How to Travel to the Vail, Keystone, and Breckenridge Ski Resorts

Getting to the popular Colorado ski resorts like Breckenridge, Vail and Keystone in can be quite the challenge during ski season. Whether it is because of crowds, weather, or location, just “getting there” can be harder than the slopes themselves!

Most of the resorts we talk about today are in and around Summit County, Colorado. They include the three popular ones above, but also a few more:

ResortPassLocation
Arapahoe Basin Ski AreaIKON,COLLDillon, CO, 80435
BreckenridgeEPICBreckenridge, CO, 80424
Copper MountainIKONFrisco, CO, 80443
KeystoneEPICDillon, CO, 80435
Loveland Ski AreaPOWDDillon, CO, 80435
VailEPICVail, CO, 81657

Avoid The Crowds!

One of the ways to make your transportation around these central-Colorado ski resorts easy is by simply avoiding the crowds when possible. Crowds make everything difficult, from filling up parking lots early, to competition for shuttles, and road congestion. Avoiding the busiest of times around these mountains will make your life much easier.

The ski resorts in Colorado, tend to be busiest on weekends, holidays, and during the peak ski season (generally mid-December to mid-April). Weekdays are usually less crowded than weekends, although some resorts may be busier on certain weekdays due to local events or other factors.

In terms of monthly crowds, the ski resorts here tend to be busiest in January and February, when the weather is typically coldest and the ski conditions are at their best. The resorts may also be busy in December and March, especially around the Christmas and spring break holidays. November and April can be less crowded, as these are the shoulder seasons when the weather is less predictable and the ski conditions may not be as reliable.

Breckenridge and Keystone are largely considered to be two of the busiest ski resorts in the area. Both resorts are popular tourist destinations and offer a wide variety of terrain and après-ski amenities, making them attractive to a broad range of skiers and snowboarders.

Copper Mountain

Copper Mountain is more difficult than the average ski slope. 75% of its trails rated as either intermediate or expert-level, which doesn’t leave much for the beginners.

Mountain Stats

Summit:  12,313′
Vertical:  2,601′
Base:  9,712′

Terrain Stats

Trails:  150
Lifts:  24
Acres:  2,527

Trail Breakdown

Beginner:  25%
Intermediate:  24%
Expert:  51%

More Information…

Copper Mountain, Vail, and Arapahoe Basin are also popular ski resorts in the same general area, although they may see somewhat smaller crowds when compared to Breckenridge and Keystone because they are a little further away.

Anyway, once you avoid the crowds the best you can, here are some of the transportation options available when visiting these iconic ski resorts in the Rockies.

1. Bus Systems

Snowstang Bus – Photo Courtesy Bustang.com

There are two bus systems that skiers can use when trying to get to and from the major Summit County ski resorts.

1.1 – Summit Stage

The Summit Stage bus line is a free public service that operates in Summit County, Colorado, including the towns of Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Dillon, Keystone, and Silverthorne. It offers service to and from the ski resorts, as well as other popular destinations in the county.

Common stops for the Summit Stage include:

  • Frisco Transit Center: Located in Frisco, this is a major hub for the Summit Stage. From here, you can catch a bus to Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Silverthorne.
  • Breckenridge Transit Center: Located in downtown Breckenridge, this is another major hub for the Summit Stage. From here, you can catch a bus to Copper Mountain, Frisco, Keystone, and Silverthorne.
  • Copper Mountain: The Summit Stage offers service to Copper Mountain from Frisco, Breckenridge, and Keystone.
  • Keystone: The Summit Stage offers service to Keystone from Frisco, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, and Silverthorne.
  • Silverthorne: The Summit Stage offers service to Silverthorne from Frisco, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, and Keystone.

The Summit Stage operates year-round, with reduced service in the off-season. Schedules and route maps are available on the Summit Stage website.

1.2 – Bustang / Snowstang

Bustang is a bus service operated by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) that provides intercity bus service between various towns and cities in Colorado, including the ski resorts in Summit County.

Snowstang is a seasonal bus service operated by Bustang, and it provides service between Denver and the ski resorts in Summit County (Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Silverthorne) during the winter ski season. While similar to the core Bustang service, the main difference is that it operates only during the winter season and serves only specific ski resorts.

Snowstang operates on weekends and select holidays during the ski season. Schedules and fare information are available on the Snowstang website.

Bustang offers several routes that serve Summit County, including:

  • The West Line, which connects Denver to the ski resorts in Summit County (Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Silverthorne)
  • The Outrider, which connects Colorado Springs to the ski resorts in Summit County (Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Silverthorne)

Bustang operates year-round, with reduced service in the off-season. Schedules and fare information are available on the Bustang website.

2. Shuttles

Some hotels and vacation rental companies offer private transfer services for their guests. This can be a convenient option, especially if you are traveling with a group. However, there are several independent shuttle companies that offer transportation to and from the ski resorts too:

2.1 – Summit Express

The Summit Express shuttle service offers transportation to and from the ski resorts in Summit County (Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Silverthorne) and the Denver International Airport.

2.2 – Peak 1 Express

Peak 1 Express is a shuttle service that provides transportation to and from the ski resorts in Summit County (Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Silverthorne) and the Denver International Airport. It is one of several shuttle services that operate in the area, and it is a good option for travelers who want to get to the ski resorts from the airport or vice versa.

Peak 1 Express offers many types of service, including shared-ride shuttles and private vans. It also offers door-to-door service to hotels and vacation rentals in the area. Schedules and fare information are available on the Peak 1 Express website.

2.3 – Epic Colorado Mountain Express

This shuttle service from our friends at Epic offers transportation to and from their affiliated ski resorts in central Colorado (Vail, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, and Keystone) and the Denver International Airport, as well as service to other destinations in Colorado.

2.4 – Breckenridge Free Ride

Breckenridge

Breckenridge is one of the hardest ski areas in the country. It ranks in the top 10% of most-difficult ski resorts in all of North America, mostly due to the fact that it has 64% of its trails rated as expert-level, and a vertical drop of 3,398 feet.

Mountain Stats

Summit:  12,998′
Vertical:  3,398′
Base:  9,600′

Terrain Stats

Trails:  187
Lifts:  34
Acres:  2,908

Trail Breakdown

Beginner:  13%
Intermediate:  23%
Expert:  64%

More Information…

The Breckenridge Free Ride shuttle offers transportation to and from the town of Breckenridge and the ski resort as well as service to other destinations in the immediate area.

2.5 – Keystone Resort

Keystone

Keystone is more difficult than the average ski slope. 84% of its trails rated as either intermediate or expert-level, which doesn’t leave much for the beginners.

Mountain Stats

Summit:  12,408′
Vertical:  3,128′
Base:  9,280′

Terrain Stats

Trails:  128
Lifts:  20
Acres:  3,148

Trail Breakdown

Beginner:  16%
Intermediate:  43%
Expert:  41%

More Information…

This shuttle service offers transportation to and from the ski resort in Keystone to other destinations in the area.

3. Car Rental

Renting a car is a viable option if you want the flexibility to come and go as you please. There are several car rental agencies located at the airports and in the towns near the resorts.

If you are planning to rent a vehicle and drive to the various ski resorts in Colorado, you should be aware that parking can be limited at the resorts, especially on busy days. Most ski resorts in the area offer parking, but it may fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. In some cases, you may need to park off-site and take a shuttle to the resort.

Here are a few things to consider when it comes to parking at the popular Colorado ski resorts:

  • Some resorts charge for parking, while others offer it for free. Be sure to check the parking policies of the resort you are visiting.
  • Many resorts have designated parking lots for day skiers, while others have designated areas for overnight guests. Be sure to park in the correct area to avoid being ticketed or towed.
  • Some resorts offer preferred or reserved parking for an additional fee. If you are willing to pay extra, this can be a convenient option that guarantees you a spot close to the resort.
  • If you are staying at a hotel or vacation rental near the ski resort, check to see if they offer shuttle service to and from the resort. This can be a convenient way to avoid the hassle of finding parking at the resort.

Parking Concerns

If you are planning to rent a vehicle and drive to these popular ski resorts in Colorado, you should be aware that parking can be extremely limited at many of the resorts, especially on busy days. Most ski resorts in the area have parking, but the spots usually fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. In some cases, you may need to park off-site and take a shuttle to the resort.

Here are a few things to consider when it comes to parking at the ski resorts in Summit County:

  • Some resorts charge for parking, while others offer it for free. Be sure to check the parking policies of the ski resort you are visiting.
  • Many resorts have designated parking lots for day skiers, while others have designated areas for overnight guests. Be sure to park in the correct area to avoid being ticketed or towed.
  • Some resorts offer preferred or reserved parking for an additional fee. If you are willing to pay extra, this can be a convenient option that guarantees you a spot close to the resort.
  • If you are staying at a hotel or vacation rental near the ski resort, check to see if they offer shuttle service to and from the resort. This can be a convenient way to avoid the hassle of finding parking at the resort.

Consider the Weather!

Interstate 70 @ Breckenridge, CO
Interstate 70 towards Breckenridge, CO

Another thing to be aware of when renting a car is the unpredictable weather of the Rocky Mountains. The weather in the mountains can be very unpredictable, and it is not uncommon to experience a wide range of weather conditions in a single day. It’s a good idea to be prepared for cold temperatures, snow, ice, and even blinding sunshine!

A 4-wheel drive vehicle can be helpful in winter weather conditions, as it provides better traction and stability on snow and ice-covered roads. However, keep in mind that 4-wheel drive is not a substitute for good winter driving skills and caution, and it may not always provide an advantage in all weather conditions.

Chains may be required on certain stretches of Interstate 70 when driving to the ski resorts in Summit County, Colorado, depending on the weather conditions. Colorado has the authority to implement chain laws when necessary.

Chain laws are typically implemented on the steep, mountainous stretches of I-70, including the Eisenhower Tunnel and the Vail Pass. However, they can also be put in place on other sections of the interstate or on other roads in the area if the conditions warrant it.

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Chris Cagle

I love traveling the United States. I hunt down fantastic places to visit in the summer and great slopes to ski down in the winter. The first national park I ever visited was the Smokies, but since then, I've been to dozens. However, my favorite by far has been Zion.