Driving through the western San Juan mountains, peaks of irresponsible ruggedness slice open the sky, bringing the frequent and goods-delivering snow maelstroms that the region is so famous for. Driving into Telluride on the 145, passengers are hopefully conscious of their luck in being alive during that particular moment and are in awe of entering one of the most objectively beautiful places in the world.
Telluride is a mountain town for the ages. The New Sheridan Hotel was opened in 1891, only four years after the town itself came to fruition as a silver mining wonder. It brings the young and the not-so-young, the bikers and hikers, the skiers and non-, and all iterations in between. The passionate citizens who live in Telluride full-time didn’t settle there for the hors’ d’oeuvres and champagne, although of course those are also enticing reasons. They made the migration for the natural majesty, the snow, the mountains, the water, the refreshing near-alpine air. In short, the environment is the livelihood of the people in Telluride, and the ski resort has tirelessly worked to protect it.
Telluride ski resort boasts extensive watershed protection measures, air quality improvements and remediations, waste reduction and recycling initiatives, and energy conservation enhancements. Telluride has received countless environmental awards received for their efforts: The Regional Forester’s Caring for the Land Stewardship Award, the National Ski Area Association’s Golden Eagle Award for Environmental Excellence, among many notable others.
One of the most highly-debated topics of conservation conversation is land and its use. A conservation easement is an important legal agreement between a federal or government entity and a land owner which perpetually restricts varying uses of land in order to protect it with long-term goals in mind. Telluride has instilled permanent conservation easements on more than one hundred acres of wetlands within both the resort and the Mountain Village, hopefully securing their conservation and ecological health for generations to come. In addition, Telluride has also worked to restore over forty acres of other wetland areas.
Tellurides Ski Resort's Environment Page states that, “the Prospect Bowl expansion was developed with wildlife connectivity in mind.” Also known as wildlife corridors, this type of connectivity is vital to many species’ survival and defines their mobility that is provided by natural landscapes, as well as other ecological systems and movements of creatures, nutrients, and energy.
Speaking of energy and movement, the Gondola at Telluride eliminates the necessity of an eight mile drive for about two million people and pets between the town and the mountain village every year. Other mileage savers include the employee shuttles that take Telluride employees to and from the nearby towns of Montrose and Norwood, saving around 500,000 miles driven by those employees every year.
Both on the mountain and in the town, Telluride is reduce-, reuse-, recycle-heavy, recycling “glass, plastic, aluminum, cardboard, construction waste, metals, newspaper, electronics, and paper products” while also using “recycled paper products, biodegradable plasticware and cups, and sugar or corn-based paper plates and bowls in all restaurant facilities.” They have also eliminated the use of Styrofoam in their food services, which does not decompose naturally in the environment.
On the mountain, Telluride has also made strides in energy conservation from snow makers to irrigation to solar and wind energy technologies. For example, their new snowmaking equipment is listed as having increased energy efficiency, the irrigation system on the golf course will reduce its energy use by twenty-five percent within its first year, the High Camp restaurant has passive solar technology incorporated, in addition to Telluride’s goal to purchase wind power for lift 4.
As the ski season rapidly approaches, tourists to Telluride and citizens alike can take advantage of the mileage-saving gondola, the recycling bins placed all over the town and mountain village, the energy saving golf course irrigation, and Styrofoam-less meals. As always, there is more that anyone can do in our quest at mitigating some of the effects we have wrought on our planet, but here is Telluride Ski Resort showing that any steps are steps in the right direction.