Number of Winter Park shuttles nearly doubles |

Number of Winter Park shuttles nearly doubles

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Just when outstretched thumbs might have started to go numb, Grand County’s hitchhikers got a ride.

First Student, the company that has been contracted by Winter Park Ski Resort to provide transportation since 1981, is nearly doubling the season’s round trips between Winter Park and Granby.

“One of the things I do want to mention is that Intrawest and Winter Park Resort needs to hear kudos from the community for providing this service,” said Mike Fudge, location manager for First Student, “because they’re paying for this. They didn’t have to.”

The expanded shuttle service started Wednesday and will continue until April 13, when the ski area closes.

Buses heading to Granby depart Winter Park base at 7:30 a.m. After its route north, it heads back to Winter Park departing from Grand Meadows, Granby, at 8:30 a.m.

The bus loops seven times throughout the day by this rule of thumb:

– From Granby at Grand Meadows, the shuttle starts its route on the half hour ” every other hour on even-numbered hours ” from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

– From Winter Park at the resort base, the shuttle starts its route on the half hour ” every other hour on the odd-numbered hours ” from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The night schedule starts from Granby at 7 p.m., with another departure at 9 p.m.

Night buses leave from Winter Park base at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.

The expanded bus service is expected to benefit not only Winter Park Resort employees who live in Tabernash, Fraser and Granby, but other community members as well.

Rising fuel costs for commuters and the large portion of the county’s seasonal workforce who live in Hot Sulphur, Granby and Grand Lake factored into the resort’s decision to add more trips.

More buses also mean less traffic.

“Anything we can do to take cars off the highway, lessen the parking issues here and better connect the whole valley is good,” said Winter Park Resort’s Base Services Director Laurie Mason.

When Winter Park Resort axed its Winter Park to Grand Lake shuttle four years ago, it was primarily due to a lack of passengers.

But that bus was primarily for Winter Park employees, Fudge said, and fuel costs weren’t as high as they are now.

Last year, 1,039,000 people rode the resort’s bus system. Fudge thinks the community’s transportation needs have increased from previous years.

He added that having a more frequent presence along U.S. 40 will reduce the safety risks of hitchers.

“We (Intrawest and First Student) asked ourselves, ‘What can we do for the communities?’ ” Fudge said. “We realize we have to be a partner.”

Rider numbers on this route could influence the prospects of having a county-wide, year-round public transportation service in the future. An analyses of transportation needs in the county is under way, and First Student’s data could factor into the findings of that study.

Intrawest and First Student “really looked at doing this last year,” Fudge said, but due to the shortage of drivers last year, the plan for an expanded number of long-distance routes was postponed. The company is still short on drivers and is still accepting applications, but last year’s shortage had been more critical, he said.

The bus schedules are based on atomic time and represent “ideal times if everything goes right,” Fudge said. However, traffic, weather and other variables can compromise the promptness of buses.

Fudge recommends passengers show up to the stops five minutes ahead of time so drivers can see them. If the driver is running ahead of schedule, which can happen, there are a few stops along the route where drivers can wait to get back on schedule.

“You never know, you might get a good tailwind,” Fudge said.

And, passengers should know, a bus will show up even if its late. If a bus experiences mechanical problems, First Student sends another bus to pick up passengers.

Fudge has worked for the local bus service 13 years and says he’s never forced people to fend for themselves when a bus has broken down.

“We never leave people stranded. Unfortunately, they may be in the cold longer, but we never leave people.”

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail

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