Ski Buses Might Ease the Gridlock

A classic Colorado joy of heading to ski or snowboard  in deep powder has turned into a nightmare too many times this winter. The  under two hour highway drive from Denver to the world-class resorts has turned into a frozen gridlock with some motorists stranded up to 10 hours. Some of us have reluctantly given up weekend skiing.

There has been plenty of finger pointing along with lots of suggestions for easing the mountain gridlock. It’s pretty sad to think of the amount of carbon pollution dumping into the no-longer wilderness  while thousands of would-be outdoor enthusiasts are trapped in their vehicles.

But one solution drawing too little attention seems deserving of more: Replacing at least a few hundred  of those cars with ski  buses.

The park and ride lots used by RTD during the week are plentiful and all over metro Denver. Why can’t a handful of them  be more fully  used on weekends as parking for ski resort bus riders?  The transit agency could be compensated for the parking and gain some new revenue. 

Surely there’s a viable public-private partnership in here somewhere. Vail Resorts, whose customers account for the biggest chunk of those gridlocked drivers, could play a leadership role. Other ski resorts could step up and see their responsibility and opportunity to solve  this problem.  Perhaps clean-burning buses could be used to really help cut down on pollution. 

Recent reports indicated that Colorado cars with bald tires accounted for many of the stalled vehicles causing massive gridlock. I bet plenty of those belong to young skiers and boarders who would be happy to leave the driving to experts if they had a reasonable alternative. Vail Resorts has a loyal following with its Epic Local pass—why not include a bus option for a certain amount more? That way Vail could test the waters and collect some revenue up front to get at least a demonstration program rolling. Or even a flat-fee, known in advance that would mimic Vail parking rates?

When I was a child growing up in Colorado, many of my friends  rode the train to Winter Park to learn to ski through the Eskimo program. I was kind of jealous of them—my family headed over Loveland Pass in the pre-tunnel days, leading to my lifelong nervousness about bad weather winter driving. I would love to have a better option for reaching Ski Country today.

There are lots of other solutions worth exploring—like detaining high profile trucks from I-70 during a handful of peak weekend hours, instituting tread checks, mandating chains, and others. Some want to focus on building a monorail. These might all be part of the solution—along with hundreds of other ideas.

But aren’t some good old buses at least worth serious consideration as part of the solution? 

1 response so far ↓

Ann Imse - Feb 23, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Here are more suggestions: Give county sheriffs the authority to ban certain vehicles from state highways during certain weather: no chains or studs, high-profile vehicles in wind, bald tires, etc. Enforce the chain law on trucks with a huge fine. Ban trucks entirely from I-70 during certain hours -- they are not moving anywhere anyway, and they'd learn to schedule their trips in just weeks. There's no point to their argument that trucks have as much right to the road when their very presence in bad conditions is putting a halt to their drive anyway.

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