Saturday, January 30, 2016

Gondola Ride from Telluride to Mountain Village

In my last blog post, I showed you some views of the beautiful town of Telluride, located in the San Juan Mountain region of SW Colorado. My daughter and family, and my husband and I rented a house in nearby Ridgway during Thanksgiving week in November. On a visit to the nearby town of Telluride, we decided to take the free gondola ride up to Mountain Village. It was hard not including a lot of photos in this blog post, so grab a cup of something warm and a wool blanket and come along with us on a thrilling gondola ride!  (All photos and photo collages in this post will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)

The gondola, the first and only free public transportation of its kind in the United States, officially opened on December 20, 1996, and serves as both a lift for skiers and snowboarders and as public transportation for locals and visitors.  It was originally built to help improve air quality while expanding the ski area.

As we ascended on the gondola the historic town of Telluride began to get smaller...

...and smaller.

Running daily, between 7 AM and Midnight, summer and winter, the 13-minute gondola ride eliminates 20 minutes, eight-mile car ride between towns.  The views are spectacular to see as you slowly glide up the mountain.

The town of Telluride is at an 8,750-foot elevation. The gondola climbs 1,790 vertical feet before reaching Station St. Sophia, at 10,540 feet.

Telluride looks very far away!

As one gains elevation, Saint Sophia Ridge comes into view above the town. Mears Peak, Dallas Peak, Gilpin Peak, Mt Emma, and Chicago Peaks, all at 13,000 feet and above come into view.


...and higher, we climb.

Passing through Station St. Sophia...

Station St. Sophia is the midpoint of the gondola ride and one can exit here to the slopes, hiking trails, or Allred's Restaurant.

We continued on the gondola ride toward Mountain Village.

We enjoyed all the glorious 360-degree views!

Around 50 percent of the gondolas are pet accessible, and there are even some that have wheelchair-accessible cabins. The gondolas have ski and snowboard racks in winter and mountain bike racks during the summer.

Approximately 2.25 million people ride the gondolas annually, and an estimated 35 million have been safely transported since its opening day!

Descending down towards the first stop in the Mountain Village area.

Mountain Village is nestled in the heart of the majestic San Juan Mountain Range and consists of hotels, resorts, lodges, condos and homes, shops, and restaurants.

The ski slopes vary from easy double greens to the treacherous double black diamonds at the top of Coonskin Ridge, Gold Hill, and Palmyra Peak.

Majestic mountains were all around us!

The gondola continued on to more stops within Mountain Village.  Our granddaughter was enthralled by the views below.

Our trip was taken in November and by now these slopes would be well covered with deep snow!

We stopped at another area of Mountain Village called "The Beach" and walked around to see this beautiful location which contains many beautiful plazas and one of the best hotels in Telluride-- the Four-Diamond Hotel Madeline. The bronze statue in the photo collage above is titled "Wind Spirit" by sculptress Judy Nordquist  It embodies the Telluride Mountain Ute tribe. The Utes were native Colorado Indians that lived for centuries in the high Rocky Mountains.

After spending some time in Mountain Village we returned to the gondola ride, but this time went back towards historic Telluride.

Toward the end of the 13-minute ride, we saw the town appear below. The gondola is open 275 days a year and closed for maintenance in spring and fall. 

We all definitely enjoyed our trip on the gondola and all the wonderful views we saw along the way. It is a memorable way to visit Mountain Village and see the ski slopes and attractions in the area.

The moon was rising over our view of the Cimmaron Range when we returned to Ridgway. The next day we were going to visit the town of Ouray and take a drive up the Million Dollar Highway into the area known as the "Switzerland of America." Join me in my next post where you will see those spectacular views!

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Historic Telluride Colorado

In my prior post, I showed you the wonderful house we rented during the Thanksgiving week, in the Log Hill Village area of Ridgway, in SW Colorado, that had a panoramic view of the San Juan Mountain Ranges. Another good aspect of that house's location was that it was almost midway between the towns of Ouray and Telluride--two places we heard much about and wanted to visit.  

The drive to Telluride from Ridgway was about 45 minutes long...

... scenically winding around hills and mountains.

We took this drive at the end of November--in winter the views would be much more snow-filled!

We entered the charming Historic District of Telluride.  Established in 1878, Telluride began as a remote mining town,  At an elevation of 8,745 feet, it is located in a majestic box canyon surrounded by 13,000 and 14,000-foot mountains. The area's mines provided silver, zinc, lead, copper, and gold ores for some years, When silver prices crashed in 1893, followed by World War 1, the mining industry slowed down and Telluride's population dwindled from thousands to hundreds. Fortunately, in the 1970s Telluride reinvented itself as a ski town. Soon, cultural events, festivals, music, and performing arts made the town a popular year-round destination.  Its world-class skiing and the beautiful ambiance made it popular with the wealthy.  The median price for a house in Telluride is now 3.8 million dollars!  Tom Cruise, Jerry Seinfeld, Oprah Winfrey, and Laura Linney are among the entertainers who have owned houses in the area.

This iconic view looking down Main Street in Telluride took my breath away!

I enjoyed walking around the town and seeing some of its landmark buildings such as the San Miguel County Courthouse, the First National Bank building, and the New Sheridan Hotel.

 Click on the photo above to enlarge it, to see some historical markers located on Main Street. 

Some interesting facts from Telluride's history:

Outlaw Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch began their brazen careers in robbing banks at the San Miguel National Bank in downtown Telluride in 1889. They stole $24,000 in mining payroll from the bank.

In 1891, entrepreneurs LL Nunn and; George Westinghouse worked together using Nikola Tesla's discovery of alternating current to run almost 2.5 miles of power line from a hydroelectric plant in Ames to the Gold King Mine. Eventually, those lines would be brought into the town and Telluride would become the first town in the country to be powered with alternating current electric power!
Due to its significant role in the history of the American West, Telluride was designated as a National Historic Landmark District in 1964.

The historic downtown of Telluride is full of places to eat and shop and magnificent scenery, but most of the ski resorts, luxury hotels and restaurants, modern sprawling condominium complexes, and million-dollar homes are in the adjacent Mountain Village, which rises above Telluride to the southwest at an elevation of almost 10,000 feet.

There is a 13-minute long gondola ride that takes visitors up to Mountain Village. It gave us glorious views of the downtown and 365-degree views of the San Juan Mountains.  It is often referred to by locals as "the best commute in the country!" Come back to see my next blog post where I will take you along for the ride!

Beautiful Telluride!  

I was excited to visit this historic and scenic town and I hope to return again many times in the future.  Come back soon to take the gondola ride up the mountains to the ski resorts in my next post!

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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Scenic Drive to SW Colorado

Every time my husband and I drive to a new area in Colorado we are amazed by the scenery and topography of our state.  Our trip to a house we rented, along with our daughter and her family, in South West Colorado was no exception!  We drove west, from our town of Littleton, on Colorado 470, to US 285. I've blogged often about traveling on US 285 over Kenosha Pass to South Parkas this is one of the prettiest places in Colorado. (All photos and collages in this post will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on.)

South Park is a large grassland basin, at 10,000-foot elevation, rimmed by the Rocky Mountain Mosquito and Park Mountain Ranges.  It is populated by many scenic ranches and the town of Fairplay.  Although we were taking this trip during Thanksgiving week in November, you can see there was already significant snow on the high, surrounding peaks.

We continued on US 285 towards the Sawatch Mountain Range near Buena Vista, Colorado.  

When we entered the Buena Vista area, we had a view of Mt. Princeton.  Mt. Princeton is 14,204 feet high mountain and is part of the Collegiate Peaks of the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. The Sawatch Mountain Range contains eight of the twenty highest peaks in the Rocky Mountains, including Mt. Elbert, which is the highest mountain of the Rocky Mountain Range in North America, at an elevation of 14,440 feet. 

We soon traveled west onto US 50 and traveled over the Continental Divide over Monarch Pass. This pass is considered one of the most scenic in Colorado, with beautiful views of the Sawatch Range.  It also contains the Monarch Ski Area.

We were now in Gunnison County, Colorado, where we had a view of the West Elk Mountain Range.

The topography here became "otherworldly."

The erosion of millennium on these ancient hills, buttes, mesas, and mountains reveled their "bones." 

All I could think of, as we drove past views like this, was this area is a geologist's dream... well as a photographer's.

We passed the craggy, tall Dillon Pinnacles of the Curecanti National Recreation Area.....

 ...and the Blue Mesa Reservoir, which is the largest body of water entirely in Colorado. 

At 7,519 feet, it is 20 miles long and has 96 miles of shoreline. The Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest lake trout and Kokanee salmon fishery in Colorado. 

We also passed the north rim of the amazing Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which I will blog about on a future post.

As we drove towards the city of MontroseI continued to see the most beautiful and unusual scenery.  I felt like all the castles in Europe could not compare to these natural "castles" made by time.

The hills were dark examples of volcanic remains of Precambrian era gneiss and schist.

We soon turned onto US 550 in Ouray County, towards the magnificent San Juan Mountain Range--the largest mountain range in Colorado by area.  We were approaching our final destination in Log Hill Village near Ridgway, Colorado. 

The house we rented for the week here had a beautiful large deck that offered us a panoramic view of the San Juan Mountains. It was the also the vantage point from where we took day trips to the towns of Ouray and Telluride, and a drive along the Million Dollar Highway--all of which I will blog about in future posts.  

I hope you enjoyed coming along on our drive to SW Colorado and enjoyed the wondrous and incredible scenery we passed along the way.  Return soon to see more of our visit this fabulous part of Colorado!

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