Skier Nathan Hahn makes his way down a run at Arapahoe Basin on Feb. 9, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

By Thomas Peipert, The Associated Press

Colorado transportation officials unveiled plans Wednesday for a bus system that will shuttle skiers and snowboarders from Denver to three resorts in an effort to ease traffic congestion exacerbated by a recent population boom.

Gov. Jared Polis said during a ceremony at Denver’s Union Station that the “Snowstang” service, which begins Dec. 14, will be “really convenient” and “super easy.”

“We know that by providing more alternatives for people to go in buses or other ways of getting there, we can also have an impact on reducing traffic during peak times,” he said standing across the street from three 51-seat buses equipped with restrooms, power outlets, Wi-Fi and luggage racks.

The Colorado Department of Transportation will run the service to Loveland Ski Area, Arapahoe Basin and Steamboat, all reached by Interstate 70. It will operate on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the winter, as well as on the Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidents Day holidays.

“We think this is such an extraordinary program on so many levels,” said Alan Henceroth, chief operating officer of Arapahoe Basin. “Our biggest challenge at A-Basin for the last several years has been parking, and anything we can do to get fewer cars on the road, fewer cars in the parking lot, that’s a wonderful and great thing for us.”

Transportation officials estimate each bus will take about 20 vehicles off the road. It’s a start but not enough to significantly reduce traffic along the crowded mountain corridor.

Interstate 70 funnels thousands of vehicles onto two lanes west of Denver every winter weekend. Last year, about 13.4 million vehicles on the interstate crossed the Continental Divide, which slices through the heart of Colorado’s ski country.

Still, transportation and ski industry officials view the bus service as just one of many steps taken in recent years to curb traffic in the mountains.

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“I think dealing with our highways and our parking in the mountains is going to be one of the very biggest things we have to deal with, and I think this ‘Snowstang’ program is just an incredible, incredible start to helping us on that long, tough journey,” Henceroth said.

Tickets to and from A-Basin and Loveland cost $25, while roundtrip tickets to Steamboat cost $40. The resorts have agreed to pay 60% of the approximately $190,000 it takes to operate the service.

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