Safe, Budget-Friendly Transportation in Leadville
by Brennan Ruegg, Leadville Today Contributor
Traveling to and from Colorado’s highest city can be daunting in the wintertime. While the Colorado’s Department of Transportation (CDOT) does a superb job keeping the highways safe, there’s nothing they can do about ill-prepared drivers and unexpected changes in weather. Not everyone has a vehicle prepared to take on the region’s winding, often poorly visible, and slick roadways–in fact, not everyone has a vehicle. So what viable options are there when a friend flies in to visit or when cabin fever sets in?
A traveler can step right off Leadville’s Historic Harrison Avenue into Denver Union Station for under $20, Denver International Airport (DIA) for under $30, and Vail for under $10. While talks continue about re-purposing old stagecoach roads or defunct rails from Eagle to Buena Vista, there is already in place a host of transit methods that run as far as Fort Collins and Glenwood Springs. Whether bringing in family from DIA, tackling last minute Christmas shopping in the city, or getting to-and-from ski resorts, this list of services highlights the best alternatives to taking out the rear-wheel drive and/or bald-tire commuter that serves so well in the summertime. Starting with the closest and cheapest and ending in luxury and convenience, here they are:
The Summit Stage Lake County Link picks up at nine locations in Leadville and connects for $5 to their extensive–and free–network in Summit County that runs to Copper Mountain, Frisco, Silverthorne/Dillon, Keystone, and Breckenridge. The CDOT Frisco Transfer Station connects with Bustang (below), Greyhound, and Park-n-Ride. Read a Leadville Today article for more about Summit Stage and CLICK HERE for their 2016/2017 winter schedule.
Operating in the Vail Valley and offering destinations such as Minturn, Vail, Beaver Creek, Eagle and Gypsum, this is a service provided by Eagle County Regional Transportation Authority picking up in Leadville twice a day. Purchase a day pass for $14, or $7 buys a one-way ride: Nobody can deny an alternative to chancing Battle Mountain or Vail Pass in a snowstorm. CLICK HERE for their route schedules.
This CDOT service in its sophomore year added a second bus to its West Line from Glenwood Springs to Denver, stopping twice a day at the Frisco Transfer Center. This is a crucial component in getting to and from Colorado’s capital city–with only one connection, for under $20, and in less than four hours. Bustang’s North Line to Fort Collins/Colorado Springs also transfers in Denver. CLICK HERE for a full schedule and fares.
Bustang is operated by Ace Express Coaches who, despite their low fares, provide a luxurious ride with wide and comfortable seating, free wifi, stowaway luggage, and on-board restrooms.
RTD’s A-Line to Denver International Airport
Sponsored by the University of Colorado, RTD’s new A-line is an express train from Denver Union Station to DIA for nine bucks. If headed to the airport via Bustang, this train, departing every 15 minutes, covers the last leg without breaking the $30 mark.
For those on tight schedules and with a little more to spend, most of Denver’s shuttle services won’t come direct to Leadville, but pick up at Copper Mountain instead (accessible via Summit Stage). Oftentimes a more private ride, these shuttles are perfect for a straight shot to DIA while getting some work done on a free wifi connection. Book a shuttle for around $45 at whichever time of day is most convenient with Peak1 Express or Colorado Mountain Express.
Want to go your own way, but haven’t a vehicle fit for the drive? Hertz is located on US-24 at the Leadville-Lake County Airport and rents out a selection of vehicles equipped with all-wheel and four-wheel drive. Pick the car up in Leadville and drop it off at DIA, or pitch in with a group of friends to rent out a private ski-shuttle for the weekend. Hertz also offers business rentals at a competitive rate. Currently running deals for seniors, weekend rentals and metro parking, CLICK HERE to connect with Hertz and to place a reservation.
Think about these options if having doubts about a vehicle’s performance, waiting to spring for winter tires, or wanting to relax instead of white-knuckling it through the Rockies; a little more planning and patience is involved, but such is the case with most smart choices. Just don’t forget to bring along a good book.
Whether taking a service directly provided by CDOT or otherwise, thanks is always due to those who perform an unparalleled job in making mountain roadways safe in inclement weather (salt-free!) and who provide consistent travel advice, road conditions, and safety information. All this is available 24 hours a day on CDOT’s website, mobile app, or by calling 511.
Be sure to travel safely and conscientiously by whichever means, and remember, the best part about leaving Leadville is coming back!
Brennan Ruegg is a public transit enthusiast, and loves offering travel advice to anyone trying to leave or come into the great city of Leadville.