Mountain Film — Telluride Colorado
Over the centuries, Telluride, Colorado’s high-alpine valley has attracted a wild assortment of visitors and inhabitants. Indian chiefs and tribes, Spanish explorers, prospectors, gunslingers, prostitutes, union radicals, hippies, rock and ice climbers, and ski resort boomers have all played a role in Telluride’s history. With carefully preserved Victorian architecture and mountains rich in natural beauty, Telluride is home to a top-ranked ski resort, some of the nation’s most scenic sites—Bridal Veil Falls, the longest free-falling waterfall in Colorado—high-quality outdoor recreation, and a thriving festival schedule—of which Mountainfilm in Telluride kicks off the summer season over Memorial Day Weekend.
At the heart of the community are two unique towns: Telluride and Mountain Village. Each holds its own charm and is connected to one another by a free gondola, the only transportation system of its kind in North America. (Learn more about transportation options around Telluride or gather information for travel to and from Telluride.)
Recreational opportunities abound, and we encourage Mountainfilm visitors to take a break from the theaters and presentations for a hike, bike climb, ride, paddle or other excursion into the San Juan Mountains.
Uncompahgre National Forest and Lizard Head and Mount Sneffels Wildernesses are recreational havens, and local hiking trails are accessed easily from the streets of both Telluride and Mountain Village. The Telluride Hiking Guide, by longtime local Susan Keys, is a helpful resource and available in the local bookstore.
Mountainfilm friends—such as Charlie Fowler, Lynn Hill, Timmy O’Neill and Alex Honnold—have climbed here and help put Telluride on the map as a climbing destination. Ask a local climber about the bouldering at Society Turn or the end of the valley. There’s also a man-made climbing boulder open to the public and free of charge in Mountain Village. The east end of Telluride, Ophir and other nearby valleys host established routes, many of which are documented in The Wild Wild West and Telluride Rocks, both co-authored by Charlie Fowler and Damon Jonston and available in the local bookstore.
The free gondola cabins, which run between Mountain Village and Telluride, are outfitted with bike racks in the summer. From the mid-mountain stop at San Sophia Station, access bike trails that head back down to Telluride or Mountain Village, or pedal to the start of other trails from either downtown Telluride or Mountain Village. The region also offers road biking along the scenic San Juan Skyway for riders unafraid of mountain passes with substantial elevation gains.
Depending upon the snowmelt in late May, kayakers and rafters can check out the San Miguel River—which flows through downtown Telluride—the Dolores River, or the famous Black Canyon of the Gunnison River.
Mountain Film History
The Mountainfilm festival began in 1979, a time when Telluride was completing its transition from a hard-rock gold and silver mining community to a destination resort and ski town. The new era ushered a vital new energy and economic life into Telluride’s breath-taking box-canyon but, as they had been since the days of the Ute Indians, the changeless, rugged mountains remained the leading attraction.
It was Lito Tejada-Flores, fresh from screening his now-classic adventure and mountaineering film Fitzroy at the Trento festival in Italy, and Bill Kees, a local climber and avid outdoorsman, who inaugurated Mountainfilm in Telluride. Over three nights at the historic Sheridan Opera House, they screened a dozen films, all about mountains: mountain sports, mountain cultures, mountain issues. During the days, the audiences took to the mountains themselves, climbing the thirteen- and fourteen-thousand-foot peaks with skis on their backs; kayaking the San Miguel River, swollen with snowmelt; and engaging in spirited dialogue about the importance of wild places, adventure, art and action.
The first festivals attracted leading names in mountaineering and exploration: Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, David Breashears and others. With their help, the Memorial Day weekend event quickly became a not-to-be-missed tradition for an ever-expanding circle of pioneers in diverse fields—from athletes to environmentalists and scientists to poets. Mountains soon became as much a metaphorical theme as a literal one and, as the festival expanded in size and recognition, its programming readily stretched to the leading edges of critical contemporary issues.
In 1999, Mountainfilm significantly grew the scope of its operation with the introduction of Mountainfilm on Tour. By taking festival films to theaters across the country and internationally, Mountainfilm accessed large and diverse new audiences that would otherwise have no window into the filmmakers’ unique and important work.
Today, the Mountainfilm festival occupies dozens of venues in Telluride and Mountain Village and fills the two towns with inspiring thinkers and doers. In addition to showcasing leading independent films and filmmakers, the festival now includes symposia and panels, gallery exhibits of art and photography, book-signings, breakfast talks, student programs, music and street parties. The essential combination that first set the festival apart, though—friends, adventure, passion and powerful ideas—remains firmly intact.