Regional officials are continuing to focus on the future of the gondola, but they need the community’s help. As part of the planning process that envisions the gondola system after 2027, when the current operating agreement expires, a survey for residents and users is now available.
“Through the survey, you can share what you love about the existing gondola, what upgrades you would like to see, and what cabin and station amenities would improve the rider experience,” according to the survey webpage on the Mountain Village website, townofmountainvillage.com. “The survey is just the beginning of an extensive planning process and will be one of many engagement opportunities for the public to share input. The gondola will celebrate its 25th anniversary on March 12 at the Telluride Conference Center with a night of live music, a gondola photo booth, a champagne toast, appetizers, project information and more fun. Additional details about the event will be available as the date nears.”
Miles Graham, of Denver consulting firm GBSM, is overseeing the process, alongside the Gondola Leadership Committee, which is comprised of Town of Mountain Village, Town of Telluride, San Miguel County, Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association (TMVOA), San Miguel Authority for Regional Transit and Telski officials. He explained hundreds of community members have responded so far, and the planning team has noticed some trends already.
“Community response to the survey has been great so far. We have had over 750 responses to date and are just getting started with our promotion of the survey,” he said, adding the team will be hosting pop-up events President’s Day weekend Feb. 18-21, as well as the March 12 anniversary event. “Although we’re still in the early phases of gathering feedback, the community’s insights have already been hugely valuable, and some preliminary themes have begun to emerge. The convenience of the gondola as a reliable, efficient and free transportation system is clearly highly valued by the community, as are the environmental benefits of reduced vehicle traffic, emissions and congestion. For the gondola’s future, the ability to decrease lines and wait times is emerging as a key community priority, which is super helpful feedback for the local government planning partners, given that the current system is operating at capacity with over 3 million riders per year.”
The leadership committee held its first meeting in November in outlining the tentative timeline for discussions and eventual decisions. The survey, Graham said, will factor into future meetings as more realistic gondola plans are being considered. He encouraged residents to take a moment to complete the short survey, as well as stay engaged in the planning process.
“Maximum participation and equitable representation of all unique community perspectives is critical to the success of this survey and the planning process as a whole. The survey is just one part of an extensive planning process that will include many other meetings and engagement opportunities for the community to share input,” Graham said. “Community feedback will be instrumental in informing the technical, operational and feasibility decisions that will shape the future of this unique transportation system. Understanding community values and priorities will help the Gondola Leadership Committee and Planning Subcommittee weigh tradeoffs and conduct a thorough cost/benefit analysis of the options for the gondola’s future.”
During the November meeting, the committee did identify some guiding principles, including “doing nothing is not our answer: We should work together to determine the best path forward and develop a long-term plan.”
Currently, Mountain Village maintains and operates the gondola system, as well as provides offseason bus service when the gondola is closed during the offseasons. Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association (TMVOA) funds a majority of gondola and maintenance operations, which are approximately $3.5 million annually, through a 3 percent Mountain Village real estate transfer assessment. One percent of Telski ticket sales also currently go toward gondola funding.
“The future of the gondola is one of the most important issues facing the Telluride region. The gondola committee has been working hard to identify possible paths forward for the gondola,” Mountain Village Town Manager Paul Wisor said. “Public input is a critical component of the committee’s work. By participating in the gondola survey, individuals will provide the committee with the data necessary to make recommendations that will best serve the community and the community’s future.”
To learn more about the gondola planning process, visit OurGondola.org, or send questions to OurGondola@gmail.com or your local government representative. Participants will be entered to win a lift ticket or $100 gift card.