The Silver Queen Gondola runs from the gondola plaza in downtown Aspen to the top of Aspen Mountain. At 12,000 feet long, the Silver Queen Gondola is one of the longest single-stage gondolas in North America. It whisks riders up 3,267 vertical feet to 11,200 feet in 14 gorgeous minutes. Riders are then treated to panoramic views of the Elk Mountains, the White River National Forest, and the iconic Highlands Bowl. The views and the activities vary from season to season, but the history of the iconic lift has remained the same: legendary.
In 1938, Elizabeth Paepcke drove up the back side of Aspen Mountain with the Midnight Miners in their trucks. She skied down the front side from those 11,200 feet and realized the mountain's potential as a ski resort. With the advent of World War I, however, the first chairlift didn't open on the mountain until 1946 with Lift 1 going to today's midway station from town, and Lift 2 from the top of Lift 1 to the Sundeck. The uphill lift capacity of these lifts was 1,070 skiers an hour. Other lifts were opened over the years, but it wasn't until the 1986/1987 season that a single lift was able to cover the same ground -- town to Sundeck -- that the original Lift 1 and Lift 2 could cover: the Silver Queen Gondola. The existing chairs took 30 minutes. The new gondola took 14 minutes. Elizabeth Paepcke was there for the inaugural ride.
In 2006, Aspen Skiing Co replaced the 1986 gondola cars with the existing ones for greater uphill capacity, better ventilation, and more comfort. Included with the new cabins were historical placards outlining many aspects of the mountain and town's history for gondola riders to enjoy.
The top of Aspen Mountain is one of the most beautiful places in the entire valley in the summer months. Gondola access to the top provides great hiking off the backside, yoga is offered up there in the fresh air five days a week and kids LOVE playing in the sand and on the play structures. Disc golf and lawn games like corn hole and croquet are also available. Live music plays at the Sundeck a couple nights a week and with yummy eats from the Sundeck and views for days, it would be tough to find a more enjoyable concert setting. The gondola also offers hikers who make the strenuous trek from town up the 3,200 feet to the top of the mountain a ride down in comfort. The gondola runs every day in the summer from mid-June to early September and weekends before starting in May and after until October from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. A one-day ticket is $25 and a summer season pass is $114.
It's no secret Aspen Mountain is a favorite of locals in the ski season in large part due to the great amount of vertical accessed in an efficient way by the Silver Queen Gondola. In addition to the skiing, on cold days, the gondola is the best way to get a quick warm up in between top to bottom laps and you never know what interesting people you'll meet. But aside from the skiing, snowshoe tours operated by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies depart twice a day, yoga is offered (inside) multiple mornings a week, uphill skiers can trudge up the route in the mornings and either ski or take the gondola down, and the top of Aspen Mountain is a great place to start backcountry ski treks. Warm meals are served at the Sundeck and if you think the views are spectacular in the summer, just wait until you see the surrounding mountains bright with sunshine and blue sky backgrounds after a fresh coat of snow.