Telluride Outlines Four Planned Lift Projects

Telluride Ski & Golf owners Chuck and Chad Horning hosted a community meeting tonight, outlining a nine figure capital plan for the next five to ten years. While no lift contracts have been signed, Telski officials revealed they are close to a deal with Doppelmayr for a new detachable quad and are working on three additional projects to be built in seasons to come. Telluride also outlined new employee housing and hotel initiatives which are key to supporting future growth.

The first new chairlift in 14 years will likely be a detachable quad replacing Plunge, Lift 9. The triple chair’s ride time exceeds 13 minutes and the $8 million quad would carry 1,800 skiers per hour, up from 1,200. The Hornings said they would like to ink a deal with Doppelmayr in the next few weeks but that plan may depend on community support for tourism in two November 2nd ballot questions regarding short term rentals.

The second project Telski officials discussed was an up-gauge of the Village Express to a six place. This out-of-base workhorse would likely feature wider chair spacing than the current detachable quad, allowing for fewer stops and more efficient loading. Also on the roadmap for replacement is Sunshine Express, once the longest high speed quad in the world. A modernized chairlift would run $9 or 10 million but the resort is considering building an even more costly multi-stage gondola. Like many of its competitors, Telluride wants to shift ski school operations to the upper mountain, which would require a beginner-friendly gondola. If built as a gondola, Lift 10 would likely include an intermediate station at The Market and Mountain Village parking garage. The lower section of the gondola could run independently in the summer to complement the existing three section gondola operated by the town of Mountain Village. Discussions are ongoing about that project and the future of the aging Telluride-Mountain Village gondola system in general. Finally, Lift 7 is on the radar to be replaced with a higher capacity fixed grip lift at a cost of around $3 million.

All told, the Hornings are looking at spending $35 million on lifts. Ownership said Telluride will remain a Doppelmayr mountain with fixed grip, UNI-G and D-Line options all under consideration. They noted global steel and copper demands are impacting lift prices but both parties are eager to make a deal.


31 thoughts on “Telluride Outlines Four Planned Lift Projects

  1. Myles Svec October 6, 2021 / 8:26 pm

    This is great news for Telluride! All of these lift upgrades are great especially Plunge. I’m surprised they mentioned nothing about the Chondola as it is getting older. Also is Palmyra Basin lift out of the picture?


  2. Joe skier October 6, 2021 / 8:26 pm

    Can you explain the rationale for ski resorts shifting ski school operations to the upper mountain? Is this to provide for a less crowded/ more pleasant experience for beginners away from a potentially hectic base area? Is it to allow for a longer ski school season (ie, more snow for longer at higher elevations)? Is it to free up space at the base for other, more profitable activities (perhaps food and beverage)? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


    • Doppelmayr FTW October 6, 2021 / 8:54 pm

      Primarily points 1 and 3, although I wouldn’t necessarily say more profitable, but open to more guests than just those in ski school. I don’t think any areas which are moving the beginner areas out of the base keep them open any longer than they did before. I could be wrong on that though.


    • Eric G October 6, 2021 / 9:24 pm

      – More abundant and better quality snow over the duration of the season.
      – Beginner areas in base areas are often crowded by location. Sometimes the terrain is used by more than just beginners to access lifts and base facilities.
      – On-mountain learning pods are often designed to be exclusive for the purpose of learning eliminating through traffic.
      – Having to ascend and descend the mountain is an experience itself. It generates excitement for the sport by showing off the mountain and what they have to look forward to as they progress.

      I can tell you from experience as an expert skier it is much more desirable to meet friends of lesser abilities on the mountain for lunch rather than descend to the base area. These on-mountain learning areas are often accompanied by a lodge and restaurants.

      They don’t extend the learning season. Snowmaking can more than compensate for less snowfall to keep base area beginner terrain open for the entire season.

      Liked by 2 people

    • buzz October 7, 2021 / 9:51 am

      I work at Olympic Valley adult ski school. Our beginner terrain is at the top of the mountain. Compared to a lot of other resorts I like the experience that it gives beginners. Instead of a small beginner area by the parking lot we get to show our first time skies the full mountain and where they will one day aspire to ski. And for us, it expands our season into the spring. Our upper mountain beginner area doesn’t have snowmaking but it’s 2000ft higher than the lower mountain beginner area. Most seasons we start off teaching on a small lift by the parking lot until we have enough natural snow to use the upper mountain. Then we don’t look back except on wind days.

      Liked by 1 person

    • skitheeast October 7, 2021 / 10:14 am

      Everyone above has made good points, but I will also add that the top has better views and a lot of people, especially in today’s world of Instagram and social media, are drawn to the mountains for the first time for their picturesque scenery. If someone is struggling on the snow, it is much easier to have an enjoyable experience when they are able to take a break, sit or fall down, and soak in the views rather than be surrounded by a chaotic base area.

      I have taught skiing at a couple different mountains over the years, and I always tried to bring beginners to the top (should the terrain warrant it) as soon as possible.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Daniel Bund October 14, 2021 / 9:41 am

      I guess Timberline Lodge is doing the reverse then- their beginner area was always mid mountain but now that they’ve merged with summit it’s moving down mountain.


  3. Ryan Murphy October 7, 2021 / 12:40 am

    Plunge going high speed is a huge improvement. That’s probably the best terrain on the mountain on most days, and that lift is painful.


  4. Ryan October 7, 2021 / 1:14 am

    Telluride is a hidden gem of a mountain and town. Thankfully it is so far west here in Colorado that it isn’t super crowded. It’s a great place to vacation, summer and winter.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Nahms October 7, 2021 / 4:55 am

    Can you expand on this: “…but that plan may depend on community support for tourism in two November 2nd ballot questions regarding short term rentals.”

    Are they saying if you want new lifts vote one way or another? So if there is no support for these two ballot questions, whatever they may be, there are no new lifts?


  6. Philip Keeve October 7, 2021 / 7:20 am

    Sunshine becoming a chondola/telemix could be a good option here in terms of managing loading/unloading, spacing carriers, and overall speed, a la Centennial Express at Beaver Creek.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donald Reif October 7, 2021 / 10:45 am

      That was my thought and the ideal way to give everyone what they want.


  7. skitheeast October 7, 2021 / 10:09 am

    This is excellent news! Telluride is one of my favorite mountains in the US, and many of these upgrades will be welcome! Plunge being upgraded has been at the top of my wishlist for a while, but I wonder why they are not trying to reuse Village Express here given that they want to upgrade it to a six-pack and it is not very old. Also, I think they will end up putting a gondola in to replace Sunshine. The Ute Park area is great for beginners and expanding the popular free gondola network is sure to be welcomed by residents and visitors. Selfishly, I wish Lift 7 were to become detachable with a top terminal above North Chute because I really like that area of the mountain, especially when there is plenty of snow.


    • Mike B October 7, 2021 / 10:58 am

      Regarding Village Express, is it going to be an entirely new machine? The language used in the article is “up-gauge” to a six place lift. So do we know whether there will be a full machine to relocate? If so, I completely agree with the take, though where would you put it? Only candidates would be Lift 7 (which they already have a fixed grip plan for) and perhaps Apex, which is half the length.


        • Mike B October 7, 2021 / 11:34 am

          Thanks Peter. Then the decision not to re-deploy the existing 4 seat machine seems interesting. Definitely one to track unless they’ve run it into the ground and it’s not worth relocating anywhere.


  8. Matt October 7, 2021 / 12:12 pm

    Really surprised to see that there’s no plan for a detachable to replace one of the town lifts. Considering the limited capacity of the gondola, a detachable would really help alleviate the congestion issues in the base.


    • Patrick Sullivan October 7, 2021 / 5:59 pm

      The ski company made various efforts over the past 15 years to engage the community in a plan to upgrade the Lift 7 base and its neighborhood, which is 40+ years old. Their position has been that they’d like to see the bed density in the area to justify spending on a detachable replacement. But there’s a lot of vocal opposition to using any more of the space available there for lodging/parking structures.
      I’d say by now management is resigned to replacing Lift 7 with a new fixed grip. But there’s always the hope that this announcement might shake loose some sort of movement in the community to revamp that area sooner rather than later.


      • timothy carney November 27, 2021 / 11:30 pm

        I built the oak street lift in1985. it was an old pos when we moved it. don’t fix it remove it and replace it. by the way that beautiful curve of the bottom terminal was my art.


        • timothy carney November 27, 2021 / 11:35 pm

          I also built the plunge lift, probably the last mechanical counter weight lift ever built. if you’re ever on the lift line you should notice the log cabin tower foundations.


    • Somebody October 7, 2021 / 9:33 pm

      The gondola down to town is a really weird lift to lap too. You spend the bottom half of the run basically traversing on side-hill. Chair 7’s line makes far more sense as an actual lift to lap.


      • pbropetech October 7, 2021 / 9:36 pm

        That’s because the gondola is not meant to lap. It’s a transit machine, rather like the BreckConnect.


        • Somebody October 8, 2021 / 7:19 am

          The problem is that Coonskin is such a slow lift that people end up lapping the gondola when they ski the front.


        • Billuh October 8, 2021 / 9:39 am

          @sombody – that sounds like a them problem.


  9. Doug October 8, 2021 / 10:48 am

    How come no Gold Hill Summit or Palmyra Basin lifts?


    • Ryan Murphy October 9, 2021 / 5:32 pm

      Low return for high expense. Telluride is already a great expert skier mountain, so any investment geared primarily toward a small, loyal group isn’t likely to offer good ROI.


  10. Erik October 9, 2021 / 7:01 pm

    Would they ever consider replacing both Plunge and Oak Street with a single, bottom-to-top lift? It’d be burly: about 8900′ long and 3100′ vertical, similar to Challenger at Sun Valley. That would give them extra out-of-base capacity.

    Or does the mountain not really ski like that? (Sorry if that’s a dumb question, never been to Telluride. Someday.)


    • Donald Reif October 10, 2021 / 7:27 am

      It’s not really practical, not without a midstation where Plunge starts.


  11. Warren October 9, 2021 / 7:10 pm

    Despite moving to a ski resort town, there is a new breed of Telluride local that is unfriendly towards tourism.
    They have brought forward a ballot question (300) referenced by the ski area ownership which effectively bans half the short term rentals in town.
    Even rentals which were built 40 years ago for the sole purpose of skier lodging would be banned from housing tourists should this ballot measure pass.
    These new locals don’t understand that the town and ski areas economic vitality are codependent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Donald Reif October 10, 2021 / 7:32 am

      This is like the ski town version of NIMBYism.


  12. Ike C December 7, 2021 / 7:35 pm

    Is a copy of the slide presentation available for those unable to attend the meeting?

    Liked by 1 person

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