Club car

Club car

Leave it to Mountain Village to come up with a novel solution to the er, novel coronavirus. The ritzy upstairs neighbor to Telluride has announce plans to refurbish gondola cars for socially-distanced dining in the Mountain Village plaza.

According to a story in the Denver Post’s “The Adventurist,” the cars, which are being called “cabins,” will have lights, heating and ventilation, 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,” Zoe Dohnal, business development and sustainability director for the Town of Mountain Village, told The Adventurist. “We see it being an après ski element in the future (after the pandemic).”

For this winter, though, the aim is to offer added dining space and keep wait staff employed while restaurants are restricted to 50 percent capacity due to the pandemic. The town will erect yurts and temporary “pavilions” in the plaza as well.

Tables will have QR codes that show menu options from 12 restaurants in the village center. Some will send wait staff to your gondola or yurt, while others will allow you to order takeout.

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 idea, the idea of clear “igloos” made of plastic or glass was also floated. However, there was concern over whether they could stand up to high winds and heavy snow loads – the gondola cars solved that issue.

The cars are being restored by The Gondola Shop, in Fruita. Owner Dominique Bastien said the cars were originally bought from Steamboat and Killington Resort, in Vermont.

She said the company mainly restores gondolas for private owners. “Some people turn them into offices with light and tables and heaters,” she said. “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.”

The base model will run you about $9,500 whereas a tricked-out sauna goes for about $25,000 if you can sweat it. 

Bastien’s been in business for 22 years and said she and her eight full-time employees have been “crazy busy” this year. They typically refurbish about 100 gondolas a year, with each one requiring about 100 to 150 hours of labor. “They’re 30 years old,” she said “so they need work.”

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