride history can be found in the Telluride Historical Museum. It offers engaging annual exhibitions alongside the Museum’s permanent collection of artifacts from the region’s Ute heritage, robust mining history, and ski and festival history.