Happy 50th Birthday, Telluride Ski Resort
Fifty years ago, on Dec. 22, 1972, the ribbon was cut on a new ski area. Nestled in the northern San Juans of southwestern Colorado and gifted with stunning scenery, lighter-than-air powder and a community certain that its mountain was something special, the upstart Telluride Ski Area, as it was called then, has since evolved into an award-winning resort that somehow never lost its rough-around-the-edges charm or the close-knit community at its core.
A closer look at each of the five decades of the Telluride Ski Resort reveals the vision, hard work and determination needed to show the world what anyone who has ever skied or snowboarded Telluride knows to be true: It’s the best place on earth.
Even before there was a ski area, there were skiers in Telluride, from Scandinavian miners in the late 1800s who navigated the high-altitude mining camps on skis to mid-century locals skiing the backcountry, on the slopes adjacent to town via homemade rope tows and even pulled behind cars. Among them were Billy “Senior” Mahoney, Bill Mahoney Jr. and Johnnie Stevens who, with other locals, were actively advocating for a ski area when, in 1967, a successful, self-made corporate lawyer by the name of Joe Zoline came to town. With Zoline’s know-how and investment and the passion and local knowledge of these pioneers, the ski area moved from concept to reality, as the community edged from its mining past to a ski resort future.
In the late 70s, development partners Ron Allred and Jim Wells bought a majority interest in the Telluride Ski Resort and ushered in a period of investment, the early stages of a 20-year plan. The energetic pair and their team, which included the Mahoneys and Stevens, updated and added chairlifts, revamped snowmaking equipment, built Giuseppe’s restaurant, broke ground on the Planned Use Development that would eventually become the Town of Mountain Village and planned and pushed for the Telluride Regional Airport, which opened in 1984 and saw commercial service begin in 1985.
With Allred and Wells now in their second decade at the helm, a slew of infrastructure projects realized during this busy decade were putting a spotlight on Telluride’s potential as a world-class ski resort. Among those projects were the development of the Doral Hotel (now the Peaks Resort and Spa) and Telluride Golf Course, both of which opened in 1992, the incorporation of Mountain Village as a town in 1995 and the construction of the Gondola, which would eliminate the need for the 7-plus-mile drive from one town to the other.
The first decade of the new millennium was marked by a flurry of terrain expansions and other developments. In 2001, Joe Morita, an investor since the late 1990s, took the reins fully from Allred and Wells. In Morita’s hands, and with a fresh injection of capital, some longtime goals came to fruition: the Prospect Bowl expansion, which nearly doubled the resort’s skiable terrain, the opening of Allred’s restaurant and the purchase of privately held mining claims, one where Alpino Vino now sits, the other the Tempter House property. In 2004, Morita sold to Chuck and Chad Horning, property developers from California, who oversaw another raft of exciting expansions — Mountain Quail in 2005, Black Iron Bowl and Palmyra Peak in 2007, and Revelation Bowl and the Gold Hill Chutes in 2008.
The 2010s to now.
By 2010, the Telluride Ski Resort was in good shape. Skiers could now spend a week here and enjoy a steady supply of fresh terrain. Just as appealing, even the beginners got stunning views, lengthy runs and a fun terrain park, while advanced skiers had access to genuine memory-makers. The resort also enhanced its on-mountain dining options with French eatery Bon Vivant in 2011 and the hiring of a wine director in 2013. None of this went unnoticed as, in 2012, Telluride was named, for the first time, the no. 1 ski resort in North America by Condé Nast Traveler readers — a prestigious award that it would go on to win five more times in the following six years.
This season, as it marks its 50th anniversary and looks to the future, the Telluride Ski Resort is in an enviable position: rolling up its sleeves on challenges like sustainability and affordable housing, while celebrating its incredible journey from upstart ski area to world-class resort. HBD Telluride Ski Resort!
Want to read more about the Telluride Ski Resort through the years and check out some amazing historical photographs? Click here for more details.