Summit Stage serves as a car-free option to get around the county
We’ve all been there. It’s early one winter morning, and the snow is still drifting down over the peaks. You got up early, gathered your skis and boots and hit the road, only to run into gridlock outside of your favorite resort.
You manage your way through the traffic and into the parking lots where the search for an open spot begins. From there, it’s a trek to the lifts until you can forget the morning headaches of tumultuous traffic and focus on fun.
Winter in Summit County brings with it myriad opportunities for amusement and adventure, and for travelers wanting to avoid spending precious time in their cars, the Summit Stage provides a better way to get around.
The Summit Stage is the region’s answer to public transportation, providing a free bus service connecting towns to ski resorts throughout the county. The service runs from about 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, offering carefree access to ski areas, neighborhoods, and retail areas for shopping and dining.
“There are easy ways to use it,” said Geoff Guthrie, operations manager with the Summit County Transit Department. “If you live on the Silverthorne and Dillon side of the county and you’re a Keystone or A-Basin skier, you can pick up the bus in either of those towns. Similarly, if you’re a Copper or Breck skier … it’s really easy to catch the bus here in Frisco or at the hospital going to Breck. It’s a no-brainer.”
The transit service began in the late 1970s as a system to connect visitors to ski areas and was formalized into a county transit department in 1991. Since then, the program has grown to support a 17-bus fleet that carries more than 1.7 million riders every year.
The Summit Stage has a core group of about 2,000 year-round riders who rely on the service daily to get back and forth from work. Ridership numbers turn over to about two-thirds visitors during peak periods, including major holidays during the ski season like spring break and New Years — sometimes carrying 6,000 to 10,000 people a day.
This story previously published in the winter 2020 edition of Explore Summit magazine.
For motorists who would otherwise be driving themselves, the service can make a bigger impact than simply helping to take some cars off the road. Officials say that taking the bus in lieu of driving is also a good move for the environment, your time and your wallet.
“Some of the things about transit that people don’t really think about is how much does the wear and tear on your vehicle cost you?” said Curtis Garner, Summit County’s transit director. “How much are you spending on fuel? What is the depreciation on your vehicle from the miles you put on it? There’s a lot of economic benefits to taking transit as opposed to driving your car. … For those who are environmentally conscious, taking public transportation is something you can do to help protect our winters.”
“Purely from the skiers perspective, most of our drop-offs at the ski resorts are actually closer than you can park,” added Bruce Camping, a planner for the transit department. “We can get you closer to the lifts. And if you’re at the far reaches of the parking lot, it can be a hell of a long walk.”
Because the bus service runs until 2 a.m., it’s also a great option for visitors heading to the bars to enjoy a late-night cocktail or two. And it serves as a valuable tool for visitors who aren’t confident driving on snow and ice, along with keeping ill-equipped rental cars off the road.
The Summit Stage is also very easy to use. The service is completely free, and during the winter, busses typically stop every half-hour. The Summit Stage mobile application — available in the iTunes Store and on Google Play — provides live updates on bus locations so patrons never miss their ride. Real-time bus locations can also be viewed at summitstage.doublemap.com.
“The core message is it’s a free service, and we’re going to take you directly to where you need to go instead of having to park and walk,” Garner said. “We’re going to keep you safe, and for consumers, it’s super convenient and easy to use and understand because of the app. Guests can look forward to a really good, easy experience.”
In addition to the Summit Stage, other transportation options include Breck Free Ride, which provides free public transportation within the town limits of Breckenridge. Visitors should also be aware of Bustang, a state-run service that runs west from Denver to Grand Junction through Frisco. This year, Bustang will also be launching a new service called Snowstang, which will take visitors from the Denver area straight to ski areas like Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Loveland Ski Area beginning in December.
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