Gondolas built for ski resorts in the U.S. have been around since the late 1950s, but even today, they are still a novel way to travel, while taking in the kind of majestic views you simply can’t see from cars, buses or trains. In 1996, the town of Telluride built its gondola as a way to go “green” by eliminating air and noise pollution. But unlike most ski-town gondolas, which use cabins suspended by cables to get to the top of a mountain, Telluride decided to design its gondola beyond just a ski lift into a multi-purpose public transportation system, linking the two towns of Telluride and Mountain Village together in a fast, free, and convenient way.
Because of that engineering vision, people can now travel effortlessly in 13 minutes from one destination to the other, not having to deal with a 20-minute drive. Reaching an elevation of 10,540 feet, it’s the best way to see the San Juan mountains and town of Telluride with minimal effort. And, given how much snowfall Telluride gets in the winter season, the gondola cuts down on hazardous driving in poor conditions as well as reduces traffic jams and parking issues during busy festival weekends.
Today, Telluride’s gondola still reigns as the first and only free public transportation of its kind. The design was so impressive that it received the 1998 Mountain Sports and Living Design Award for Resort Access Innovation and was named the 1999 Outstanding Transit Project by the Colorado Association of Transit Agencies.
Who Rides It?
The gondola operates roughly 287 days a year during the varied seasons, with brief closures in the spring and fall for maintenance. Approximately 2.8 million passengers use it annually, both visitors to Telluride, as well as the locals. Skiers, of course, rely on it to reach sections of the mountain. Travelers can bring their luggage up and down with ease. For the other three seasons, bikers use it to haul their bicycles and hikers use it as a way to save their energy in scaling up or down the peaks. For bar hoppers, it’s the safest way to have a few drinks and get back to their lodging without driving. There are also wheelchair accessible cabins for disabled riders who love the ease and convenience of getting to hard-to-access spots in Mountain Village. Dog owners love the gondola as well—about half of their cabins allow pets to ride. And naturally, it is the equivalent of a theme park ride for kids!
Where To Catch It
Starting November 27 this year, the gondola whirred into action for the season. Starting at 6:30 a.m. and going until midnight seven days a week, passengers can pick up the gondola at the Market Plaza (formerly Town Hall Plaza) and get dropped off at two locations in the Mountain Village Center. At the bottom of the mountain, passengers can pick it up at Telluride station (Oak Street Plaza).
In the winter, Telluride also provides a high-line speed chairlift referred to as the chondola (which is sort of a mini gondola cabin supporting four passengers at a time) giving access between Mountain Village Center and the Meadows neighborhood.
The gondola is nothing short of a delightful experience and if you choose to visit Telluride, just make sure you go before April 5, before it closes down.
For more great ideas on how to enjoy Telluride’s winter season, contact SilverStar Telluride Luxury Properties at 970-728-3001 or online.