Tally-ho! Telluride’s Free Public Gondola is Turning 20

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Photo courtesy of Telluride Tourism Board
Photo: courtesy of Telluride Tourism Board

As Candy Evans reported last week,  the consensus of vacation housing  experts speaking at the NAREE (National Association of Real Estate Editors) Conference which took place in New Orleans in June is clear — these days vacation housing is all about the family.

Children are accompanying parents on vacations and second home buyers are looking for properties that are comfortable for all ages. Among the most family-friendly mountain destinations in the U.S. is the southwestern Colorado city of Telluride, which is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its free public gondola system this year.  

What’s the big deal about this unique coach in the sky?

telluride town
The historic town of Telluride (Photo: courtesy of Telluride Tourism Board)

Built with foresight in a green initiative in 1996, the gondola links Telluride, set in a box canyon in the San Juan Mountains, to resort facilities above in the municipality of Mountain Village. It’s a two-mile vertical journey with spectacular views that takes about 13 minutes each way, running from 7 a.m. to midnight, daily.  There’s also a free public bus which runs regular routes about the communities. The well-planned layout means that once you have arrived (which is easier than ever with added direct flights into the region),  housing, resort activities, restaurants and retail are all readily accessible on foot. Park the car and forget it. Mom and Dad don’t have to spend their time ferrying kids about. Teens have ready access to the many area recreational activities without need of a chauffeur.

Now a historic landmark, the town of Telluride was founded by gold-miners in the Victorian era. Butch Cassidy robbed the local bank in 1889, and the town’s secluded location, laid-back vibe and natural beauty have been attracting celebrities ever since. The likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Tom Cruise, Ralph Lauren, Meg Whitman, and Oprah Winfrey have been residents, but the local scene is relaxed posh, not glitzy, and comfortable for both stars and regular folk looking to wind down. The ski facilities were built in the 1970s and ‘80s in Mountain Village, designed in the style of a pedestrian-friendly European resort, with lodging and residential properties in both areas

And, what is there to do? In winter, world-class skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling are the draws. In summer, there’s biking, hiking, camping, golf, tennis, fly-fishing, horseback-riding, rock-climbing, river sports, and frequent festivals, including renowned bluegrass, jazz, and film events that draw big-name entertainers charmed with the intimate setting. With populations of 2,500 and 1,000, respectively, Telluride and Mountain Village are small towns with big appeal.  

The gondola anniversary is being celebrated with a contests, promotions, and events this summer and fall, culminating December 20, the actual date service launched in 1996. This is an excellent time to scope it out the scene in this charming mountain community for a potential home purchase. 

True to our mission, here’s a glimpse of eye candy real estate available in the area. This house proves the point mountain homes don’t have to be stodgy and trite. Voilá, 70 Canyon View Circle, Telluride…


This five-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath single-family home sits in a cul-de-sac on 2.24 acres adjacent a 13-acre open space park. Designed by One Architects, the property has been featured in Ski Magazine. It’s not hard to see why: sleek, modern styling throughout the 4,500-square-foot interior, floor-to-ceiling windows affording spectacular views, plus three levels of decking and lovely grounds for outdoor entertaining. The property is listed for $2.595 million and is represented by Dan Henschel.












It’s ready and waiting, for a family with a view toward mountain living, high in the sky.