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Old 08-28-2010, 07:01 AM
 
Location: London, UK
4 posts, read 62,795 times
Reputation: 15

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Hi there, I'm planning a 10 day trip to the Colorado ski resorts (basing ourselves in Breckenridge, visiting there, Vail, A-Basin, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Copper Mountain) for my wife and I and my brother and his wife. We're from the UK and are wondering whether to hire a car or to rely on the bus system to get around.

After copious googling, it looks like the Summit Stage bus will get us to Keystone and Copper for free (albeit with some changing en route), we'd have to pay for Vail & Beaver Creek and I'm not sure about A-Basin. This all seems like a fair bit of hassle, particularly the changing halfway, so I'm leaning towards hiring either an SUV or a mini-van to get about in. The costs are roughly equal:

Bus = 80pp for airport transfer + $30pp/day for Vail & Beaver Creek which will probably account for 4 days

Car = 360 for car hire + $10/day parking in Breckenridge + $25/day parking in Vail + $100-150 for petrol

The car will definitely be a nicer journey since we can travel in comfy shoes and can leave stuff in the car, plus play some music etc. and not have to worry about changing buses etc.

However, I'm not sure about driving in winter (particularly after threads like What's your worst Colorado winter driving experience? (Denver, Fort Collins: apartment complex, hotel) - (CO) - City-Data Forum ), especially if (as I'm hoping) there is plenty of big snowfalls due to La Nina. Having checked out some of the routes on Google StreetView the roads don't look too bad, and I'm assuming that as long as I drive carefully, leaving plenty of room ahead of me etc. then I should be fine. Is this a valid assumption for a Brit with extremely limited winter driving experience?

Thanks in advance for any assistance/advice

Dan
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Old 08-28-2010, 08:36 AM
 
Location: Aurora, CO
6,056 posts, read 9,293,680 times
Reputation: 8646
Quote:
Originally Posted by dancmorgan View Post
Hi there, I'm planning a 10 day trip to the Colorado ski resorts (basing ourselves in Breckenridge, visiting there, Vail, A-Basin, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Copper Mountain) for my wife and I and my brother and his wife. We're from the UK and are wondering whether to hire a car or to rely on the bus system to get around.

After copious googling, it looks like the Summit Stage bus will get us to Keystone and Copper for free (albeit with some changing en route), we'd have to pay for Vail & Beaver Creek and I'm not sure about A-Basin. This all seems like a fair bit of hassle, particularly the changing halfway, so I'm leaning towards hiring either an SUV or a mini-van to get about in. The costs are roughly equal:

Bus = 80pp for airport transfer + $30pp/day for Vail & Beaver Creek which will probably account for 4 days

Car = 360 for car hire + $10/day parking in Breckenridge + $25/day parking in Vail + $100-150 for petrol

The car will definitely be a nicer journey since we can travel in comfy shoes and can leave stuff in the car, plus play some music etc. and not have to worry about changing buses etc.

However, I'm not sure about driving in winter (particularly after threads like What's your worst Colorado winter driving experience? (Denver, Fort Collins: apartment complex, hotel) - (CO) - City-Data Forum ), especially if (as I'm hoping) there is plenty of big snowfalls due to La Nina. Having checked out some of the routes on Google StreetView the roads don't look too bad, and I'm assuming that as long as I drive carefully, leaving plenty of room ahead of me etc. then I should be fine. Is this a valid assumption for a Brit with extremely limited winter driving experience?

Thanks in advance for any assistance/advice

Dan
The biggest problem with winter driving in Colorado is avoiding the morons in 4WD vehicles who think they're invincible. Just watch your speed, mind the distance between you and the car in front of you, be wary of black ice, and keep your eyes glued on the road.

The time of winter you're planning to visit also plays a huge role in your odds of driving in adverse conditions. December and January are typically much colder & drier and have fewer big snowstorms than November, February, and March.
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Old 08-28-2010, 09:50 AM
 
Location: Western Colorado
10,317 posts, read 11,447,738 times
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I agree with bluescreen73. I've seen more 4wd soccer mom type SUV's off the highways here this past winter. Get a Subaru station wagon, slow down, don't slam on the brakes, you'll be ok. Think of the stories you can tell back home.
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Old 08-28-2010, 10:01 AM
 
Location: London, UK
4 posts, read 62,795 times
Reputation: 15
cheers guys, it sounds as though we'd be better off with a people carrier (the package offers a Toyota Sienna - Toyota Sienna) since that will give us more room for our stuff without losing much in the way of driving ability.

Is that right?

We're planning on heading out for the 18th-28th January in the hope that La Nina will bring some hefty snowfalls.

Thanks again for the quick replies
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Old 08-28-2010, 01:00 PM
 
Location: Na'alehu Hawaii/Buena Vista Colorado
4,560 posts, read 9,017,903 times
Reputation: 4401
You might ask the car rental company if they use snow tires, or all-weather tires. You will have much better traction and handling with the snow tires.

Getting around between Breck, Keystone, and Copper should be fairly easy, but I see you also plan to hit Vail and Beaver Creek. Just know that will involve going over Vail Pass, which does experience problems in the winter and tends to be closed in bad weather. Personally, I think you have pretty big plans for a ten-day trip. You would have a great time just with Breck, Keystone, Copper and A-basin.

Keep an eye on the weather conditions and check the weather forecasts for your trip. The Colorado Department of Transportation has a great website with current road conditions, and even has webcams. If there's a snowstorm coming in, you do NOT want to drive yourselves from the airport to Breck with your limited winter driving experience.
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Old 08-29-2010, 01:29 AM
 
2,253 posts, read 5,796,590 times
Reputation: 2613
Wink Know before you go

Given the places you would like to visit, renting a car would be easier, more practical, and just enjoyable. HOWEVER . . .

Unless you can cancel that reservation at a moments notice, or leave the car sitting in a Breckenridge parking lot when you depart town, do not rent a car unless you know how to drive in the snow. That means that you are confident of it, not just that you hope it works out.

While you may get lucky and find lots of snow, with clear roads, there is every chance that you will experience some winter driving while there. Perhaps a lot. Or maybe just a good storm when you are about to leave, then stuck. Breckenridge, at an elevation of 9,603 feet, is typical of all these areas, being very much in the mountains, with very changeable weather. A-Basin is even higher. To reach Summit County from Denver you will need to cross Loveland Pass, which more usually means bypassing it to continue on I-70 through the Eisenhower Tunnel, at an elevation of 11,013 feet (east side, west side is 11,158). It is a relatively easy and scenic drive from Denver to Summit County, but a whole different story if snowing. The road is pretty much uphill all the way to the tunnel, very much mountain driving. It will not help that this is a four-lane interstate, if anything worse, as many drivers are idiots and will drive too fast in inclement conditions. Vail Pass, at 10,662 feet, is only slightly lower and no less challenging. Once you leave Denver it will be all mountain driving of one type or another. Traffic may not be much of an issue once you are in Summit County, which Vail is not, but between there and Denver it can be ugly in busy periods, such as winter weekends.

The Toyota Sienna you specified looks perfectly adequate, in fact better than some big 4x4 vehicles with a high center of gravity. Although more usually it is their idiot drivers who cause them to end up upside down in a ditch. At minimum you should have front wheel drive, which thankfully the Sienna does, most certainly not rear. Ideally four wheel drive. If you could fit everything into it, a Subaru wagon would be excellent, as they are all 4x4 and handle well in the snow. In this respect every vehicle will be different. As will tires. Coming from Denver in the winter they probably will, but you MUST have adequate tires on all four corners of the car, meaning good all-season tires at minimum, preferably dedicated winter tires. Also, plan on packing some blankets, food, water, etc., the items a local driver would carry in winter if thinking ahead; you might need all of it if stuck somewhere for hours, say perhaps on I-70 because someone caused an accident.

None of this is meant to dissuade you, only caution. If with a bit of winter driving experience, then you may enough to understand how very different it can be, and new skills involved. With that in hand, you have every reason to rent a car and enjoy its convenience. Downtown Breckenridge is easily walkable, but you will end up driving most everywhere else.

Summit County offers good bus service with their Summit Stage. Just within Summit County, and that probably includes A-Basin, it should do you fine, if of course not as convenient. If it comes to it, and you do not feel like driving, the excellent ski resorts within Summit County should keep you more than happy. Vail might perhaps wait for another time.

Only know. Perhaps you could get some winter driving practice in prior. Just where, I'm not sure. If you have the snow, a large empty parking lot makes a great place to practice. The one place you do not want to learn is on a dark interstate highway in the mountains in a snow storm.
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Old 08-29-2010, 02:58 AM
 
54 posts, read 171,451 times
Reputation: 24
The driving tests in the US are a joke, having a license in Europe, you can assume you are better then 90% of US drivers, more so if you are driving around London. You WILL be fine in any conditions, they close the roads well before they actually get bad. Lack of driving ability + bald tires (no safety inspection here) are the problem causers.
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Old 08-29-2010, 09:14 AM
 
Location: Littleton, CO
3,106 posts, read 4,613,909 times
Reputation: 5384
I would definitely find out if the car you rent comes with snow tires. During a snowstorm, it is quite likely that the State Patrol will put the Chain Law in effect on highways and mountain passes. This means that every car and truck will be checked to make sure that they either have chains on the tires or adequate snowtires. Without either, you will not be allowed to continue on your trip. This could keep you from reaching your destination (a real bummer if you need to get to Denver to catch a flight).

I would even recommend that you look at spending your final night of your trip in Denver to make sure that you don't get stuck in a mountain snowstorm and miss your flight.
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Old 08-29-2010, 10:28 AM
 
11,715 posts, read 34,835,443 times
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What are the odds of actually getting a rental with snow tires? That would be a huge expense for the rental agencies so they probably just run all season tires year round and call it good enough. I don't know what model tires my rental had in February but they didn't have very good traction. They did throw in a scraper though.
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Old 08-29-2010, 11:52 AM
 
20,203 posts, read 37,531,893 times
Reputation: 17916
Quote:
Originally Posted by EscapeCalifornia View Post
What are the odds of actually getting a rental with snow tires? That would be a huge expense for the rental agencies so they probably just run all season tires year round and call it good enough. I don't know what model tires my rental had in February but they didn't have very good traction. They did throw in a scraper though.
I too doubt that they ever spring for snow tires. I know when I visited Colorado back in March of 2005, the rental clerk at the Denver airport tried to talk me into renting a 4WD jeep -- at a much higher rate. I told them NO, the basic sedan would do fine for Denver and COLO SPGS. It snowed that night here in COLO SPGS, coming in sideways, fast and furious. I sat in my hotel room looking out the window, drinking a glass of wine, and smiling. Next day it was melting out early, drove around just fine, and by afternoon the streets here were clear and dry. Ski country is a different story, I'd rent an AWD or 4WD and not worry about it.
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