Secret indentity

Faster than a pair of Atomic Red Sleds. More powerful that a Doplemayr detachable quad. Able to shred rocky couloirs in a single powerful turn. Look! Up at the summit! It’s a fracture. It’s a slide. It’s ... The Tellurider.

When the Telluride Ski Resort opened in the early 1970s, it came equipped with its very own superhero. The Tellurider was a hero for the age, a ski bum on steroids, and a sign that those ski area developers loved San Juan fluff more than simoleons. And that promotional comic book, a 16-page glossy, popped up at Telski headquarters, at trade shows and in mail boxes all over Colorado. I’ll never forget the day when my dad, a ski patroller from Telluride’s inaugural year onward, brought me home a fresh copy.

The masked man sported a green skin suit, boasted the only purple Langes ever made and proudly wore a neon “T” upon his chest. As I recall the story line went a little something like this: Once a superhuman miner, the Tellurider tired of the shaft, betrayed his blast crew, turned powder junkie and built the Telluride ski area with his bare hands in just seven days (resting in the Roma Bar on the eighth day, of course). The caped crusader managed to clear the Plunge and Spiral Stairs with a single sweep of his hand, string up the Coonskin lift like a strand of Christmas lights and park the “resort’s” double-wide ticket office with the help of a souped-up, dualie Ford (true story). This 6-year-old quickly forgot Clark Kent, the Flash and even Green Lantern. This kid looked up to The Tellurider.

But all was not après ski and champagne powder for The Tellurider.

The hero’s arch nemesis – The Leveler, a shadowy villain who had already left his mark on the likes of Sun Valley and Vail – was always just a short planning commission approval away from wreaking havoc on the small town. It was The Leveler who wanted to wipe out historic Main Street, bring a European furrier to downtown, burn Baked in Telluride to the ground and replace an endangered fen with a monstrosity known only as “Mountain Village.”

“I can level them in nothing flat and put up four hot dog stands, three creamy-lite drive-ins, a 42-story high-rise hotel, then I can move up on the mountain and tear down some of those trees and build a housing development,” the sinister character shouted from one of the panels.

But The Leveler was no match for The Tellurider back in those days. The comic book hadn’t lied – Telluride was to be a ski town for the skiers.

And with The Tellurider on watch, the original vision actually worked. Back then, powderhounds never dreamed of trading in their restaurant jobs for real estate licenses; tired Chevy trucks still outnumbered Jeep Wagoneers; and sprouts and whole wheat still ruled the roost (witness the success of the shabby restaurant, The Tofu Shop). Once upon a time, it was the little ski town that could, and this native son worshipped our patron saint all skis, boots and bindings.

As hippie kids, we Telluriders routinely role played, doing our best to fight off The Leveler and rescue the San Juans. “Blam!” We would swoop in and stymie the fur-booted villain as he was about to doze an alley shack to make way for a Tuscan villa. “Kpow!” The Tellurider would shush onto the scene just as the cologned character unleashed a fleet of trackhoes on a riparian area. “Whack!” The mighty Tellurider would dart to the rescue of a busload of Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders seconds before The Leveler diverted them away from San Miguel County and toward the Front Range. Good days, indeed.

But alas, The Tellurider fell victim to his own personal kryptonite (also green but made of paper and not interstellar crystal). Sadly, comic books are only comic books, and idealist ski area owners don’t always stay in business. A retired dentist eventually took the reins of Telluride Ski Co., put real estate back on the menu and sent many of us down valley. As we all know, a golf course replaced rich mountain meadows, and the Stones, Cruises and Stillers now inhabit the neighborhoods we young Telluriders once called home. Yep, The Leveler managed to win that first battle.

Many once-powerful Telluriders are now hiding in exile, living out our days masked by our secret identities and breaking out the purple Langes only on weekends. As we soak up face-shots in the name of truth, justice and the mountain town way, we know The Leveler is never far off. San Miguel County wasn’t enough for that vilest of villains – he wants to take control of all of Southwest Colorado and leave a line of 42-story high rises in his wake.

Fortunately for us, help is never far off. And as The Leveler crosses into the Animas Valley, new heroes are ready to climb onto their singlespeed steeds in the name of small town salvation. Yep, the mysterious Dr. Durango and the tempestuous Recessionaire are bound to pedal to our rescue.

– Will Sands



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