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The History of Zoning and Real Estate in Telluride

You may know that the Telluride box canyon was formed by a giant and ancient volcanic caldera subsequently carved out by ice age glaciers.

You may know that Telluride was founded in the 1870’s as a mining town and that it is a national historic landmark. And that the Town of Mountain Village is contemporary, modern and only 21 years old and that the two towns are connected by a free gondola.

You may also know that Telluride Ski & Golf Resort has been named the #1 resort in North America by Conde Naste 3 out of the last 5 years.

But did you know that our little slice of alpine heaven was once zoned for over 400,000 residents?

Here’s the Story…

The last mine was shut down in Telluride in 1978. About the same time, Ron Allred came to town with a vision for the new economic engine, the Telluride Ski Resort. The Resort had been operated only out of the Town of Telluride side as a very small ski area since 1969, but Ron Allred, using his vision and experience as a developer in Beaver Creek, had grand plans.

Due to the change of economic sustainability from mining to Tourism, a group was put together named TREPAC, the Telluride Region Planning Advisory Committee. TREPAC was put together to complete a master plan for the next 45 years.  TREPAC was comprised of 18 members, 6 representatives from San Miguel County, 6 from the Town of Telluride and 6 members at large that represented the four major landowners in the area. Their work was intended to virtually eliminate motor vehicle transportation, create zoning for hotels, keep telluride small, build an airport and infrastructure to support a resort tourism economy.

TREPAC’s vision was for 5 mountain villages, all connected by gondola, and each with its own commercial core. These villages included Telluride, Mountain Village, the Valley floor, Aldasaro and west meadows. Subsequently the zoning was reduced by TREPAC from 400,000 to 18,900 residents and guests. Outside of Telluride and Mountain Village in unincorporated San Miguel County, the residential zoning is 1 single family home per 35 acres of land.  

Of course, this vision of a European style gondola connected resort destination was laid to rest when the Valley Floor and West Meadows areas were permanently preserved as natural open spaces – further reducing the zoning in the area. Today there are only around 3,000 residents, and Telluride welcomes over a million guests per year to our Mountain Hamlet.

The moral of the story is today, mountain resorts have experienced an incredible amount of sprawl, congestion and density. Think of great resorts like Vail, Aspen and Park City that sprawl 50+ miles from their resort centers. Because of our zoning restrictions in place, Telluride will always be a small boutique destination.

Despite our limited zoning and density restrictions, Telluride remains a very attractive value for real estate investment when compared to other luxury mountain destinations. 

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