1 million and counting: The faces and stories of Steamboat Springs Transit passengers
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The holiday season marks one of the busiest times of the year for Steamboat Springs Transit buses, when tourists and locals alike take advantage of the free service to get to Steamboat Resort, to work or elsewhere.
Earlier this month, the local transit center logged its millionth passenger for 2019, with another 100,000 expected to ride before the end of the year. On Saturday, Steamboat Pilot & Today joined passengers on one of the buses and asked them why they ride. As tends to be true when one asks enough questions, some of those onboard had interesting stories to share.
Passengers rode the bus for a variety of reasons, ranging from pragmatism to bored wanderlust. Some sat quietly, headphones dangling from under wool beanies, while others struck up conversations with strangers or fellow riders they’ve come to call friends.
Ethan Schisholm, a Steamboat Resort employee who was riding the bus on his day off, was just trying to stay awake. He woke up earlier than he wanted to, at 5:30 a.m., unable to go back to sleep. Almost five hours later, all he had ingested was a bottle of Gatorade, and he was feeling the consequences.
“If I don’t eat, my body eventually just shuts down,” he said.
As the bus dropped Schisholm off at his apartment, so he could grab a bite, a group of ski-clad riders got on board, some of them with ski boots already on. Among them was Amanda Bauer, who was celebrating her birthday with her sister Chayse and mother Sue. Visiting from Los Angeles, the three were on their way to Steamboat Resort from a condo they had rented for the weekend.
Chayse referred to the getaway as a “single ladies trip,” reaching into her jacket pocket and surreptitiously revealing a water bottle filled with whiskey.
The trip was one of the last vacations for Bauer before she joins the Israel Defense Forces in July. She said the opportunity to serve in the country’s military, reserved for members of the Jewish faith, is an honor.
Steamboat resident Irina Kritskaya rides the bus almost every day, both for work and leisure. On Saturday, she wore a fur hat larger than her head made from a fox’s coat.
“It’s from the motherland,” Kritskaya said of the hat, referring to her Russian roots.
Apart from the practical aspect of not having to worry about parking and traffic, she appreciates the social aspect of riding the bus.
“The best part about it is the people I meet,” Kritskaya said.
After hundreds of rides, she has befriended some of the local bus drivers, many of whom live near her home.
The man behind the wheel on Saturday, Owen Dee, is working his first season as a Steamboat Transit bus driver. He recently graduated from Florida State University with a degree in economics, but he wasn’t ready to enter into a career. He looked for a more temporary position that allowed the freedom to be a ski bum.
“I saw Steamboat, and I was sold,” he said.
His schedule, consisting of three long shifts and a fourth half-day, give him three full days to ski, of which he takes full advantage.
“I’m on the mountain every day I’m off,” Dee said.
Asked about his job, Dee offered a poetic description of his day-to-day schedule.
“I sit in a glass box while I watch the sun rise and set, listening to music,” he said.
Dee likes to play songs from a wide range of genres, from classical to hip-hop, so everyone can get something they enjoy. He usually starts the mornings with easy-listening, acoustic tunes.
“No one wants to hear hard rock after they just woke up,” Dee said.
Winter operations for the transit system include eight routes in Steamboat and around the resort, with buses arriving every 10 minutes. Riders can download the app, RouteShout, for a bus schedule and to get live updates on bus locations.
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