Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Slack season reminiscent of mining days

TELLURIDE, Colo.(MTN)-- It's always quiet in Telluride during early May, but this year it was even quieter. In Vail, the report is the same.

"It's eerie," says one town official.

People like Myles Rademan, once of Crested Butte and now of Park City, both former mining towns, have long pointed out that people caught up in the heyday of gold and silver booms couldn't fully grasp an ebbing of activity. Yet, by the 1950s, places like Kellogg, Idaho, and Breckenridge, Colo., were ghost towns—not abandoned, but ghosts of their former selves.

Telluride was also one of those towns. Mining there persisted into the 1970s, just when downhill skiing arrived. Still, the activity was a shadow of the boom years 80 and 90 years before, when the town supported several newspapers, had the world's first electrified street lights, and in other ways distinguished itself as a warren of activity.

Telluride resident Emily Brendler Shoff, writing in The Denver Post, wonders if spring provides a glimpse of what it's like when a mining town is vacated.

"It's a desolate time," she writes of the shoulder season. "The wind howls, the trees are bare, and the snow continues to fall. The trails are covered in snow and mud. And there is nothing to do, except stroll to the post office and pick up your mail and stroll back again. If you're lucky, you see someone."

Shoff does not descend into despair, but she can't help but wonder what future historians, strolling amid a vacated Telluride, would think of the rows of skis outside of everyone's homes, the cruiser bikes and the drained hot tubs.

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