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Traveling between Denver and ski resorts

Over the years, I’ve done my fair share of traveling between Denver and the ski resorts along I-70. Since I am a big Southwest Airlines traveler, Denver is the closest I can get to the ski resorts. American and United actually fly into Eagle, CO and Montrose, CO and can get you a little closer. But those flights are a little too rich for my blood, so Denver it is.

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There are basically two choices, renting a car or riding a shuttle. For families or groups, the best bet is usually going to be renting a car. Since the shuttles charge per person, the more people you have, the less sense it makes. I’ll run you through the thought process on my latest ski trip to Beaver Creek with Junior, to help make the case for the shuttle if you are footing the bill for 1-3 people.

Car Rental Evaluation: We were arriving late on Friday night and leaving early afternoon on Tuesday. So that would be a 4 day car rental. With the inevitable snowy and cold weather, I was most comfortable with a small SUV like a RAV4. If Hubby was with us, we might have taken our chances with a large sedan, but not this trip. Anyway, the car rental prices were running a little over $100 per day which would easily total over $450 once the fees and taxes were added in. Since we were staying in a hotel this trip, we had to figure in their parking fees. Four days of parking at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek would total $200. So we were already up to $650 for the four days, and I hadn’t even added in fuel costs.

Now I’m sure that if you booked the rental car way ahead of time you might be able to score a better deal or settle for a smaller car. Trying Priceline or Hotwire might produce a better result. You might also try using free rental car days or leveraging elite rental car company status if you have it. Be aware that I have never been more pressured to upgrade or add extra things at the rental car counter as I have in Denver. It doesn’t matter the which rental car company, it happens every time! It doesn’t matter if it is summer or winter, they will try to tell you that a sedan won’t make it in the mountains. I’ve rented large sedans in the summer and over Thanksgiving week and been just fine. Decide what you want before you get to the counter. Just make sure you carry the courage of your convictions with you!

Shared Shuttle Evaluation: For shuttle service I’ve always used Colorado Mountain Express (CME). They service lots of different ski areas. It’s the same concept as the super shuttle in that they make several different stops. With CME each shuttle is usally only going to one ski town. Beaver Creek and Vail are grouped together, so you’ll make stops in both. The rountrip shuttle price was $170 per person. So the entire cost for Junior and I was probably closer to $400 once we added tax and tip. So we decided to go with the CME shuttle. Some people might really want the flexibility of having a car to use. However, Beaver Creek has a free dial-a-ride system within Beaver Creek Village, Batchelors Gulch, and Arrowhead. We used it a couple of times during our trip and never waited more than 10 minutes for a ride.

I turned out to have kind of a love/hate relationship with CME on this last trip to Beaver Creek. I had to remind myself that I was saving around $200 by not renting a car. Our flight arrived over an hour late, so we missed our assigned shuttle. Therefore, we had to wait at the airport another 45 minutes for the next one. However, if that one was full, we would have had to wait another 30-45 minutes. Waiting aside, I was very glad we were not driving into the mountains in the dark and snowy weather. Our ride was a Mercedes Sprinter van, so the extra room was appreciated. It was well past midnite when we finally arrived at the hotel, and we even got in a nap along the way.

My biggest recommendation on the return trip back to the airport during the winter is to take an earlier shuttle. When booking online, you program in your departing flight time and the CME website spits out a recommended shuttle time. Modify it to catch an earlier shuttle. If there is any type of bad weather, car wrecks, or closed passes, it could take 5 hours to get from Beaver Creek to the Denver Airport. I’d much rather sit in the airport an extra hour as opposed to missing our flight. We got to the airport with 50 minutes to spare. The only reason we made it on the plane was because we have TSA pre-check. It was the weekend before Christmas and the regular security line was really long while the TSA pre-check line had 1 other person in it. Even so, I was completely stressed out and sweaty after running to the gate.

None of our transportation was sponsored on this trip. There are other area shuttles (like Peak1 that services Keystone and Breckenridge) that might be cheaper. All in all, I know we made the right transportation decision for our mother/son long weekend ski trip. But I’ve learned my lesson, take an earlier shuttle back to the airport in the winter. My nerves will thank me, that’s for sure.



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