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How to Ski Without a Car in Colorado

A complimentary bus system is available in Gunnison Valley, the home of Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and other areas in Colorado  — here’s how to use them.

Free buses are available between Crested Butte and Crested Butte Mountain Resort; (photo/Morgan Tilton)
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This story is brought to you by Crested Butte Mountain Resort, which hosted GearJunkie’s annual ski and snowboard test in 2023.

Bumper-to-bumper ski resort traffic is a surprise to no one when Colorado highways, inevitably, get backed up. Avalanche mitigation, heavy traffic flow, accidents, and good old-fashioned snowstorms can create gridlock that lasts for hours.

Why not leave the car at home? Heading to the slopes without a car is an underutilized, but very effective way to reduce stress on a powder day (just ask anyone who’s skied in Europe). And while the public transportation infrastructure in Colorado is minimal, it’s still very functional in some places.

Several ski resort communities across the Centennial State offer transportation alternatives, allowing you to leave your own rig at home:

  • Crested Butte Mountain Resort
  • Eldora Mountain Resort
  • Winter Park Resort
  • Loveland Ski Area
  • Telluride Ski Resort
  • Copper Mountain
  • Arapahoe Basin
  • Breckenridge Resort 
  • Steamboat Resort and Howelsen Hill

Colorado Ski Resorts With Alternatives to Driving

Skiers load a bus at a transit center; (photo/Morgan Tilton)

Pivoting your mode of travel for your next Colorado ski trip can save wear and tear on your personal vehicle while saving you the energy required on the drive — allowing more energy on skis! 

Snow travelers can instead cover miles by train, bus, plane, and gondola to get around on their next ski trip. It’s easy, too — here’s how. 

Crested Butte Mountain Resort

One of the unique aspects of public transit for skiers and snowboarders heading to Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR), is that the bus system throughout Gunnison Valley is free of cost with consistent pickups several times throughout the hour. 

The services are so popular that the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) recently doubled the number of buses to 35 trips per day, in 2023, and increased the bus sizes, too, confirmed Scott Truex, Executive Director of the RTA. 

For skiing at CBMR, here are the three service arms you should know:

  • RTA
  • Mountain Express (MX)
  • FirstTracks

The RTA bus route starts in Gunnison, 28 miles south of Crested Butte town, and goes north on Highway 135. After passing Crested Butte, the bus continues 4 miles to Mount Crested Butte town and drops skiers off at Mountaineer Square, the base of CBMR. 

Skiers and snowboarders can bring their skis, snowboards, and backpacks on board.

On the valley’s north end is a second complimentary bus system: the Mountain Express (MX) follows a route every 15 minutes between Crested Butte town and CBMR’s Mountaineer Square. New for 2023-24, MX also launched FirstTracks, an on-demand, free shuttle that operates door-to-door from Mountaineer Square throughout the neighboring northerly community of Mount Crested Butte town. 

(Photo/Morgan Tilton)

For on-the-ground RTA updates, travelers can download the Transit app. Truex said, “Each bus has a GPS tracker, so the app gives you real-time arrivals and helps you plan your trip with departure times from each pickup location.”

Beyond the local bus system, Bustang Outrider, operated by CDOT, runs daily between Crested Butte and Denver.

If travelers need a bump from the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, located in Gunnison, a handful of nearby hotels offer shuttle pick-ups like Econo Lodge and Comfort Inn & Suites Gunnison-Crested Butte. 

Eldora Mountain Ski Resort

Eldora Mountain is the only Colorado resort accessed by RTD, Colorado’s largest public transportation system. Located just outside Boulder, Eldora Mountain is accessible via an RTD northbound public bus route, with departures several times a day. In addition to public transportation, there’s a free shuttle that runs up to the mountain on select Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

Winter Park Resort

Amtrak Winter Express
The Winter Park ski train; (photo/Carl Frey, Winter Park Resort)

Among the state’s progressive travel-to-ski options, the Amtrak Winter Park Express train transports skiers and riders from the Denver Union Station in downtown Denver up to Winter Park Resort

The best part: The train ride is 2 hours long, which is a guaranteed time commitment compared to a potential freeway plug — which could require triple that time, one-way. The seasonal service is available Fridays through Sundays from January through March. 

Loveland, Copper, Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, and Steamboat Resort

The Steamboat Springs resort is surrounded by lodging options, and is served by a free city bus system.

Four ski areas outside of the state capital offer a seasonal round-trip bus service on weekends. Dubbed Snowstang, which is operated via CDOT, the bus departs from Denver Union Station or Denver Federal Center. 

Once you reach Summit County or Steamboat Springs, there are free local buses you can hop on, too:

  • Summit Stage (also called the Swan Mountain Flyer): Drops off skiers at Copper, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Arapahoe Basin. The bus also services major hubs and destinations within Dillion, Silverthorn, and the town of Breckenridge.
  • Steamboat Springs Transit: Drops off skiers at Steamboat Ski Resort (Gondola Transit Center) or near Howelsen Hill. It connects with stops in town, and up the valley all the way to Craig, Colo. The transit system is free and will stop in town, at the ski area, and at many hotel and lodging options in between.

Telluride Ski Resort

Once you’re in the town of Telluride, visitors can take a complimentary gondola between the Mountain Village and town. 

Visitors can fly into the Telluride Regional Airport and book a shuttle service 6 miles to town. Or, fly into the Montrose Regional Airport, 1 hour and 22 minutes away, and schedule a shuttle bump via Telluride Express.

In Telluride, you can hop on the complimentary Galloping Goose bus service. If you’re staying in the Mountain Village, the bus system is operated by the San Miguel Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART).

Benefits of Alternative and Public Transit

(Photo/Morgan Tilton)

Sure, taking public transit — be it a bus, train, or shuttle — takes a bit of planning ahead. You’ll want to be sure you don’t forget your goggles or a pack lunch! 

But overall, opting for a different mode of travel, you can save expenses on parking, fuel, a car rental, or putting miles on your own car. Remember: you can take a nap on the shuttle, or simply relax and enjoy the scenery. And, carpooling or taking public transport can keep hundreds of individual cars off the road, helps reduce fumes and traffic, and is more sustainable for the environment.

Best of all, you can take public transport whether traveling solo, with kids, or in a group. Many states outside Colorado have similar options in terms of local transport, buses, and free shuttles to ski area destinations.

Learn more at skicb.com.

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