By Edi Rullet
As winter sheds its grasp on the landscape, snow melts, white turns to green, and we leave town like lemmings over a precipice, only to return and peacefully ebb into that time of year when Telluride comes to life at the speed bamboo grows.
Come summer, the mountains no longer seem as cold, harsh or isolated as they did a few months ago. It’s still high; it’s still steep; but the payoff is cooler temperatures, more rain than our arid southwestern neighbors, clearer skies and cleaner air to fill those altitude-stressed lungs. Telluriders take protecting their environment seriously; we know what butters our bread. Scenery is the high card in the draw, and playing in the high country demands some concessions.
We are proud of our free-flowing rivers, alpine basins, glacial valleys, towering peaks and rowdy past. The mountains around Telluride, like the rest of the nation’s, are actually cleaner than they were just 50 years ago. The impacts of the 20,000 miners that once combed the high country are slowly being absorbed by nature. Mine adits have been closed; tailings ponds sealed or revegetated; railroad grades grown over; the north face of the ski area, once logged, has naturally succeeded from aspen to evergreens. And yes, we make our impacts. Where once sat a miner’s cabin, now stands a 20,000-square-foot home. Roads have been paved and landscapes changed. In the world of catch-22s, it seems that prosperity has also afforded the ability to protect wild and sacred places.
In this issue, we look at three of Telluride’s most prized environments, all in a different light. Five years after the ski area was given permission to expand into Prospect Basin, we ask, “How’s it faring?” The bowl that serves as ski terrain in winter is home to elk and fens. In a surprising turn of events, one of the 100-plus lynx reintroduced into the state chose the basin to raise two kittens after the area was opened to skiing.
We take a fishing and boating tour of one of Colorado’s only undammed rivers, the San Miguel. This feisty little waterway takes turns through Telluride, across the Valley Floor, past Nature Conservancy land and riverfront neighborhoods, and along the highway. Each mile offers scenic beauty and adventure, a treasure to be enjoyed and protected.
Finally, we approach the highly contentious Valley Floor-from an historical point of view. Since the first prospectors settled in San Miguel Valley, man has altered its landscape. Even the dandelions that carpet it in gold each spring were inadvertently imported from Europe.
Those who first settled in the region were immigrants, Europeans looking for opportunity in a new land and jobs they could hold without being able to speak English. Italians, Tyroleans, Swedes, Finns, Irish-they were the labor force of the mining industry. Over time, they became shopkeepers, restaurateurs, bankers and landowners. Some of their children’s children still call Telluride home. In this issue, we introduce our readers to the modern-day immigrant workforce-the Hispanic community.
No matter how beautiful, Telluride wouldn’t be popular without a healthy fun factor. We poke good naturedly at our egalitarian efforts to protect it all by asking some of Telluride’s renowned environmentalists what their not-so-green pleasures are. Their candor forces me to confess: I drive a pickup truck that can carry all of my rafting gear to river put ins-and no, it does not get good gas mileage. My consolation is that I spend the following days riding the current, propelled by gravity.
Speaking of gas mileage, in this issue we introduce our new department, GreenBytes, which highlights environmentally and socially responsible buys-and gas mileage makes another lighthearted appearance in a brain-gym feature on modern math. We even have a “gas” reminiscing about some of Telluride’s best concerts…ever. Longtime local and music aficionado Suzanne Cheavens spills the beans about her favorite acts. I can think of a few standouts in my 30 years of Telluride festivals: when guitarist José Neto played with Flora Purim and Airto at the 1994 Jazz Festival; Joe Cocker at the 2003 Blues and Brews Festival; and Ozomatli rocked the valley at a 2002 KOTO DooDah.
And-I predict-the best-ever summer is upon us.