You’d be hard-pressed to find a ski or snowboard enthusiast who hasn’t heard of Vail. As the most popular ski resort in the United States, Vail Mountain receives roughly 1,600,000 skier visits every year. This number is likely higher today, as the latest available data for Vail visits is from the 2012/2013 ski season. In addition, Breckenridge, Keystone, Steamboat Springs, and Beaver Creek also rank in the country’s top 10 most-visited resorts, with each raking in over 900,000 annual visits—making Colorado by far the most popular North American ski destination.
With so many tourists traveling from far and wide to experience Vail and other Colorado resorts, transportation from Denver to the mountains has been and remains a key issue. While renting a car is always an option, it doesn’t grant any reprieve whatsoever from the ever-worsening traffic congestion that plagues I-70 on the weekends. Travelers must also take traction laws into account; the most recent 2019 revision requires that all vehicles traveling on I-70 from Dotsero to Morrison between September 1 to May 31 have either snow tires, a 4WD/AWD vehicle, or tire chains / autosocks on hand.
Because of these and other challenges presented by driving up to the Rockies on your own, it’s recommended that travelers take advantage of the many transportation services that run from Denver to Colorado’s mountain towns. Options range from shuttles to busses to private charter services, all of which are available at Denver International Airport for those arriving by air.
Epic Mountain Express is a popular choice as the premier transportation service for Epic Resorts, although they also provide service to other locations. They are the largest of Colorado’s shuttle services with over 260 vehicles in operation. Their fares start at $84 a person, with discounts for kids under 12 and groups of 3 or more. Their shuttles depart every hour from DIA and typically take 3 to 3.5 hours to traverse the 125-mile trek to Vail. Passengers are allowed 3 free bags each and will be pleased to find that their shuttles include free wi-fi on board. Guests can be dropped off at their hotel or condo via the door-to-door shared service, or at the Vail Transportation Center via the Transfer Center at a slightly discounted rate. For a more luxurious and private experience, Epic’s Premier Mountain Express service offers private car and SUV rides to most of Colorado’s popular ski destinations.
Peak 1 Express is an alternative transport option that offers the same services at more affordable prices. Adult rates for their Discount Station Shuttle from DIA to the Vail Transportation Center start at $54, while door-to-door services start at $63. A plush private charter trip will cost a cool minimum of $399, but may be a good option for larger groups. Peak 1 also has a frequent rider program that earns travelers a free trip for every 10 rides.
Yet another option is the Summit Express, however their shuttles do not provide direct routes to Vail. A private charter service is the only option in this regard, with rates from DIA to all of Vail Valley’s lodging destinations starting at $459 during the winter season.
Summit’s SUV’s feature DVD players, all-leather interiors and complimentary bottled water. In addition, charters include a 30 minute stop for passengers to grab dinner, groceries, or ski equipment rentals. Summit’s discount program is modeled after Epic Mountain Express, offering multi-rider and kids discounts, free bags, and free wi-fi.
These are just a few of the many transportation options available from DIA to Vail. Of course, renting your own car or choosing to take an Uber or a taxi will work, but given the distance and intensity of the drive, you can expect to spend far more than you would with a shared or even a private shuttle service. If you do decide to utilize a shuttle service, you’ll want to plan your visit around the expectation that transportation to and from your hotel or condo rental will not be available. Luckily, Vail Village offers a variety of accommodations that are within walking distance to the resort as well as nearby shops and commodities.
As one of the most popular skiing destinations in North America, Vail Mountain beckons riders from around the world with its expansive landscape, unparalleled runs, and mountain-town charm that permeates Vail Village and the surrounding area. While enjoying Vail is easy, getting there can be a challenge; that’s why American Ski Exchange is happy to recommend any of the transportation services mentioned above.