"Leadville has this attitude...it's not mainstream, it's kinda gritty, it's kinda raw."

Leadville, Colorado is nestled at an elevation of 10,152 feet—this makes it the highest city in the U.S. Leadville’s 2,000-odd residents are proud of this claim to fame, and have the toughness to match the rough climate.

Originally a mining town, Leadville’s roots began thanks to the discovery of silver. Throughout the 1800’s, Leadville’s “wild west” atmosphere reigned; it was infamous for its outlaws, and became known as one of the most “lawless towns in the West.” I like to imagine that almost anyone or anything could be found on Leadville’s dusty streets; even Oscar Wilde used to hang out in the town, frequenting a saloon across from the still-standing opera house.

As the mining industry began to decline, so did the glory of many such towns in Colorado. Once-bustling streets drained of people and money—as the precious metals ran out, so did the townspeople. But in Leadville, it was as bit of a different story: once one mined element ran out, another was discovered. This continued through the early 1900’s. However, at some point, Leadville decided to embrace its outdoor culture–as put by one local, “Leadville had to reinvent itself, or it would’ve become a ghost town.”

"[Summer tourists] only see a side of Leadville that happens for a few months ...the rest of the time, we have it to ourselves."

"Leadville is the kind of place where people wave "hi" to the county commissioner as he passes by on bike, coffee in one hand, bike handle in the other. It's the kind of place where the mid-July air has a chilly bite, and where the mornings are lit with the glow of Colorado sun. Maybe it’s the sun, maybe it’s the thin air—but something about Leadville is pure magic."

"For such a small area we have a lot of history in a short period of time." Chris Beck, an employee at Leadville's Heritage Museum

"Leadville: we're all here because we're not all there." This—according to a bumper sticker slapped across the back of a local's pickup truck—is the town in a nutshell.

Each summer, thousands of athletes—and their families—flock to Leadville for a series of races: namely mountain bike and running.

The Leadville 100 has been around for a while; but as the race has grown, some locals have found themselves in a tough position. They feel that, when their hometown becomes saturated with so many athletes during the summer, that competitors lack respect for Leadville. In general, locals are receptive to the influx of competitors—they just ask that, in return for sharing their home and their mountains, that athletes and other spectators respect the town.

In many ways, winter seems to be the real gem around here. During the colder months, Leadville turns into a paradise for cross country skiers and snowshoers. This is when the town’s elevation gives it a real bonus; snow arrives early, and sticks around for a very…very long time.

In the late 1800’s, the town created a series of winter events: the Crystal Carnival. It’s during these festivities that Leadville is filled with snowshoe races, ski joring, and more. This keeps residents lively during winter’s three darkest months—and according to locals, winter is the best time of the year.

"There is but one Leadville. There will never be another." --1916, "Olden Times in Colorado”

Oscar Wilde recorded, in his Impressions of America, that when he visited Leadville, Colorado in April of 1882, he was lowered in a bucket to the bottom of one of Horace Tabor’s mines and while at the bottom of the mine, he was treated to a three-course dinner hosted by a group of rough and ready miners. Dinner was described thusly, “The first course was whisky, the second course was whisky and the third course was whisky.”


Sources: http://www.leadville.com/leadville/