Telluride is a tiny town in a big setting. Just some twelve blocks long and eight blocks wide, it is encircled by the soaring San Juan Mountains, which boast the second greatest collection of “fourteeners” (fourteen in all)—mountains more than fourteen thousand feet high—in the country. Its name is said to come from tellurium, a rare lustrous silvery-white metalloid, but a more popular explanation is that it’s a contraction of the warning called to miners making the trek to the town, which was known for bars and houses of ill repute: “To hell you ride.” The first local mineral claim was made in 1875, and from that time until the last mine closed, in 1978, billions of dollars worth of gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc were extracted from the 350 miles of tunnels carved into the mountains. By the early 1890s, the town was home to 5,000, including a larger percentage of millionaires than New York City. Today people are drawn to Telluride not by the gold in the mountains but by the white covering them. The world-class ski resort receives more than three hundred inches of snow each year, has some 2,000 acres of runs and lift capacity for over 22,000 skiers and boarders per hour. However, with sprawl ruled out by the surrounding mountains, it retains the intimate clubby feel that the 2,200 year-round residents and the vacation homeowners and visitors—including Tom Cruise, Jerry Seinfeld and Ralph Lauren—love. Come summer, skiers are replaced by festivalgoers and day-trippers here for the summer program of events, such as the famous bluegrass and film festivals and the smaller mushroom and balloon fêtes. Those in the know arrive just after the Blues & Brews festival ends, when the spectacular white aspens that cover the mountains turn from green to yellow in the celebrated fall display. It is the last dash of color before the blankets of snow return and the town gears up for another winter season.
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