Riding the gondola is a quintessential experience in Colorado. In the winter, first chair means riding the gondola as high as possible to get as much mileage as possible before skiing down the hill. But in the summer? The gondola is a magical experience. It’s not the means to an end - the ride IS the experience of summer in the mountains. Think about it: A gondola ride gives you an incredible view, and in a way that our frontier pioneers could have hardly imagined.

sunset happy hourMost gondolas are connected to a mountaintop lodge. In the summer, the mid-mountain food courts are transformed into music and sky-watching venues. Some ski areas host sunset happy hours, so you can watch the sky turn pink, red, then purple with a cocktail in hand. Other ski areas run gondolas that serve as public transportation between villages, restaurants, and hiking and biking trails. Why take the city bus when you can ride in a floating car? Often, the top of the gondola also has structured activities. Did you know that disc golf courses are just hiding in plain sight over ski trails? Or that there are plenty of hiking trails to choose from the top of the gondola, too, not just the bottom?

Music, though, is probably what connects most gondola rides in Colorado. You may see a reggae band in the lodge, classical string quartets on the deck, or the local troubadour that you saw busking outside the health food store just hours earlier. The music sounds better up there, doesn’t it? You may even encounter a unique event called a “gondola session.” Professional and amateur musicians take to the gondola to perform short pieces that are inspired by the mountains around them. (Of course, then you have to make sure your instrument isn’t caught in a summer rain once you’re outside).

gondola ridesRiding the gondola is especially fun for families. It doesn’t matter if your family skis or not. If your kids have a sense of wonder, then the gondola ride is like a fairy tale. Consider bringing binoculars to keep an eye out for wildlife. It’s definitely a don’t-miss Colorado activity.