Summit County officials look back on Quandary shuttle performance, make room for future improvements

Visitors get off the Summit Express shuttle at the Quandary Peak trailhead on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. According to data from Summit County Government, the shuttle brought a little over $34,000 in revenue during the summer of 2022.
Cody Jones/Summit Daily News

As one of Colorado’s most popular 14,000-foot mountains, Quandary Peak in southern Summit County attracts thousands of hikers every year. Last year, Summit County Commissioners tried out a new system to improve sustainability and revenue. 

Now that peak season is over, the county looked back on how the first summer of its paid Quandary shuttle system performed and created plans for future improvements. 

In 2021, not only was the shuttle season shorter, lasting only from July 30 to Oct. 31, but the shuttle was also free for anyone to ride from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. 

Parking was also different, costing $20 for a half day of parking, $50 for a full day and $5 for a three-hour parking period. 

This year, the season lasted from June 1 to Sept. 30 for parking fees and June 15 to Sept. 18 for the shuttle. The shuttle cost $15 for a non-resident and $5 for a resident to ride.

Parking was $50 for a full day during peak days, and $25 for non-peak days, with no half-day options. Short-term parking of 3.5 hours or less cost $20 during peak days and $5 during non-peak days. All other parking was free after 3 p.m. 

According to information presented by the county, the shuttle brought $34,411 of revenue to the county, compared to $0 of revenue brought in 2021 when it was free. In addition, 2022 parking revenues totaled $188,712. Parking brought in $91,852 in 2021. 

Summit County commissioners are already starting to put pieces in place to create a better hiker experience in the future. 

At Tuesday’s Summit Board of County Commissioners regular session, commissioners passed an amendment to the Aspen Springs planned unit development — the zoning area that leads to the Quandary and McCullough Gulch trailheads. 

Commissioners cited parking and other complications after Quandary Peak popularity dramatically increased as the reason for these changes. The major amendment, would “add allowed and accessory trail, trailhead, and parking uses as well as shelter/storage uses and communications tower” in the development.

Summit County Attorney Jeff Huntley, said the communications tower and shelter were included after requests and feedback from Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons. 

“He noted the rather extraordinary problems that have existed at that location for emergency communications and cell phone communications, over many years,” Huntley said. 

Huntley added that complications came to a head during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Huntley, FitzSimons said there were more people parking on the roads during that time and there were occasionally problems regarding search and rescue missions. 

“He spoke emphatically in favor of these changes to allow for some of the expanded uses related to the existing parking lot that would accommodate changes over time as this increased intensity of use continues,” Huntley added.

Though they passed an amendment on the planned unit development doesn’t mean there will be immediate or guaranteed improvements, said Summit County spokesperson David Rossi. 

It means if improvements are wanted in the future, the area can be altered and added to through a specific legal process that adheres to the zoning requirements. 

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