Editor’s note: Santa (and TIO)  gave Jesse & Co. Christmas Day off for good behavior, so Snow Sunday is Monday. Better late than never.

Gondola Talk: What’s Said on the G, Stays on the G*

*Unless you’re riding with a writer

Telluride’s Gondola has been celebrated for its dual functionality as both ski lift and free transportation, as convenient and environmentally sound.

But I wonder if anyone factored in the social implications of randomly placing small groups of people together for a scenic 12-minute Gondola ride.

Sure, sometimes it’s nice to just gaze out the windows and zone out. But, more often than not I find myself engaging in conversation with the other passengers.

I have added more than a few contacts to my babysitting list as a result of Gondola rides and I imagine romances have begun, as well as ended, on the G. If you think about it, it’s almost perfect for the latter; you’ve got a 12-minute window to get it done.

Most recently, the Gondola has also become the location for The Gondola Game Show, a trivia game based off of the Discovery’s Channel Cash Cab. Trivia buff, Brent Hodgson, approaches unsuspecting gondola riders with questions and the opportunity to win gift certificates to bars and restaurants around town.

And, as of this December, the Gondola became a place where two parents, under the chance encounter the Gondola continually provides, reconfigured a child’s Christmas.

I was riding the Gondola from the Mountain Village to town with two twenty-somethings whom I had never met before. During the leg from the Mountain Village to Station Telluride, we had already covered topics such as career options and the pros and cons of living in and leaving Telluride (and for the record, I did get their numbers for babysitting).

When we reached Station San Sophia (the top of the Gondola) an acquaintance, who had been skiing, jumped in to ride down to town. As he got in, he put his cell phone in his pocket and looked up stunned.

He informed us that he had just received a phone call from the school principal (while skiing Gold Hill—buzz kill). His elementary-school son had gotten in some trouble. The source of the trouble was serious elementary-school stuff, but really fairly innocuous in the big scheme.

The random Gondola group of four brainstormed his parenting options during the 7-minute ride to town:

What was the crime?

What should the punishment be?

Would acting with disappointment or anger be more effective?

“You know,” I said, with only a few towers left until we would land at Station Telluride. “I got coal in my stocking when I was in Kindergarten.”

His eyes widened. “Hmm,” he said.

“Good luck,” I said and we all got off.

The Gondola is a short respite; it’s like pressing pause on the video of your life. Then as the cars lumber into the station and the doors open, someone presses play, and you warp right back into your everyday. Yet fragments of that 12-minutes can sneak their way into life outside the Gondola.

And, this being Telluride, I ran into the dad from the Gondola ride the next day.

“How did it go down, last night?” I asked. I felt like I had become this random accomplice in his parenting conundrum.

“It wasn’t that bad,” he said. “I went with disappointment, the guilt thing. It actually worked pretty well.”

On Christmas Day, I ran into him again as I was biking home from the Gondola.

“Hey,” I called out.

“He got coal in his stocking,” he answered.

“Really?” I said. I stopped riding and pulled over to discuss the latest developments. I was surprised, but also felt indirectly implicated. “Wow, Santa really did it,” I said.

“Yup,” he said.

“You should talk to my mom,” I said. “You are the only two parents who I know that have advised Santa to give coal for Christmas.”

He got in his car; I rode down the street.

“So, that’s that,” I thought, and for some reason, let out half a smile.

But, I bet the next time he gets on the Gondola with a random group of people, looks up and sees my mom sitting across from him, they’ll reminisce a little and share a few laughs about Santa and coal.

Snow Sunday is a weekly column by Jesse James McTigue and sponsored by Jagged Edge intended to deliver tips, news, musings and stories about the people, places, events and experiences that make the Telluride winter an epic adventure.

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