News » Mountain News

Mountain News: Canary chirps but none too loudly



Page 2 of 4

He added: "In the 42 years I have been here we just didn't have that added benefit. Now there is a whole new clientele we weren't getting before. It was a big deal, and it still is."

Telluride celebrates 40 years of a new economy

TELLURIDE, Colo. — The old-timers are often seen as being in conflict with the newcomers in the ski towns of the west. But in Telluride, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary as a ski resort, the miners were very happy to see the ski lifts arrive.

Telluride's mining history went back to the 1880s, and for a time the mining paid plenty of bills and built some fabulous-looking houses. By the 1960s, though, the town was on a downhill slide. The last bank had closed and the final few hundred residents wondered how long they could afford to stay. Ores were being depleted.

According to a story in the Daily Planet, those locals included William "Senior" Mahoney, who had grown up skiing and had his own ideas of starting a ski area. Such ideas had been floating around since the late 1930s, about the time that commercial skiing began at Aspen, Berthoud Pass and Winter Park.

But none of the ideas floated during the early post-World War II era got anywhere. They needed money. It took the persistence of Joe Zoline, a Chicago-born son of Russian immigrants, to make things happen. The executive vice president and treasurer for Hilton Carte Blanche, he was vacationing in Yellowstone National Park when he heard about Aspen.

In Aspen, he fell in love with mountain towns, so much that he bought a ranch adjacent to the town. Soon, he learned about the plight of Telluride. Lands used for sheep ranching were in danger of being subdivided into 35-acre ranchettes. Zoline resisted diving into a new project, family members tell the Telluride Daily Planet, but at length he agreed that somebody needed to make the ski area happen. He did.

Mahoney was the first company hire, and Johnnie Stevens, who had also grown up in Telluride, came soon after. Both remained as key figures in skiing and other resort operations until relatively recently, and they say it's been almost entirely good.

"We were finally transitioning from a mining town," Stevens says of that pivotal time in the 1970s. "We were living the dream."

At times, there has been squabbling, but not about the long-term vision, says Stevens. And he stressed the teamwork needed to achieve success.

"I think on most counts we've done a very, very good job. A lot of people think this was luck, and it wasn't luck. It was collectivism."