Steamboat’s free bus system is key amenity for visitors, locals |

Steamboat’s free bus system is key amenity for visitors, locals

Frances Hohl For Steamboat Today
The Browning family from North Carolina says the free bus system is so convenient they’ve left their rental car parked at their guest condos during their first ski vacation to Steamboat Springs.
Frances Hohl
Tracking the Steamboat Springs City buses: • To access a map of the Steamboat area, visit Click on the bus route you’re looking for, and it will tell you when the next bus arrives. • enables you to download a bus app that gives you bus stops and schedules and is integrated into the bus itself.    

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Spend a day riding on Steamboat’s free bus system this holiday season, and you’ll learn two things really quickly.

One, don’t ever mention the idea of charging bus riders, and two, Steamboat Springs’ bus system is a unique, integral part of the community you don’t see anywhere else.

“The convenience is second to none,” said visitor Evan Frankel from Boulder.

“I like the bus system the way it is now. It’s essential for the local workers,” added Steamboat Springs rider Kyle Rolland.

“This is the most convenient bus system I’ve ever used,” said student Garrett Gunning.

Both tourists and locals are filling up the buses this season. Workers are usually carrying their backpacks and the tourists their skis and snowboards, unless it’s a night bus.

One couple and their friends didn’t want to give their names because they had been enjoying a few drinks and didn’t want to come off as nonsensical drunks. But they made complete sense.

“I love being able to not have to drive,” said the visitor, who was heading back to his condo from downtown where he and his friends imbibed.

“Yeah, we normally drive, but this was convenient. I recommend it,” added his date as they jumped off at their bus stop near Strings Music Pavilion.

Vickie from Derby, England, was riding a mid-morning bus when she explained how important the bus system was in choosing their ski vacation this year.

“That’s why I stayed downtown, because the bus was free,” she explained. “There are three of us. I didn’t want to be fiddling about having to find cash every morning to pay to get on the bus. I might not even have come to Steamboat” without the bus service, said the UK visitor, who has spent previous ski vacations in Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and Beaver Creek.

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Another visitor pointed out what makes Steamboat’s bus system both convenient and unique.

“The only other (tourist) bus systems I’ve used, take you to main tourist areas,” said Kim Desch, who often comes to Steamboat to ski with her teenager. “This takes you to utilitarian places … to work, grocery shopping, downtown to eat. It’s not geared just to getting you to places to spend money. It gets you where you need to go.”

And that’s exactly what the city bus managers in Steamboat love to hear.

Jonathan Flint, the city’s transit manager, explains that Steamboat has three important areas to consider when moving people around town — the ski base area, the condos surrounding the base and the downtown area. The city’s goal is to try and prevent riders from having to transfer buses.

“We try and really minimize that,” Flint said. “People who are in the condo area, if they want to go downtown, they can stay on bus and it gets them downtown.

“It takes away the angst and worry about getting on the wrong bus and ending up somewhere you don’t want to go,” Flint added.

The Browning family from North Carolina is making its first trip to Steamboat, and they have abandoned their rental car at the condo.

“The bus has been great,” said mom Wendy Browning. “We rented a car thinking we’d drive to the slopes, but I heard there was a great bus system so the rental car hasn’t really moved.”

Her husband, Henry, who worked in Vail decades ago and had to ride their bus system, says it’s important for local workers to have a free bus system.

Anything else would cause an uprising, according to local riders.

“I’d be in a lot of trouble if there wasn’t a free bus system,” said Gunning, who uses the system to get to work and school.

Mike Moore lives in the condo area off of Walton Creek, and though he drives a lot, he said there’s no beating the bus system.

“When there’s so much traffic, especially when the roads are bad, I’d rather be riding the bus than driving my car,” Moore explained.

David Ray and nine other family members from Texas and North Carolina love skiing Steamboat and never rent a car.

“We take the buses everywhere,” said Ray. “We let the teenagers ride the bus. They come and go as they please. The fact it’s free is awesome.”

And last but not least, says Boulder teenager Garek Desch, it keeps “drunks and warm weather” folks off the streets.

“There’s a lot of people from out of town who don’t know how to drive on snowy roads that aren’t plowed,” Desch said.

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