20 Oct 2008, 4:09pm
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Fall in Telluride: Riding the Gondola

Me Sightseeing on the Gondola

Me Sightseeing on the Gondola

Boy, am I glad to be back!  I’ve survived my technical difficulties and will try to catch up with my blog postings this week.  (Give me a plume and a few sheets of parchment any day!)

If you think I appear somewhat like a Bond girl in the photo on the left, it’s because I’m riding the gondola that connects Telluride to Mountain Village.  Yeah, I thought I’d go for more of a slick Europhile look here since a lot of people conjure up hair-raising scenes from a 007 flick when they first ride our gondola.  Two systems builders, one from Salt Lake City, the other from Switzerland (not surprisingly!) collaborated to create this fine example of modern technology, a veritable air-born shuttle that spans three miles as it sails above the slopes at treetop height. A super green transportation choice that operates the better part of the year on wind-powered electricity, the gondola has greatly minimized the amount of air and noise pollution in Telluride while keeping vehicular traffic at a minimum.  It always promises an exciting ride as well as safe delivery to the next station.  Visions of heart-racing adventures become dashed when you learn that in the twelve years of its existence, only one evacuation was required and that was on the intercept gondola, the four-minute spit that goes between the core of Mountain Village to the parking area.  (Rescuers do, however, regularly train for such missions, just in case.) 

Leaving San Sophia Station

Leaving San Sophia Station

Most of us feel very fortunate in T-ride to have such convenient and reliable transportation that also happens to be spectacularly scenic and free!  Yep, it’s public transportation at its finest which is why tourists encounter locals with their noses stuck into newspapers and books, sometimes not too terribly unlike the foggy-faced commuters riding the New Haven Express to and from New York City.  But we put down our reading materials with great frequency to gaze out at the jagged peaks or to spot a deer nibbling on the grass below.  Sometimes, too, we might even chat up the tourists, ask where they’re from and provide a restaurant tip or two.  (Favorite powder stashes, however, are seldom revealed.)

Leaf peeping ranks among the best in the world from my glass bubble that whisks me along on the thirteen-minute ride into town.  I look down and take in the striped grandeur of Coonskin, the mountain ridge so named by the Ute Indians for its alternating rows of aspen and fir, towering swathes of alpine glory that emerge more impressive than ever in autumn when the shimmering butternut of the aspens jumps out amongst the green of the conifers.

Rocky Mountain Colors

Rocky Mountain Colors

I think of all of the people inching along nearly bumper to bumper on their fall foliage tours in the Northeast.  Here you can embrace the full ripeness of autumn without being jostled by hordes of tourists.  You can experience nature practically all to yourself, especially if you get out and do one of the many hikes in the area.  It’s true, we might not have quite the range of hues that you find back east among the maples, yet an astonishing array of shades from sunflower yellow to burnt orange to crimson may also be appreciated on our mountainsides and in our valley.  And our sugar-frosted peaks greatly enhance this riot of color, grandiose panoramas—often set against cerulean skies—that occur every year from late September through mid October.

How Sweet it Is

How Sweet it Is

I know that this last burst of color will be short lived and soon all will be covered in white.  We’ll enter the full force of off-season by then, that in between time of year that occurs at most resort towns when business and much of life in general lulls until the next big season cranks up.  The gondola shuts down for about a month during these shoulder seasons, in spring and fall.  Repairs and maintenance are carried out as locals organize themselves to either drive into town when necessary or take one of the many shuttle buses provided.  (They always seem to take circuitous routes, however, so a typical fifteen-minute ride into town can easily turn into fifty minutes.)  I’ve held off from putting Misty into be serviced (see Redstone Rendez-Vous at the bottom of this page), but now it seems as though I’m going to have to break down and make an appointment for her in a local garage.  I’m even contemplating a trip to Walmart in Montrose, an hour and a half drive away.  (My world is expanding!)  It’s time to hunker down, shore up for winter, watch the leaves fall and pray for tons of snow.

Smiling and Laughing on the "G" is Always Permitted

Smiling and Laughing on the “G” is A

Gondola Etiquette

Refrain from cell phone use, unless, of course, you’re in the cabin by yourself.  (This is actually when I do most of my calling.)

As awe-inspiring as the ride may be, visitors should remember that locals often use the ride time to read the paper, study for tests (yes, this is a school bus of sorts for many kids), prepare for last-minute questions for radio interviews and other such tasks best carried out without a whole lot of jabbering.  If people do need to talk, it’s preferred they speak softly.

If you see a couple acting rather lovey-dovey and there’s not much of a line, it’s nice to let them ride in the cabin by themselves.  (The Telluride Gondola is one of the most romantic places in the world where great snuggling takes place on a regular basis by visitors and locals alike.  This kind of intimacy also helps to generate a goodly amount of body warmth in our often brisk climate.) 

When loading the gondola, move all the way in as quickly as possible, particularly if there’s a line.  When standing in line for the gondola, leave room for a single person (typically a local) to make a beeline from way far back so that he or she can grab the last place in the cabin.  (This is most important during festival time when bewildered tourists often prevent cabins from being fully loaded whilst blocking the way for regular gondola travelers to make a run for it.)

If you must smoke a cigarette or weed (neither is technically allowed, I don’t think) in the cabin, make sure you open all of the windows so it doesn’t become a stink box for the next travelers.

Always be as kind and friendly to the gondola operators as they are to you.  These dedicated workers are indeed quite affable, a welcome attitude that must certainly be a challenge to uphold, particularly on frigid nights at elevations of some 10,000 feet.

Best Gondola Tip

Grab a blanket in the metal bin before you board the gondola if there isn’t already one in the cabin.  Fold it up and sit on it.  That will keep you warmest since it will prevent the chill of the metal seats from entering your body.  If there’s a good supply of blankets, take one for the seat and another to wrap around yourself.

You may learn more about our gondola at www.telluride.com/telluride/the-gondola.  I don’t, however, agree with their riding time stats and believe me, I’ve got my commute times to and fro Mountain Village and Telluride down to a science!

Mt. Wilson Framed for Fall

Mt. Wilson Framed for Fall

Thank you to Darren Miller, my neighbor and friend, for many of the above photos. Darren is also one of the best massage therapists in town and you can book him at the following places of lodging even if you’re not staying at that establishment.

Mountain Lodge, www.mountainlodgetelluride.com, 866-368-6867

The Peaks Resort & Golden Door Spa, www.thepeaksresort.com, 866-282-4557

Franz-Klammer, www.fairmont.com/klammerlodge, 888-728-3318

You can also have him bring his Rolling Relaxation services to you in Telluride by calling Darren directly at 303-257-6070.

Thank you also to Michael Mowery for the Rocky Mountain Colors shot.

Style Notes

I’m wearing an Italian leather jacket from Bounty Hunter, my favorite fall scarf that displays an American Indian motif from Hermès, Smith sunglasses and Bobbi Brown lipstick from her Telluride-inspired Slopes collection.

Aspen Leaf

Aspen Leaf

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