As I wake up unreasonably early every other Friday and leave my soft, warm bed for a dark, cold morning, creeping down the street with a hot coffee to usher me into the long drive ahead, I often wonder why I bother. Of course, by the time the sun comes up and I have the iPod tuned to something profound and my sensibilities fully restored, I remember why. I love the mountains! I love to ski! More than any other sport, I love careening downhill on oversized, snowboard-inspired powder skis, skinny, waxless Nordic skis, or mid-size, touring-weight telemark skis. You name it, I love it.
Of course, I am not unique in my affinity for the snowy slopes, or in rising early to venture west to find them. Nor am I unique in my frustration and disappointment with the traffic, the pollution, and inefficiency as I drive alone like many others whose cars congest the highway lanes alongside me.
So I’ve been thinking about this commute I have, and wondering what I can do about it.
My first strategy is to combine my trips with others, also known as carpooling. When I can’t talk my friends or fiancé into getting up at 5 a.m., I can look elsewhere. I’ve discovered a great website called skicarpool.org, where you can sign up and either recruit others or respond with your own posts to carpool. A successful match means minimizing gas, traffic, pollution, vehicle maintenance, and personal time spent at the wheel. Plus, you may find a new friend to shred with. And this site even has road conditions, traffic updates, weather forecasts, and fuel efficiency tips. Other options include Carpool World (carpoolworld.com/carpool_ride.html), erideshare.com, Craigslist, and many more.
My second strategy is admittedly a privileged one. I have an on-mountain locker for my gear and some really great friends who open up their homes and spare bedrooms to me. So I can stay for two days at a time and maximize my snow experience, then drive home at a less popular time — like Sunday morning (and I wave to the crazy skier traffic going uphill). So the following weekend I catch up on all the house, school and work responsibilities I neglected the weekend before.
The third strategy is a larger carpool. The CU Ski Bus is a popular transit method available to all students, faculty and staff at CU-Boulder. For $15 ($5 for Herd members), you get a ride to and from Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin on weekends, and if you are a student, faculty or staff member you can purchase an additional ticket for a non-affiliate. With on-board bathrooms and DVDs, it’s about as good as a trip can get. Check it out at: http://ecenter.colorado.edu/skibus For non CU-affiliated travelers, try Colorado Jitney (cojitney.com) and go to any of the resorts as far west as Vail for $35 one-way or $50 roundtrip.
My last effort to feed my need for snow without treading so heavily on the planet is to stay informed and participate in the ongoing debate about mass transit on I-70. There are many perspectives and valid concerns, and I think everyone should learn more about the options and get involved in the process of planning for the future. You can download a complete document at coloradodot.info/projects/i-70mountaincorridor and in particular pay attention to pages 14, 15, and 28-34 (including how public input can be submitted).
If you have any more ideas about recreational commutes to the western Rockies, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Katherine Doan is the communications coordinator for the CU Environmental Center.