Steamboat Resort, city hope to get on board SnowStang ski season regional bus
Steamboat Resort, city hope to split the cost of the regional bus service with CDOT
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The city and Steamboat Resort hope the SnowStang will be galloping to Steamboat Springs this winter.
In a pilot program, the Colorado Department of Transportation will run direct regional buses between Denver and certain ski areas this winter. These SnowStang buses will operate during ski season as part of the agency’s larger Bustang regional transit system. CDOT plans to link Northwest Colorado to its regular, year-round Interstate 70 route by January 2021.
The SnowStang pilot program will operate for 40 days during the ski season from Dec. 14 to April 12, 2020, according to a CDOT memo included in documents to be presented at Tuesday’s Steamboat Springs City Council meeting. Fares will be $40 with $20 tickets for kids younger than 12 years old and $30 for seniors and people with disabilities. The bus will travel between Denver Union Station with stops at the Denver Federal Center station and Idaho Springs before reaching Steamboat.
Steamboat would join Arapahoe Basin and Loveland Ski Area as SnowStang destinations. In 2017, CDOT operated a SnowStang pilot program for two days, with buses running to A-Basin, Keystone Resort, Winter Park Resort, Vail Resort and Beaver Creek Resort. In the memo, CDOT wrote that, with only two operating days, its “results were predictably poor.”
The city and the Resort have verbally agreed to share the cost of SnowStang, with each entity putting up 30% of the total cost of the SnowStang, and the remaining 40% funded by CDOT. Under CDOT’s estimates, the city and the Resort will each pay $31,504 toward the program, with CDOT paying $105,013.
“It provides a great opportunity for both those wanting to come ski or visit Steamboat as a destination and also provide another alternative for locals perhaps to get to the Front Range, so there are positive impacts all-around,” said Steamboat Resort Vice President Jim Schneider.
City Manager Gary Suiter said he’d wait to see the impact of the SnowStang pilot program.
“It’s a pretty low-cost or reasonable cost for doing an experimental mass transit program from downtown Denver to Steamboat,” he said. “It’s been talked about for many years, and to be able to do this for around $30,000 with a wrapped bus, which is kind of like a rolling billboard, it seems like a reasonable thing to try.”
The SnowStang will be wrapped with Steamboat-themed graphics. The exact detail of what that wrap will look like, along with schedules and where exactly the SnowStang will stop in Steamboat, aren’t yet lined up, Schneider said.
“I like the idea of having a rolling billboard on one of the CDOT buses,” Suiter said. Whether it’s going to Steamboat Springs or up and down I-70, it’s going to be a part of their fleet. Whether their destination is Steamboat or somewhere else, it’s still going to be good advertising for Steamboat Springs. When you look at the cost of a media buy, it doesn’t take long to get up to $30,000 for one media buy, so to have a whole season of bus service seems like a pretty good deal.”
The city, the resort and CDOT will still review and finalize agreements related to the SnowStang. On Tuesday, Suiter will present the proposal to Steamboat City Council to see if they approve. If so, the city will fund its portion of the program out of the city manager’s contingency fund.
“It’s really an agreement in principle because we’re still waiting on documents that we need to review — both parties city and the ski area — but we’re happy to be partnering with the city on this,” Schneider said.
He said that the ski resort had not previously been approached about the SnowStang when a Steamboat Pilot & Today article about the Bustang was published on Aug. 14 and that the ski area was “puzzled and quite frankly disappointed” to see comments in the newspaper suggesting the Resort had turned down the opportunity. Once approached by Suiter about the idea, Schneider said he conferred with ski area management and told Suiter the Resort was interested.
“Now I think we’re in a good place, and we look forward to working with the city on this program,” Schneider said.
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