Gondola Extended Farther Into 'Gold Season'
by Martinique Davis
Sep 27, 2012 | 1693 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
FALL SPLENDOR - The Telluride Gondola swept over a display of lemony-yellow aspen on its trip from Mountain Village to Telluride Tuesday morning. The gondola's operations have been extended a week longer than usual; the free transportation link will stay open until Oct. 28, before closing until the start of the 2012-2013 ski season. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
FALL SPLENDOR - The Telluride Gondola swept over a display of lemony-yellow aspen on its trip from Mountain Village to Telluride Tuesday morning. The gondola's operations have been extended a week longer than usual; the free transportation link will stay open until Oct. 28, before closing until the start of the 2012-2013 ski season. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
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MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – The gondola will continue pumping people between the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village farther into the fall this year, as the free transport system’s season will be extended a week to Oct. 28.

It’s a joint effort by the governments of Telluride and Mountain Village, and the Gondola’s funding organization, TMVOA (the Telluride-Mountain Village Owners Association).The G had been scheduled to close on October 21.

Extending operations further into autumn’s “gold” season represents a concentrated effort by local governments and the Telluride Tourism Board (Marketing Telluride Inc.) to extend the resort economy’s summer season later into the fall. The hope is that by keeping the Gondola open later into October, more visitors will be drawn to the area while the weather is still decent and fall foliage viewing is still possible.

The extra week of operations will cost around $25,000, with a total of $30,000 additional funds dedicated to “gold season” marketing efforts. The total $55,000 cost will be divided equally between the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village, and TMVOA, with each entity kicking in $18,333 to keep the Gondola open Oct. 21-28. It will reopen less than three weeks later, on Nov. 16.

The plan was originally conceived by TMVOA in an effort to stimulate Mountain Village’s sluggish fall economy.

“The main emphasis was to start shrinking the shoulder seasons, when Mountain Village looks like a ghost town. So we looked at the obvious thing that would help stimulate the economy – and that’s the Gondola,” said Jonathan Greenspan, who was a representative of the commercial class on the TMVOA board at the time of the plan’s creation about two years ago. He is now the board’s president, and a residential class representative.

“We want to see Mountain Village become a 10 to 12-month village, as opposed to an eight-month village,” Greenspan said.

TMVOA’s plan to make Mountain Village more economically viable is also expected to help create more vibrancy throughout the entire Telluride-Mountain Village region during an historically slow time of year. Marketing efforts to draw more last-minute, Baby Boomer-type visitors is underway, and hotels in Mountain Village are cautiously reporting positive results with a handful of groups booked during that time.

In last week’s Town Council meeting, Mountain Village mayor Bob Delves said the effort was about more than merely driving more business to Telluride and Mountain Village.

“It’s not just about generating more revenues and taxes, it’s also about creating a more stable work environment,” he told Council, explaining that if the region were able to stretch its tourist season long enough, local employers – especially hoteliers – would stand a better chance of keeping a consistent workforce.

“It’s a huge problem here, because so many businesses can’t provide a steady enough paycheck for people to come back and work the next season,” Delves said.          

He added that other resort communities, like Aspen and Vail, traditionally do well during the month of October.

The three funding entities had originally budgeted $25,000 each for the extension, and had planned to run the Gondola two additional weeks (until November 4.) But it was ultimately determined that only one extra week would be necessary, and additional funds should be earmarked for marketing.

Mountain Village Councilor John Howe said the original plan envisioned continuing the Gondola’s season extension for three to five years, which would enable the towns and TMVOA to get a good sense of its economic impact.

“We talked about three to five years so we could develop a clientele and get the marketing out there that says ‘this is a great time to show up in Telluride and Mountain Village,” he said. Local sales tax revenues and other economic factors will be assessed for this year, but Howe added that he doesn’t believe the success of the program can be based solely on its first year.

It has yet to be determined whether the longer gondola season will in fact be funded beyond this autumn.

The Gondola will operate on a reduced schedule the week of Oct. 21-28. It will run from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Station Parking segment of the Gondola will not be open during that period.  

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