Cozy Outdoor Seating’s a Go(ndola) In Steamboat

A Steamboat Springs brewery taps into a fun winter patio solution.

Three ski lift cabins with people inside on the patio of a brewery at night.
Mountain Tap Brewery found a fun solution for patio dining close to home. / Mountain Tap Brewery

In recent months we’ve seen yurts sprout in the mountains and igloos pop up in the city as a solution to outdoor winter dining woes, but Mountain Tap Brewery stayed closer to home when coming up with a solution for its patio problems. The Steamboat Springs brewpub didn’t look as far afield as Mongolia or Canada; co-owner Wendy Tucciarone and her team just looked out the window.

“Our accountant planted the seed,” she says. “We were all tossing around a variety of outlandish ideas of how we could utilize our spacious patio during the winter, and as he gazed up at our ski mountain, the gondola line must have come into view!” After a bit of research, Tucciarone found the Gondola Shop in Fruita, which restores ski gondolas from around the world, repurposing them as saunas, bars, coffee counters, and photo booths. (The business also restores the cars for their intended purpose of shuttling skiers up a mountain, but boring.)

An artist's rendering of two people sitting inside an old ski gondola eating, and two people standing outside wearing winter gear.
An initial sketch of the concept. / Celeste Vachek

In a whirlwind overnight trip to Fruita, Wendy and Rich Tucciarone (co-owner and brewmaster) took a look at the shop’s stock (after they squeezed in some mountain biking). While the Gondola Shop had previously purchased the entire line of Steamboat Ski Resort’s cabins, none of those were available for purchase, so the Tucciarones ended up ordering three old cars from Vermont’s Killington Ski Area. The brewery received the cars in August and has been working on refurbishing them themselves since.

Two adults and two children sitting inside a repurposed ski gondola, smiling, eating, and drinking.
The tables inside the gondola are made of the same beetle-kill pine used to fashion the brewery’s indoor community tables. / Mountain Tap Brewery

Now, they’ve been installed on Mountain Tap’s patio and equipped with space heaters, string lights, and a Bluetooth speaker so guest can enjoy their own music. Wendy notes, “We had to work with the building department, planning department, and historic preservation committee (our building is on the historic register) to gain approval for installing them on our patio. We are getting good at jumping through hoops! The good thing is that now they are permanently permitted and we can utilize them during non-COVID winters as well.” The cabins seat six adults (plus two kids, if everyone’s willing to cuddle) and are available by reservation only with food and drink minimums starting at $100.

The Gondola Shop currently has unrestored vintage gondolas starting at $4,600 available for purchase on its website.

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