With ski resorts and towns brainstorming for creative ways to meet their guests’ restaurant needs within COVID-19 occupancy constraints this winter, the Town of Mountain Village at Telluride has come up with a novel one: a collection of 20 dining cabins scattered in the base plaza made from refurbished gondola cars.
The cabins, which are being refurbished by The Gondola Shop in Fruita, will have lights (in the ceiling and under chairs), heating and ventilation systems, cushioned seats with black leather coverings, wooden dining tables, easy-sliding doors and sturdy floors that can withstand wear and tear from ski boots.
“The dream is that eight people could fit. I think, comfortably, it will be more like six,” said Zoe Dohnal, business development and sustainability director for the Town of Mountain Village. “We see it being an après ski element in the future (after the pandemic).”
For this winter, though, the aim is to give guests added dining space options and keep restaurant wait staffs employed while they are restricted to 50% of capacity due to the pandemic. The town also will erect 20-foot yurts and temporary “pavilion” structures.
Tables will have QR codes that show menu options from 12 restaurants in the village center. Some of those restaurants will send wait staff to your gondola or yurt, as if you were being served in the restaurant. Some will be offering takeout meals only.
In keeping with health department guidelines, guests are asked to restrict their dining to “related or associated parties,” Dohnal said.
In the brainstorming that led to the gondola dining cars, some thought was given to building clear “igloos” made of plastic or glass, but there was concern over whether they could stand up to potentially high winds and heavy snow loads. The gondola cars will hold up just fine in extreme weather because they were originally built to do just that.
Dominique Bastien, the owner of The Gondola Shop, said her company refurbishes gondola cars it bought from Steamboat Resort and Killington Resort in Vermont.
“The gondolas we restore are mainly sold for private (owners),” Bastien said. “Some people turn them into offices with light and tables and heaters. We make saunas, and party ones with fridges inside and lights and speakers. We did some for backyards for kids with a swing, ropes you can climb and a little slide that comes out of the roof. We can do anything.”
You can order one, too, by the way. A sauna will cost you $25,000. Gondola cabins without added accessories or modifications run about $9,500.
Bastien’s 22-year-old business has eight employees working full-time and they are “crazy busy,” she said. They typically refurbish about 100 per year, with a full restoration requiring about 100-150 hours of labor.
“They’re 30 years old,” Bastien said “so they need work.”
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