When I moved here the gondola was just being built and the battle with the EPA was underway regarding some wetlands issues. Back then, there was no shortage of people who were against the gondola as it was "pro development". Today, those opponents are some of the most supportive as the gondola has been an absolute homer run for Telluride, the Mountain Village and the region- thank you Ron Allred and Jim Wells.
Good read from the Denver Post regarding the anniversary/birthday:
Twenty years later, Telluride’s free gondola is still a wonde The gondola between Telluride and Mountain Village turned 20 last month, but it’s still an amazing ride.
January 4, 2017 at 2:20 pm
Years back when a friend and I visited the Mountain Village above Telluride, we were like a couple of pioneers scrabbling to survive on a new frontier.
One particularly challenging morning we discovered we were short on breakfast supplies and there was no place to get a stick of butter in the entire Mountain Village! Too bad they had moved the goat herds out of the area a few years prior or we could have made our own. Instead we had to walk a block or so to get on the gondola and then … OK, there’s no way I can make taking the Telluride Mountain Village Gondola sound like a hardship.
In fact, the 3-mile ride between the Mountain Village and Telluride is the most beautiful run to the store on the continent.
The gondola, the first and only free public transportation of its kind in the United States, officially opened Dec. 20, 1996, and was originally built to help improve air quality while expanding the ski area. An estimated 2.5 million people take the 13-minute ride each year.
From the Village, riders are carried up over treetops to the 10,535-foot San Sophia summit. If it’s a ski day, you get out and head down the expert slopes on the front side of the mountain, or the intermediate cruisers down the back. There is even a beginner run that will take you right back down to the Village.
If you’re commuting into Telluride, I recommend a town-side window in anticipation of the nearly 2,000-foot plunge in front of you. That trip into town is a thrill ride — not because of the elevation quickly sliding away underneath you, but because of the unparalleled views of red bluffs and snowy trees reaching all the way down to the colorful Victorians houses of Telluride.
In the 20 years since the gondola began carrying passengers over the mountain, Mountain Village has become a destination of its own. Originally 3.5-square miles of sheep ranches about 800 feet above Telluride, Mountain Village became a home-rule municipality in 1995.
The community now has a general market and 15 eateries, all of which could spare a pat of butter or two. There are also a dozen lodging properties, a conference center, spas galore, two dentists and an ice rink in the commercial center that locals call the “Village Core.”
It’s quieter in the Village than in the town of Telluride, which can be a good or bad thing. I personally like to soak up the activity and noise of town and then escape back to the calm of the Village.
On a visit this summer we stayed at the Madeline Hotel & Residence. A luxurious hotel with a rooftop pool, two restaurants, a salon, spa and even a Starbucks, we didn’t want for anything. But even though Mountain Village now has everything a person could possibly need, you’ll still want to take the gondola.