Indomitable Spirit

By Edi Rullet

“Celebrating Indomitable Spirit” is the motto of Telluride Mountainfilm. That plucky resolve is also what makes this community tick. Anyone who has tried to do anything in this small, somewhat isolated corner of the San Juans knows that it takes unfretted desire and tenacity to accomplish the task. From the smallest detail—finding ingredients for your favorite Asian dish to test-driving an electric vehicle—Telluride is not your urban cornucopia environment. If you want it, you have to make it happen.

In this issue, we look at a variety of topics—such as home design and high-altitude rescue—which, on the surface, seem to have little in common. Yet it’s the players who share the resolve to tackle these challenges that espouses the signature of a true Tellurider. The gardener who grows tomatoes in the mountains, an intrepid sportsman who seeks out snow so he can ski every month of the year, the search and rescue volunteer who summits peaks not for the bragging rights, but to save a life, from those stalwart individuals who put on the premiere festivals in the 1970s to the present-day worker who seeks a more sustainable way to commute—they all go the extra mile.

This summer is pegged to be one of the region’s busiest on record. It’s not just the hubbub of festivalgoers and heat-relief mountain seekers that will stir the dust, but also a flurry of building and fixing. The can-do attitude of locals is in high gear; Telluride is set for another boom. Change is the burden of success, and even in the 1800s, when Otto Mears aided the U. S. government in wresting the San Juans from the Utes, it wasn’t without a price. We are products of a civilization that has profited from injustices and the plunder of natural resources. In Telluride, our forefathers were miners, who, in their quest for a livelihood, took a heavy toll on the environment. It’s a truth, like our culpability in climate change, which is better accepted and learned from than denied. At the end of the day, the mountains still reach the heavens, double rainbows bridge the canyon, and sunsets blush the backdrop—just as before, when the first man wandered into the valley.

The outlook for the twenty-first century can seem disheartening, often confused by solutions that appear to be good but are later revealed to be almost as damaging as the reason for change. Biofuels not only increase the demand for corn and soy—two agribusiness monocrops that perpetuate the loss of family farms and the decimation of rain forests—they also require nitrogen-based fertilizers, pesticides and GMO seeds. Forests are razed in China to meet the demand for bamboo, a fast-growing, “sustainable” alternative to wood. Compact fluorescent light bulbs are more energy efficient than their incandescent predecessors, but they contain small amounts of mercury. It feels like robbing Peter to pay Paul. But effective changes have always been a process of trial and error: think of the first generation of large-scale wind farms and the havoc they wreaked on migrating bird populations. Technology prevailed, and now larger, slower turning blades are more efficient and less deadly to animals in flight. It’s that willingness to give it the good-old college try and face the challenges of the real world that buys hope and optimism. The Town of Mountain Village purchases green tags to subsidize clean-power sources; festival promoters opt for recyclable and biodegradable products; the Town of Telluride has hired its first sustainability coordinator to wade through the pros and cons of alternative systems and products and help us make informed choices; a community garden grows in a town where the soil and water were once contaminated with mill tailings.

When this community needed to raise an additional $24.5 million to purchase the Valley Floor for open space, that indomitable spirit again rose to the challenge. Telluride’s residents made a commitment to try and protect what they hope will make this little corner of the planet not only a better place to live, but will also help preserve and restore an ecologically valuable glacial valley and river headwater.

Seize the day,
Edi Rullet