Dentist turned developer turns ski resort dreams into reality

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Ron Allred
Ron Allred

Ron Allred has always followed his dreams, whether that was changing careers, turning ranch land into what’s now Avon or buying a small ski area in Telluride that was losing money and creating one of the top resorts in North America.

The Grand Junction High School graduate, dentist turned developer and self-described worst skier ever inducted
into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Association Hall of Fame recounted his experiences and offered some advice during his keynote presentation at the Entrepreneurship Day luncheon at Colorado Mesa University.

Allred encouraged students at the event to get a good education because they’ll need the analytical skills they acquire to succeed in what likely will be two or three career changes over the course of their lives. Moreover, they’ll be better positioned to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

Allred said he’s taken advantage of a number of opportunities over the course of own his life.

After graduating from Grand Junction High School, Allred earned a dental degree from Creighton University in Nebraska and joined with a group of other dentists in opening a practice in Colorado Springs.

The practice was successful, and the dentists were looking for ways to invest their profits, Allred said. Dissatisfied with their returns in the stock market, the dentists decided to invest instead in real estate. Allred said he doubled his money after purchasing a piece of real estate and selling it only two months later. Soon afterward, Allred said he went to work in real estate development on a full-time basis.

Although he had a degree in dentistry and a successful practice, Allred said he wasn’t afraid to try something different.

Working with investors, Allred subsequently purchased ranch land west of Vail and developed what became the town of Avon.

Allred said he initially decided to develop Avon because of the nearby skiing facilities proposed as part of the 1976 Winter Games in Colorado, but voters rejected the bid to host the games.

Allred said he went through with the purchase, but changed his plans in part to develop housing for people who worked in Vail. As it turned out, the nearby Beaver Creek Ski Resort was developed anyway.

Knowing that all the available lots in Avon eventually would be sold, Allred said he moved on to his next dream: to develop a ski resort.

He said he found what he was looking for in Telluride. Driving for the first time to the former mining town in Southwest Colorado, he said was impressed by the dramatic mountain scenery. “I was hooked right there.”

In 1978, Allred purchased the Telluride Ski Resort and what was at that time a small ski area on about 3,000 acres of private land that was losing money. That marked the beginning of the transformation of the ski area into a destination resort.

An on-mountain restaurant was built in 1979. In 1985, construction started on new ski trails and lifts as well as the Mountain Village. In 1986, construction began on an airport in Telluride. What is now the Peaks Resort & Spa, the first major hotel in the Mountain Village opened in 1992. So did the Telluride Golf Resort. In 1996, a gondola was built to offer transportation between the town of Telluride and Mountain Village.

Allred said most people were skeptical at first. “I became the village idiot. People didn’t believe we could do all those things.
But after a lengthy planning and government approval process, work on the master plan proceeded, he said.

Counting additional improvements made to the resort since under new majority ownership, Telluride Ski Resort now operates 18 lifts serving 148 trails and more than 2,000 acres of skiable terrain.

Allred said Telluride used to be ignored in compiling lists of the top ski resorts, but then went in one year to the second spot in a ranking of the top ski resorts in North America compiled for the Conde Naste Traveler Readers Choice Awards. Telluride has topped the list in four out of the last five years, he said.

Even as he transformed the ski resort, Allred also was involved in the development of the Telluride Film Festival. He served on the board of directors of the Telluride Medical District and led a $1.2 million campaign for improvements.

Allred served on the board of directors of Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade association of Colorado ski resorts. In 2011, Allred was inducted into the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Association Hall of Fame in recognition of his work in Avon and Telluride. “I’m the worst skier in the ski hall of fame, and that’s the truth,” he said.

In an interview with the Business Times after his presentation at CMU, Allred said one of the best bits of advice he’d ever received was an admonition from a former mentor to follow his dreams. “Just follow your dreams, because your going to be passionate about it,” Allred said.

The one piece advice Allred said he’d most like to offer to other entrepreneurs would be exactly the same. “Follow your dreams.”