Telluride Institute, Inc.

The Telluride Institute is an innovative non-profit organization that fosters the transition to a sustainable world. We work with communities, businesses, and the public sector to create and advance real solutions that support the health of environments, cultures, and economies.

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General Information

Official Name
Telluride Institute Inc​​​​​​​
DBA/Trade Name(s)
Former Name(s)
Date Established
Offers Additional Colorado State Tax Credit
Tax ID
Headquarters Address
216 W. Colorado Ave.
Telluride, CO
Colorado Location
216 W. Colorado Ave.
Telluride, CO 81435
Mailing Address
PO Box 1770
Telluride, CO 81435
Other Address
Main Phone Number
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Social Media Links

Mission Statement

The Telluride Institute is an innovative non-profit organization that fosters the transition to a sustainable world.

Organization History

The Telluride Institute was founded in 1984. In that time it has raised some $4.3 Million towards its charitable goals, millions more in volunteer time, and has played a significant role in giving Telluride some serious cultural and educational identity during the period when the shape of the maturing resort was in flux.

Founded in 1984 to create strong local environmental and cultural activities in our corner of Colorado we're making change happen through freethinking research that has crossed continents, politics, and disciplines, our programs demonstrate innovative and practical methods for building and sustaining healthy communities and environments.

Rocky Mountain News called us "the World's highest altitude think tank." Others have called us a "think-and-do-tank" because of the practical, hands-on, results-oriented nature of our programs. We work both locally and globally.

Locally, we are working to inspire and inform a growing group of citizens and help turn them into stewards who care for and protect their surroundings and do business with the health of the San Miguel Watershed in mind. The Watershed is a one million acre basin through which flows the San Miguel River, from its headwaters in the 14,000 foot alpine peaks above Telluride to its confluence with the Dolores River in red rock canyon country at 5,000 feet elevation. Over 60% of the San Miguel Watershed is public land, including some of the nation's most beautiful and biologically intact landscapes. But there are many pressures on these high, dry, fragile ecosystems, as the Watershed is also one of the two fastest growing areas on the Colorado Plateau, facing tremendous growth and change.

In response to these pressures and to Wallace Stegner's challenge to Westerners to "build a society to match the scenery," Telluride Institute has developed major programs, Sense of Place and Deep West Futures, which act strategically to inform and equip local communities with the institutions and tools to care for these

We have been very successful at being a germinator - turning creative ideas into solid, practical organization that later becomes independent institutions. Telluride Institute is run by a volunteer board of directors known as Trustees.



"I wanted to reach out and say thank you for your facilitation of our volunteer experience. The event was great, we really enjoyed being a part of it. We booked this trip with the intention of spending some QT mom, daughter time and to spread the ashes of a fellow mushroom hunter, father and significant other. What we gained from the sessions, the fellowship and the volunteer experience will be very fond memories for us both and that was all of you, so a very sincere thank you to you all!"

Laura and Tyler - 2019 Mushroom Festival Volunteers


The Telluride Institute has a long record of bringing intellectual and creative luminaries to the western slope to stimulate discussions about issues that affect our region. The first Telluride institute IDEAS Festival that I attended was the eye-opening and inspiring 1992 Ideas Festival on WATER. The event featured 3 days of panel discussions and presentations by highly respected water lawyers, politicians and environmental activists as well as thought provoking art installations and performances on the topic of contested water. The Institute's "INFOZONE" project was another groundbreaking effort which provided the first internet access to the entire town in 1993- way ahead of the curve for most rural communities. The whole region has benefitted from the Institute's work over the years including their educational programs and various initiatives that serve to elevate the community at large. I recognize the Telluride Institute as an important force in making Telluride a spawning ground for great Ideas, environmental awareness, creativity and compassionate thinking.
-Laurie Lundquist, environmental artist (Telluride, CO)


I am writing to extol the great benefits my students receive by participating in the Telluride Watershed Education programs of the Telluride Institute. The Norwood Middle School snowshoe trip is the highlight of the year for the students who attend. The chance to get into the back country for experiential education is an amazing opportunity for my students, and the fact that WEP manages to make it happen through grant funding is even more spectacular. It is an unforgettable educational experience that helps these students to have fun and learn about traveling safely in the back country that is their backyard here in San Miguel County. WEP also made the 6th grade start of the year camping trip possible by providing support and curriculum to this group bonding experience. We are so fortunate to be included in this type of educational programming, and I hope others can see the value of this educational outreach and will consider supporting it. When contemplating where to donate your hard earned money, please give to the Telluride Watershed Education Program; it will be money well spent.
-Mo Hanna, Middle School Language Arts Teacher (Norwood, CO)


The Telluride Institute (TI) is a luminary and pragmatic non-profit organization on the Western Slope that supports our development as a compassionate and educated community - both locally and globally. TI's interdisciplinary and collaborative work in the field of compassion and mindfulness research has recently culminated in the highest level international conference on compassion that has ever occurred. Even with a 30+ year track record in transformative education and significant accomplishments, I believe we will see much more from TI in the years to come.
-Jonathan Barfield, PhD (Placerville, CO)


The Telluride Institute's calendar ( is just the tip of an iceberg that goes very deep. Perhaps a bad metaphor, since those things are melting. The Institute is still hot. Take for example its most recent success, a guest appearance by the iconic artist Christo.

As many know, over a 40-year career (and counting), Christo and his wife and artistic partner Jeanne-Claude (now deceased) became world famous for transforming everyday urban and rural environments into places of magic and wonder. Christo came to town to discuss the status of his latest adventure, "Over the River," a project proposed for a 42-mile stretch of the Arkansas River between Salida and Canon City. It was a standing room only crowd at the historic Sheridan Opera House.

Telluride was an unscheduled stop. Christo's itinerary called for a talk in Aspen only. Why did he show up? The trip to our box canyon was added to his scheduled thanks to Pamela Zoline, co-founder (with husband John) of the Telluride Institute. Pamela is a magnet for highly interesting, highly accomplished people, who serve as examples for what is possible in the world with vision, talent, and focus.

People like Christo, yes, but also like Dr. James Doty.

Doty is a neurosurgeon and head of Stanford University's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Pamela, John and the Telluride Institute joined forces with Doty to bring the Compassion Festival to Telluride. The shared vision was about changing the world one empathetic act at a time. Heady? Yes. Possible? Also yes. Speakers at Compassion Festival offered up study after study illustrating ways compassion can be cultivated.

I have attended Telluride Institute programs since the 1990s, when I first came to town. The Ideas Festival, which focused on important issues such as water. The Mushroom Festival, which offers a baskets full of ways mycelium are changing the world.

The Telluride Institute is on the cutting edge of ideas worth knowing and initiatives worth pursuing (such as its Watershed Education Program,
-Susan Viebrock, writer/editor (Telluride, CO)


The Telluride Institute Watershed Education puppet shows have informed the children/parents of our community through fun and entertaining performances. They hold the children's attention while conveying vital information on how to best live with bears. The children leave fully informed after having had a very good time. Every year the Watershed Education Program also captivates the children, through our library, educating them on the Watershed habitats from beginning to end. We sincerely appreciate this educational opportunity which inspires us all to take care of the delicate environment we are so privileged to share.
-Paula Ciberay, Youth Services Program and Outreach Manager,
Wilkinson Public Library (Telluride, CO)


The Telluride Institute has been an exceptional and influential organization in our extended regional community. I have participated in numerous events they have sponsored throughout the years. My favorites change with each new event but the Compassion festival is one gathering that resonates with me in its insight and hope for new approaches to education and outreach. The numerous programs they have initiated have had enormous influence on education and community cohesion. Since 1992, TI have brought guest speakers, teachers, and celebrities to our town to inspire ideas and discussion on important topics and issues. Their ongoing educational programs have been most relevant to our next generation and have shared new science with everyone participating. The Watershed Education Program and the Bridal Veil Living Classroom Program are both so vital to our kids understanding of the natural environment we live in. These programs have supplemented our school district attempts to teach effectively. I would commend and promote TI in its ongoing efforts to inform and benefit our community through all its varied events and programs. Thanks to the staff and founders for this good work.
-David Paul Kuntz (Ames, Colorado)


We would like to offer unqualified support to the Telluride Institute in any bid for funding.

Over the years we have been consistently impressed by the Institute's innovative programming. As newspaper publishers in the Telluride region for 20 years, we have observed the Institute's success in two remarkable achievements: (1) creating an awareness that a watershed is a geographical entity that ought to be respected; and (2) creating an understanding in Telluride that affordable housing is an essential part of a sustainable resort community.

But this is only the start of what the Institute has meant to the region. The Institute's support for the Telluride Mushroom Festival has produced a local awareness of the importance of fungi in ecological and culinary respects. And the Compassion Festival has enriched both the Telluride community and has helped support scientific awareness by recognizing the importance of new modes of awareness.

Please support the Telluride Institute in any way you can.

-Seth Cagin, Publisher, The Watch Newspaper (Telluride, CO)
-Marta Tarbell, Editor, The Watch Newspaper (Telluride, CO)


The Telluride Institute is a one of a kind non-profit organization in our region. It encompasses so much and caters to everyone, yet has a well-defined goal - to foster a sense of stewardship for our environment within every one of us. The Watershed Education Program is an indispensable part of our schools' curricula, bringing children out of the classroom and offering hands-on learning about the lifeline of their land. The TI's Greenbucks voucher program is a brilliant example of complementary economy, and I'll never forget meeting one of the founding fathers of the Euro at the 2005 Ideas Festival. The Mushroom Festival has turned people who'd never even dream about eating a mushroom into avid mycologists. At the Compassion Festival, all aspects of stewardship of our planet seemed to come together. One can rely on the Telluride Institute to always bring up interesting and pressing issues, pertinent to everyone, whether young or old, mountain man or city dweller, layperson or professional.
-Iva Jehlicková, Nursing Student, Ski Patrol (Telluride, CO)


The Telluride Institute has been at the forefront of environmental and social issues in Telluride and the region since its inception. It's stimulated thinking on a national scale with its Idea Festivals (Reinventing Politics, Glasnost, etc.) and its Composer-to-Composer series. It's been a leader in getting a regional Watershed Coalition formed, reached out to youth all up and down the San Miguel Basin for environmental monitoring and education, and in recent years in taking on the Telluride Mushroom Festival -- one of the premiere mycological events in the country. Its Infozone project was one of the ground-breaking community networks in the country, just as the Internet was being born. Recently it has teamed up with Stanford University and others to host a Compassion Festival, drawing representatives from the Dalai Lama to interested parties from around the country. While others focus on economics, the Telluride Institute is an incubator for social and environmental ideas that have the potential to change the world.
-The Hon. Art Goodtimes, San Miguel County Commissioner
(Telluride, CO)

I have the great pleasure to be able to relate firsthand how the Watershed Education Program (WEP), working under the umbrella of the Telluride Institute, has had a positive impact on my own children as well as on my middle school students. Both of my daughters were fortunate enough to participate in the snowshoe trip, four years apart. It was a highlight of middle school for them both. Marissa, currently a freshman at the Colorado School of Mines, attended the Bridal Veil Living Classroom program the summer before her junior year of high school. She made friends and connections with other people her age with similar interests within neighboring communities, she literally hiked to heights never before achieved by her, and she explored the outdoor world as a scientist, something she currently is pursuing as her career goal. Both of my daughters have also enjoyed the benefit of the annual field trips arranged by WEP for their public school in which they visit, explore, and learn about their watershed. As a teacher for the West End Public School District, I had the pleasure of being part of another WEP-sponsored field trip. As part of a whole school unit on agriculture, we took about 30 of our students to visit the Indian Ridge Farm and the Norwood Community Garden. The students were interested, engaged, and sincerely impressed by both operations. The Telluride Institute has been an incredibly positive force in all of our communities for many years. I will continue to rely on it as a resource and look forward with anticipation to partaking in as many of their programs and activities as possible, for myself, my children, and the students I serve.
-Brita Padgett, Teacher, Naturita Middle School (Naturita, CO)



Bridal Veil Living Classroom (BVLC) Testimonials

Beyond just expanding my future opportunities, BVLC gave me a greater appreciation for nature. Being outdoors and interacting with nature has always been a passion of mine. However, BVLC helped me gain a better understanding of my surroundings, the complexity of the interacting ecosystems and a desire to make sure these habitats will be around for generations to come.
-Nina Gerona, BVLC Alumni (Telluride,CO)


This course allowed me to emerge myself into the ecosystem I have grown up in. I now consider myself truly aware of my world, and subsequently I have become more a part of it than ever before.
-Jessie Hild, BVLC Alumni (Telluride,CO)


The valuable information we were taught about area history, local flora and fauna, and the inner workings of the high alpine ecosystem we studied in was well balanced with how much fun we had. The scientific research paper I was challenged to write with data I personally collected well prepared me for many scientific papers I have since written throughout my undergraduate studies.
-Saundra Royer, BVLC Alumni (Norwood,CO)


BVLC absolutely sparked my interest in science, and gave me the courage to pursue a degree in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. Considering all of my past internships and summer programs in the field of science, BVLC was without a doubt the most enjoyable and engaging experience.
- Sarah Carlson, BVLC Alumni (Telluride,CO)


The skills I developed with BVLC have carried me through the years and influenced my decision to pursue a scientific degree. BLVC is a unique opportunity to dive into the world of field research and conduct hands-on experiments at a pace and level conducive to each individual. BVLC is where I keyed out my first alpine wild flower, cored a tree, and eventually wrote my first scientific research paper.
-Maddie Crowell, BVLC Alumni (Telluride,CO)

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