Tosh Mitsu was a broke college student with a snowboarding addiction.
Unable to afford plane tickets to his nearest ski resort in Chamonix, France, every time a respectable storm blew in, he was often left bumming rides from friends to get his fix of mountain air.
But it wasn't always easy to find a lift.
"Sometimes I was lucky, but most often not," said Mitsu, who went on to use his degree in advertising and digital arts to create MountainRideShare.com, a website dedicated to orchestrating carpools to and from ski resorts across the European continent.
"The site was created because I needed it myself at the time," he said.
Years later, Mitsu's idea is catching on in Colorado.
Websites like SkiCarpool.org and SkiLift.org make it quick and easy to organize shared rides from the Front Range to the mountains, and more and more skiers and snowboarders are taking advantage of opportunities to save money on gas, get in on resort incentives and enjoy a more social commute to the slopes.
Meanwhile, policymakers and transportation officials are seeing a more significant byproduct of the growing carpooling trend: traffic relief.
"Carpooling is one strategy that, along with other things like buses and off-peak travel, can have an impact on ... congestion," I-70 coalition chief Margaret Bowes said. "Carpooling alone isn't going to solve the problem, but as one piece of the puzzle, it can make a progression in that direction."
It seems to be working. The number of carpools organized on SkiCarpool.org and the number of skier visits are climbing, while the number of cars that passed through the Eisenhower Tunnel has declined in recent years.
"We like to think carpooling has something to do with that," Bowes said.
Reducing the number of cars on the road is one of Mitsu's goals as well. His rideshare site is not without its environmental idealism, and he's now looking to bring his model to Colorado.
"Now that it seems to be working in Europe, it would be great to promote the site in Colorado and indeed the rest of the U.S." he said. "It goes without saying that mountain resorts ... need to do what they can to reduce human impact on the environment as we depend on it for work and play."
Carpooling seems to be particularly suited to skiers and snowboarders. People who use the rideshare websites say they do so because it allows them to save money, protect the pristine mountains where they participate in the sports they love and, sometimes, meet new people with whom they'll end up skiing.
"They've been good experiences," said Dick Lynton, 67, who has used SkiCarpool.org several times over the last three years to organize rides to the mountains. "It's a waste of money and a waste of resources to drive up by yourself. And sometimes you find people to ski with. Usually I have interesting conversations, and people are good ride companions."