Winter Park Resort shuttle will no longer operate in Granby
Grand County, CO Colorado
GRANBY – This winter, something will be missing from the roads of Granby. The big gray school buses that for the past decade have rumbled between Winter Park Resort and Granby will no longer operate.
Winter Park Resort is moving the bulk of its employee housing out of Granby closer to the resort, said resort President Gary DeFrange. And since the bus served first and foremost as a shuttle for those employees, it will no longer be required.
DeFrange said that about 10 years ago, as the resort was growing, there was not a lot of affordable housing available in the Winter Park Area. In a crunch for employee housing, Winter Park signed a 10-year lease with the developer of the Winter Sage apartments on Ten Mile Circle in Granby as a way to provide afforadable housing to its employees.
While it was farther away than the ski area wanted it to be, DeFrange said, it was a nice location on the golf course.
The ski area leased space for about 75 employees in the complex.
Over the years, it also purchased 10 houses in Grand Meadows. All told, between hotel rooms, townhouses and condos, from Granby to Winter Park, the resort provides housing for up to 200 of its 1,700 to 1,800 employees.
Employee housing is generally reserved for seasonal first or second year employees and a small number of international employees.
A different housing market
Lately, however, it has become more and more difficult to fill those rooms with employees, DeFrange said: “The housing situation has changed. Fox Run was built.”
With the economy, more affordable housing has become available closer to the resort.
“Granby is a nice place to live, but seasonal employees want to be closer to the resort. That’s why they are here,” DeFrange said.
With the 10-year lease expiring, an opportunity arose to move all the employee housing from Winter Sage to Winter Park Mountain Lodge directly across US Highway 40 from the resort.
“It will be a much better experience for those seasonal employees,” DeFrange said. “On their days off, they can become part of the resort. The reality is that they are here because they want to ski and ride.”
“The shuttle has always been an employee shuttle,” DeFrange said. “It never was a general shuttle. During peak times, riders had to show employee identification; however, during non peak times, if other people got on, it was OK.”
DeFrange added that the shuttle hasn’t seen a lot of ridership in the past few years.
As of last year, the Granby shuttle was making seven off-peak runs from the resort to Granby and six off-peak runs from Granby to the resort that the public could ride. There were two peak time shuttles that were non-public.
The Lift and the Link, which are funded by a partnership between the resort and the towns of Fraser and Winter Park plus a couple private organizations, will continue to run in the the upper Fraser Valley this winter.
“The bigger story here,” DeFrange said, “is that we need to address overall transportation.”
Winter Park and Fraser pay for the night shuttle. The resort pays for everything else, at a cost of $1.1 million per year.
“If you look at the Summit Stage, which does the same thing we’re doing, it’s totally funded by taxes and by grants,” DeFrange said. “Long term, we need to think about a transportation district or authority and fund the whole bus system differently than we are today.”
DeFrange noted that there is federal money available for equipment and facilities. There could be a better opportunity to run the bus year round, around the entire county.
“Long term we need to, as a community, address how we deal with this whole bus system. We provide transportation to Safeway, the condos, the restaurants, and the shopping, but we really all share in this.”
DeFrange added that if the Town of Granby is interested in joining the partnership and paying to run a couple public shuttles this year, “that is totally available.”
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