The best time for sightseeing in the high mountains of the West may well be in the summer -- and from the comfort of a gondola or tramway.
A number of resorts crank up their gondolas or trams to bring “looky-loos” to a mountain summit, where the glory and spectacle of the Rockies, Sierra and Cascades can be absorbed while wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
SnoCountry.com has put together a “Best Of” list for scenic gondola and tram rides. See what you think:
Heavenly. Gondola rises right off shore of Lake Tahoe for a 2.4-mile ride. Shore-to-shore views of Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley to the north from 14,000-square foot Observation Deck below top station. At top is activity-filled Adventure Park. Cost: $42 per adult ride.
Jackson Hole. A 15-minute ride out of the base village reaches 10,450 foot summit of Rendevous Peak. Once there, the massive Teton Range stretches to the north and the broad Snake River Valley spreads below. Cost: $37/$32 online.
Aspen Mountain. The Silver Queen Gondola takes but a few minutes to drop off riders at the 11,212-foot summit of Ajax Mountain. From there, the Elk Mountain Range surrounds to the west, south and east, with 14,267-foot Castle Peak dominating the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area. Cost: $20/ride, $30 for three.
Snowbird. The Aerial Tram takes about 10 minutes to rise 2,900 vertical to the top of Hidden Peak at 11,000 feet. Spread out below is the Wasatch Range, with Alta Ski Area to the southeast and Salt Lake City in the distance. Cost: $17/ride, $23 all day.
Crystal Mountain. Volcano-viewing dominates the vistas at the 6,872-foot summit of the aptly named Mount Rainier gondola at the Washington resort. Rainier, at 14,410 feet, dominates but four other volcanoes – Mt. Adams, Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Baker and Glacier Peak —are within sight. Cost: $22, $25 weekends.
Photos: Top -- Heavenly gondola (Heavenly/Facebook); Top Left -- Jackson Hole gondola (Jackson Hole); Second right -- Aspen gondola (Jeremy Swanson);Second Left: Snowbird Tram (Snowbird/Facebook); Bottom -- Crystal Mountain gondola (Crystal Mountain/Facebook)