Colorado Winter Traffic on I-70: How To Manage This Ski Trip Dilemma

When the season picks up and more people hit the road, here's what to remember

You’ve been waiting all week to get to the mountains. Now that the weekend has finally arrived, you make sure to get a full night’s rest to get ready to shred some powder. Or, if you’re lucky enough, you somehow negotiated a Friday off to get an extra day. You pack your things, hit the road and get excited about the adventures that are ahead. However, after a little bit of driving on the highway, you notice the cars in front of you stop. And continue to stop and then traffic seems to move at a slug’s pace.

This scenario might seem familiar to several states, but there’s nothing quite like the traffic buildup that happens in places like Colorado, with its main highway (I-70) being the most direct option to hit the awesome resorts. This familiar, and not exactly welcomed fact is a hard pill to swallow when you realize you can only going skiing on the same day everyone else has off too.

Over the years, the world of alpine skiing and snowboarding has become an even bigger sport than it already was. As more people move to these areas or visit during their vacation, the problem has become more cumbersome over time. But that doesn’t tend to stop anyone from attempting to head out to resorts across the state. If you’re planning on heading to one of the many resorts in Colorado from out-of-state or locally, then here are a few tips on managing winter traffic woes.

Learn Typical Traffic Patterns

traffic can build up and cause a lot of headaches so here's how to navigate colorado winter traffic on I-70Between December to April, ski traffic will tend to follow a certain pattern during the weekend. Congestion will occur on Friday night out of Denver, and westbound traffic starting around dawn on Saturday is typical. Sunday mornings the roads do start to clear up a little so if possible, try to spread your trip until then.

You’ll still hit traffic but it won’t be as much. But if you leave later in the day, traffic headed east can cause backups to happen and delay your return. Sometimes these delays can be up to 2 hours, so plan ahead for that possibility. When a holiday falls on a Monday, you can also expect to be sitting in your car for a bit. While it’s hard for many people to go skiing during the week, your chances for traffic decrease substantially and reduce your wait time quite a bit. However, if that isn’t an option then knowing these patterns ahead of time will give you the upper hand and make things a little more manageable.

Use Alternative Transportation

Though public transportation to many ski resorts along the I-70 corridor aren’t entirely as robust as they should be, you can still find ways to avoid driving yourself. CDOT’s (Colorado Department of Transportation) Bustang system and airport shuttles offer trips to mountain destinations and reduces the stress of being at the wheel.

Amtrak offers a Winter Park Express ski train which skiers and snowboarders can take between January and March. The cost of riding is definitely a little higher than other options but could add to your experience overall. They also offer a train directly to Glenwood Springs great Stay, Ski, Swim offer,  so you can sit back and read a book before you reach your destination. While on the train you can view all the scenery, avoid sitting in traffic and feel relaxed the whole time. Thinking of hitting up Aspen/Snowmass as well but still want to avoid the traffic? Bus service is available for those headed either to or from Glenwood Springs, making it convenient to enjoy even more of what the western Rockies have to offer.

Keep An Eye On Weather

Colorado is known for its plethora of ski resorts, friendly people and boundless options for adventure. Not to mention the weather is comparatively mild across the state and makes for enjoyable seasons. Unless, of course, the weather decides to turn for the worst and wreak a little havoc. During the ski season, snow storms are to be expected and even celebrated!

And that also means you should expect a lot more traffic to occur. When storms are bad enough, it goes without saying that road closures are more likely to happen and can completely derail your opportunity of arriving at a resort. Even on a good day, it’s best to check the weather just in case a fast-moving storm sweeps through. It’s certainly discouraging to have to change some of your plans around but think about how you won’t be sitting still on the highway in freezing temps for possibly hours on end.

Pack Essentials For The Car

get everything in your car so you're ready for anything when you deal with colorado winter traffic on I-70Many people who live in colder climates tend to keep a lot of backups in the car for the “just in cases.” When traveling in Colorado during the ski season, this same logic can be applied and is strongly recommended. Bring extra blankets, water, layers of clothing and even food in case there’s a standstill. A storm mixed with higher chances of people getting into car accidents only equates to longer wait times.

Make sure to be prepared and alert and expect higher volumes of traffic when you’re traveling on I-70. Winter travel can sometimes be a bummer, but as long as you keep yourself updated on the weather, typical drive time and the like you’ll be set to have a great time getting to where you need to be!