The Telluride Mountain Village Gondola in Colorado is a unique form of free public transportation. The gondola connects Telluride, a former Victorian mining town turned ski resort at an elevation of 8,750 feet to Mountain Village, a small town to the Southwest in the San Juan Mountains, at an elevation of 9,545 feet. The 13-minute ride between the two towns takes visitors upwards of 10,000 feet above the mountainside treetops, and offers stunning 365-degree views of the surrounding San Juan Mountains.
A 2,000-foot drop into the valley showcases the beauty of the region. The gondola travels between four stations. Departing from Telluride, guests board from the Oak Street Plaza station. The first stopover on the gondola is at San Sophia Station at the peak of San Sophia Mountain. At San Sophia, guests may disembark and explore hiking trails, ski slopes and a restaurant. From San Sophia Station, the gondola continues to Mountain Village Center. Once in Mountain Village Center, guests may exit, or continue to the Mountain Village Town Hall station, where the Town Hall, Post Office and Mountain Market store are located. Commuters using the gondolas include locals, visitors, skiers and snowboarders in the winter, and mountain bikers and hikers in the summer. Each gondola is equipped with a ski and snowboard rack, as well as blankets for warmth, during the winter operating months, November through mid-April. In the summer operating months of May through mid-October, each gondola includes bike racks. Fifty percent of the gondola cabins are pet accessible for pets on leashes. Some gondola cabins are also wheelchair accessible. The gondola operates from early morning through midnight, and often extends hours until 2am for special festivals, events or holidays. Ample free parking is available at Mountain Village in the Gondola Parking Garage.
History: The town of Mountain Village incorporated in 1995. Known for its access to nature and its wide range of ski slopes, the 3.3 square mile town had just over 1,000 permanent residents in 2010. The gondola opened in 1996, just one year after the town’s incorporation, to assist town employees in getting to work early from the larger, neighboring town of Telluride. Today, the gondola is used by tourists and locals alike as transportation between the two resort villages. The gondola was the first to be used as free public transportation in the United States, and practically serves the mountain town as both a tourist attraction and a utility. When first opened, the goal of the gondola was to improve air quality in the region by reducing the number of vehicles in operation, as well as to improve transportation safety by reducing the number of drivers on the often snowy and icy roads. In addition, the gondola contributes to the founders of Mountain Village’s vision of a pedestrian friendly town with limited vehicle traffic. With 2.5 million passengers per year, it is estimated that the gondola prevents over 45,000 tons of carbon dioxide due to vehicle emissions from entering the atmosphere. The Green Gondola Project began in 2007 to further reduce the gondola’s impact on the environment. To date, funds raised through the project have contributed to the installation of LED lighting at all gondola stations, 160 solar panels atop the gondola stations, and the purchase of several solar panels at the SMPA Community Solar Array which powers the gondola’s overall use. The Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association offsets the gondola’s energy use through the purchase of renewable energy ‘Green Blocks.’ Fundraising for the Green Gondola Project continues with a goal of increasing the gondola’s use of solar power energy from its current 3% to 20%. The Gondola celebrated its 20-year anniversary in 2016. To date, over 40 million people have ridden the gondola and each cabin travels over 52,000 miles per year.
What’s Nearby: In addition to enjoying the views from the gondola, visitors to Telluride or Mountain Village can enjoy ample hiking and mountain biking in the summer months, as well as skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Mountain Village is home to an ice rink, and several plazas offer shops and restaurants. Telluride, developed as a mining town during the gold rush of the mid 1800’s, includes a historic district and the Telluride Ski Resort. The ski resort offers summer hiking, white river rafting and mountain biking in addition to the winter activities of skiing and snowboarding.
301 W San Juan Ave Telluride, Colorado 81435, Phone: 877-358-7122