Drive to Western Slope could get more pricey |

Drive to Western Slope could get more pricey

Melanie Wong
Vail Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

VAIL ” Front Range resident Gary Meyers regularly drives to Vail to ski, but there is no way he would pay for the drive up, he said.

Under a proposed plan by Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, weekend skiers could be charged up to $12 for using Interstate 70 or get a $25 check for staying off the road during busy hours.

Skiers would be charged $5 to $12 per trip for driving on I-70 between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Details of the plan has not been worked out, but skiers who sign up to miss the rush would get the rebate in the mail for waiting out the traffic.

The plan could reduce traffic by 10 percent or more, Romer said.

Will they stop coming?

But some Front Range skiers like Meyers do not think the plan would be fair or effective.

“I’d never pay it,” said Meyers, who lives in Conifer. “It’s expensive enough to come up as it is. I’d just use Highway 285 and come up the back way.”

Also, he points out, the interstate was built with tax money, and drivers should not have to pay more to use it.

Snowboarder Jon McKenna and skier Greg Stansberry, both of Denver, said they try to leave late or early to avoid skier traffic anyway.

The skier fees sound like a lot of hassle, and might just create later or earlier traffic jams, Stansberry said.

Some valley residents and store owners also were concerned that a fee would hurt ski business.

“It would kill the ski industry,” said Buzz Schleper, owner of Buzz’s Ski Shop in Vail Village. “You can’t tax skiers extra ” they’ll stop coming. We’d be the laughingstock of the entire ski world.”

Skier traffic is a problem, but charging for roads is not the right solution, said Jay Lucas, owner of Ski Base in Vail Village and Lionshead.

“You can’t keep charging people for every little thing,” he said.

If people want to ski, they will come up despite the costs and traffic, he said. A train system from Denver would be a better solution, he said.

Skier traffic up to Vail is a good thing for the area, Edwards resident Stephanie Joseph said.

“We depend on people coming up here. Plus, it’s common knowledge that there’s traffic up here. People plan on it,” she said.

But Red Cliff resident Matt Diers said the plan could work. If he were coming up from the Front Range, he would rearrange his schedule for $25, he said.

“However, it seems kind of foolish to give people money not to drive,” he said.

Ski traffic solutions

The proposed fee is too high, said Vail Councilman Andy Daly, but the idea could have merit if the fees went toward transportation improvements such as extra lanes or a rail system.

“I agree with the concept of charging more during the peak period, but it really depends on what improvements can be made from it,” he said.

Colorado Ski Country and Vail Resorts representatives said that they did not have enough details about the plan to comment, but that working toward I-70 traffic solutions is a top priority.

“This is a complex issue that will involve a year-round solution involving all the stakeholders along I-70,” said Amy Kemp of Vail Resorts. “It’s going to involve getting people to change their travel habits, but any long term solution must include some sort of mass transit.”

Contact Melanie Wong: 748-2928

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