Telluride History

Celebrating Forty Legendary Years at the Telluride Ski Resort

imagesTelluride Ski Resort just announced that it will celebrate its 40th year in operation this spring with forty days of events, contests, scavenger hunts and more. “Forty days of fun events to conclude our 40th season with a bang. With everything from dress up themed days to the famed pond skim, Telluride is where it will be this spring,” said Telluride Ski Resort’s Marketing Manager, Brandy Johnson.

The 2012/2013 season marks the resort’s 40th year in operation in the beautiful San Juan Mountains. Born out of an adventurous desire to immerse in the precious “white gold” or snowy powder that blankets the surrounding peaks, West Coast entrepreneur Joe Zoline opened the Telluride Ski Resort to the public in 1972. The resort has grown immensely in the past forty years and was ranked #1 in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2012 Readers’ Poll for Best Ski Resort in North America.

After a major storm system left Telluride Ski Resort with close to forty inches this past week, the ski resort’s new marketing efforts come at the perfect time for friends and families looking to enjoy great conditions and participate in unique events this spring.

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Historical Museum Chronicles Area Gold Rush to Ghost Town

Telluride-Historical-Museum1-e1373585078185Telluride, Colorado, wasn’t always a famous ski resort and summer vacation spot. This small town in the San Juan Mountains started out as a mining camp. Whether it’s local geology or the Native American Ute, the preserved town core built during the gold rush or the surrounding ghost towns, these stories have been chronicled by the Telluride Historical Museum.

The Colorado gold rush began in 1858, about ten years after the California gold rush started. Immigrants set out for the Rocky Mountains in hopes of striking it rich. “Pike’s Peak or Bust” described the determination of prospectors. Mining camps and towns sprang up as the miners sought their fortunes. Whether they came from Scandinavia, Italy, France, Germany, Ireland, Cornwall, or China, they were there for one purpose—gold.

Not all prospectors were headed for Pike’s Peak. Many of them went to the San Juan Mountains in the southwestern part of Colorado. The first claim near Telluride was made in 1875 and registered as the Sheridan Mine. It proved to be rich not only in gold, but zinc, lead, copper, iron, and silver. The town was established in 1878, first under the name of Columbia, but changed to Telluride after the U.S. Post Office informed them Columbia was the name of another mining camp.

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A Milestone for Water Diversions in Colorado

If 1962 was a big year for skiing, with the opening of Vail, in Colorado it was also notable for benchmarks in diversion of water. One project was completed and another was started, the two of them substantially enlarging the unnatural flow of water from the Colorado River Basin to the Front Range of Colorado.

Colorado is an unbalanced state. Nearly 80 per cent of precipitation in the state falls west of the Continental Divide, where nearly all of Colorado’s ski areas are located, mostly in the form of snow. But 80 per cent of its population and an even higher percentage of its farms and ranches live on the eastern side.

Diversions across the Continental Divide began in 1911 and accelerated in 1936 when dewatering of creeks around Winter Park began. But 1962 was a huge year for this export of water. That year, Denver finished a new tunnel that is three metres in diameter and 37.5 kilometres long. The tunnel diverts water from Dillon Reservoir into the South Platte River, upstream from Denver.

Also in 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave a speech kicking off construction of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. The project diverts water from the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork Rivers, both located in the Aspen area, to cantaloupe and other farms in the Arkansas River Valley. Some of that water has now found its way to metropolitan Denver.

Now, Colorado faces a new issue. Instead of figuring out how to develop its water, the key question is how much water it has left to develop — if any. The Colorado River Compact of 1922 apportions water among the seven states from Wyoming to California. It also requires Colorado and other upper-basin states to deliver 7.5 million acre-feet of water to the lower-basin states on a rolling 10-year average.

During the last 30 years, Colorado and other upper-basin states have delivered an average of 10.8 million acre-feet. But that average has been exceeded only three times out of the last 12, reports John McClow of Gunnison, writing in the Grand Junction Free Press. 2012 was particularly bad: just a little over 2 million acre-feet of water flowed into Lake Powell from April through July, the prime runoff months, reports Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado River Water Conservation District.