The culture of living in the Colorado Rockies is heavily steeped in manufactured resort towns designed to be playgrounds for the rich and famous. Uncharacteristic of this trend is Leadville, Colorado: a small town that harkens back to a forgotten way of life where gingerbread houses line the streets and people roam freely in a Western milieu. At 10,200 feet, Leadville is the highest incorporated city in the United States and was an active mining community until the second half of the 20th century. Though the boom days are over, not much has changed—children still sell lemonade on 4th street, mailboxes rust every winter, and laundry is still dried the old fashioned way.
Leadville was put on the map by Climax, once a molybdenum giant. Generation after generation proudly worked for the company, but the boom and bust nature of mining has resulted in decades of inconsistency and heartbreak for the local workforce. Many skilled labor workers are forced to catch the 6am bus to Vail every day so they can find job opportunities that are scarce back home.
What keeps the residents here is the opportunity to live outdoors. The city limits border the two highest peaks in Colorado—Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive—both adjacent to lakes and rivers along continental divide, allowing for endless recreational opportunities for locals and tourists alike. Seven-month-long winters attract athletes from all across the region who consider Leadville one of the best kept secrets in the Rockies for skiing, mountain biking, and their annual skijoring weekend.
Beyond the weathered fences and empty saloons, Leadville is hyper-colored community preserving its authenticity in an era some deem “The New West.” As the rest of the world scurries through the rabbit hole, Leadville slows life down and remains a reflection of the past.