It is said that at the height of the gold rush there were more millionaires in Telluride, Colorado, than there were in Manhattan. And while most of those fortunes were made mining, lifting ore out of the ground wasn’t the only way to strike it rich. Butch Cassidy also started a productive career here. His first job lightened Telluride’s San Juan Bank of $24,580 during a brazen 1889 robbery. The sum, worth about $600,000 in today’s dollars, was never recovered.
Over 100 years later, millionaires still flock to Telluride. No longer drawn by the prospects of making a fortune, they come to spend one. A more upscale version of its neighboring mountain towns Ouray and Silverton, Telluride is so used to celebrity guests that we witnessed a casual Kelly Ripa walking the sidewalks completely unmolested and largely unnoticed by citizens apparently familiar with seeing such sights.
After the gold boom went bust, Telluride reinvented itself as a premier skiing destination. The first resort opened in 1972 with five lifts and a day lodge. By 1985, developers added the faux-European town of Mountain Village along with its eight miles of Nordic trails. During summer months, an additional three miles of mountain biking trails open allowing for year-round entertainment.
Probably the most interesting thing about the area, though, is its unique public transportation system. Transit between Telluride and Mountain Village is provided by a system of completely free gondolas. Arriving nearly every minute, 275 days per year, the 2.5 mile ride between these two mountain destinations takes a total of about 11 minutes. Vacationers and residents alike take advantage of what Telluride calls the “best commute in America.” We found the splendid alpine views to be well worth the trip, even when our destination was nowhere in particular at all.