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“I knew I had finally found what I was looking for, in my search to build America’s greatest ski resort.” – Ron Allred

Telluride’s history is sparkled in gold. Telluride was originally founded as Columbia, Colorado, in 1878, a few years after the Smuggler gold vein was discovered high above town. Mining was truly the heart of Telluride’s economy until 1972, when Telluride Ski Resort officially opened.

Joseph T Zoline first announced his plans to buy and develop the Telluride ski area in 1968. He acquired 4,200 acres, purchasing 920 of them from the Gorrono family, 3,300 from Gene Adams, and other pieces from the US Forest Service. The following years were spent meticulously planning the layout and applying for special use permits. Construction began in 1971 and the original five ski lifts were all built a year later, in 1972.  No ski area in the US, let alone a new one, had ever built five double chair lifts in one season before. Perhaps by miracle, the resort officially opened on December 22, 1972, but not before a week delay.

The base of Lift 7, Coonskin Lift, with the ticket office nearby, circa 1975. Lift 7 was built that year, it was a brand new chairlift at the time.
Photo property of the Telluride Historical Museum. All rights reserved. 

According to Zoline:

“The day lodge at the bottom of the first lift was not ready because of delays in construction due to heavy snows and unprecedented cold weather. Between November 15 and December 15 when we intended to open, the area got 100 inches of snow and that’s almost half the average for the whole winter season. With this we had some record low temperatures, and we just couldn’t get all the things done that had to be done.”

The resort opened on December 22, 1972, with a day of free skiing and half price tickets the following day. Daily lift tickets were only $7.50 and the ski school offered classes starting at $6.

Ron Allred and Jim Wells (of Benchmark Companies) purchased the Telluride ski area in 1978. Allred had a vision to make Telluride a world-class ski destination and initiated additional planning right away. One of their first projects, after acquiring the resort, was building a restaurant with “modern bathrooms and a deck” at Gorrono Park. Gorrono Ranch, as we know it today, opened in 1980.

Skiing Above Gorrono Restaurant circa 1980-1985
Photo property of the Telluride Historical Museum. All rights reserved. 

50 years later, Telluride Ski Resort is a world-class destination known for its dramatic beauty, challenging terrain, and charming town. Present day Telluride Ski Resort is home to 2,000+ skiable acres, 148 ski runs, 17 lifts/gondolas, and 4,425 feet of vertical drop between Palmyra Peak and the base area in town.

Growing up in Telluride, I remember fabled stories of the “golden years” from legends like Bill Mahoney Sr. I recall tales of Bruce Palmer, a local schoolteacher and avid skier, who helped get the kids in town interested in skiing. Palmer was instrumental in building the first rope tow in town (near the beaver ponds); all before the ski resort was even a vision. In 1964, with help from Idarado Mining Company and several volunteers, the rope tow was moved to Grizzly Gulch, what we now call Kid’s Hill.

I owe so much gratitude to the visionaries of Telluride and the ski resort. We wouldn’t be here without them.

Nothing makes me happier than meeting people who are as in love with Telluride as I am. People can choose to live anywhere in the world. When they pick Telluride, I know we’ll have a lot in common. I’d love the opportunity to connect and hear your Telluride story.