Telluride Ski Resort, which crested 500,000 skier visits for the first time last season and operates 14 chairlifts, released a new master development plan this month aimed at upgrading key lifts and adding a few new ones over the next decade. At opening in 1972, Telluride had just five double chairlifts but now, together with the town of Mountain Village, is home to North America’s largest gondola transit system and one of the most successful destination resorts.
Telski’s last MDP from 1999 included several lift projects that are still approved but not yet completed. Most notably, the Palmyra Basin lift would rise 1,165 vertical feet lift to serve intermediate terrain above the Prospect Express, which itself was built as part of a four-lift expansion in 2001. Also in this area, a new 1,500′ surface lift is approved to serve the Gold Hill chutes above the Revelation lift, which debuted in 2008 as Telluride’s only Leitner-Poma lift.
More lift upgrades are added in the latest master plan. The first is bringing Gold Hill Express capacity from its 1,500 pph to 2,200 by adding more chairs. This lift was initially approved as two separate lifts with 1,200-1,500 pph each, but was combined into one lift with a higher design capacity. Gold Hill is a 2001 Doppelmayr, one of four Telluride built in one very busy summer.
Another planned project that will surprise no one is a Plunge lift replacement. The existing 1985 CTEC triple has had a reduced hourly capacity of 1,042 pph ever since safety bars were installed, due to their added weight. At 6,260 feet slope length, a ride takes nearly 13 minutes. A 1,000 f.p.m. detachable quad is proposed to replace Plunge with an initial capacity of 1,800 pph and designed to reach 2,400.
The Sunshine Express debuted as the longest high-speed quad in the world in 1986. The plan notes replacement with newer equipment including the option of building as a gondola is necessary. “Many of this lift’s components are approaching their 25-year life expectancy, and require costly replacement and maintenance,” notes SE Group. Increasing ride times due to expanded downloading have driven Telski to consider a gondola replacement option. An 8-passenger gondola with 2,400 pph capacity could include two sections, the first of which would serve as a fourth leg of the Mountain Village Gondola system, from the Meadows area to Mountain Village Town Hall. With this alternative, the Garaventa CTEC Chondola would be converted to a standard chairlift and its four-passenger cabins would be removed.
Mostly because of its age and status as an “orphaned” SLI lift dating from 1975, Coonskin is also slated to be replaced. A triple chair would provide a modest capacity increase, while a re-aligned detachable quad could anchor a re-developed Coonskin base area.
The MDP also mentions possible upgrades to the Mountain Village Gondola that I covered extensively here. The overall goal of this undertaking is “to develop and properly balance high-quality lift facilities in order to provide an exceptional ski experience.” The Forest Service now must accept or reject the plan before a formal review. To learn more about Telluride’s master plan and submit a comment, visit tel.ski/mdp.