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Best Route Denver Airport to Steamboat

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

Driving from DIA to Steamboat on a Monday morning mid December in a mini-van.

 

Anyone know what would the best route would be without snow and with snow?

post #2 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hitman View Post
 

Driving from DIA to Steamboat on a Monday morning mid December in a mini-van.

 

Anyone know what would the best route would be without snow and with snow?

Most likely it will be I-70 to Silverthorne, through Kremmling, to Steamboat. If  I-70 at the tunnel is having problems, you can get onto 40 earlier, between Idaho Springs and Georgetown, but then Berthoud Pass might be an issue. It just depends on the day. 

 

CDOT has some occasionally useful apps and websites to help:  cotrip.org, and CDOT Mobile. You can sign up for notifications to your phone regarding road closures and the like. 

post #3 of 28

Advice from the volunteer EpicSki Ambassador for Steamboat in a recent thread about a March trip for a family.  Has info about the drive from Denver.  I would think that snow on the road is less likely in mid-Dec.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Finndog View Post
 

Looks 

Quote:
Originally Posted by hokienRIC View Post
 

 

So, my questions are:

 

  1. Any insight on how the two compare on our most important list above?  From my research so far it sounds like we can’t go wrong either way but wondering if either stand out more than the other.
  2. I’ve read here that Steamboat conditions can get a little soft by March given the lower elevation, but would that likely be an issue by the first week of March? And even if it is, would that really be noticeable to us at our beginner/intermediate skill level?
  3. Is there enough green and lower level blues to keep my wife happy for a week - their website says only 14% beginner runs?
  4. I’ve read a lot about how Steamboat has great tree skiing – is some of that more on the intermediate level?  I would love to try a little of that.
  5. We have to fly into Denver – how bad is the drive to Steamboat? Mapping programs say about three hours but is that realistic assuming no storm?  Looks like a lot of 2-lane roads.  I know all bets are off if there is a storm but I’m sure that would be the same for Copper.  

 

Any and all insight is greatly appreciated! 

 

1.   

2- this only becomes a factor towards the end of March but it also just depends on what mother nature throws our way. Our weather can vary greatly so although generalizations are OK, don't read too much into any historical BS about totals and temps. The first week in March is usually just fine with a substantial base; more so than Copper or other Summit resorts for the past few seasons.  

 

3- there's a fair amount of blues and greens but how about taking a lesson or 2 while you are here to expand your comfort levels? We have a lot of terrain that is blue-black that is very skiable especially on a powder day or the days following a good storm. 

 

4- yep, lots of very tasty trees..... I would be happy to show you some. 

 

5- "the drive"... Its simple: you should have a 4WD or an AWD vehicle. Once you get off 70, its all 2 lane road that for the most part has no cell coverage. there's nothing but open high desert grazing land and wilderness (be very careful of the mule deer!) until you hit Kremmeling and then once you leave Kremmeling (about 1/2 mile long) there's nothing until you get to the Boat.  If the roads are good and you are driving during the day time, its a very scenic drive and if the Tunnel and the rabbit Ears pass is clear and open, you can make it in about 3:15. If any factor above is not the case, eg; you drive at night (bad idea) or during a sotrm (really bad idea) or the tunnel/70 is backed up it can take considerably longer. I tell folks that you should make a reservation for a hotel in frisco or silverthorne that can be cancelled just in case you get up to the exit (Silverthorne) and you decide it would better to stay the night. I would recommend you grab a gallon of water and some food for the drive once you hit 6 at the target on the right.  

 

So its totally "doable" you just have to be smart about it.  

 

I would love to have you up and show you around the Mountain! 

 
post #4 of 28

I-70 west, make a right at Silverthorne.  You can't miss it.  If they are having storms nothing will be better in a std drive car than I-70.

post #5 of 28

Or you can take a shuttle, up to you http://www.goalpine.com/dia

post #6 of 28

Alternatively, if weather is bad, stay on I-70 all the way to Wolcott past Beaver Creek. Take CO 131 North to Steamboat.

 

This route runs through high prairie that sees much less snow and has no high pass crossings. In bad weather in a rental car, I would far prefer this route than Berthoud, Muddy Pass, and Rabbit Ears.

post #7 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

Alternatively, if weather is bad, stay on I-70 all the way to Wolcott past Beaver Creek. Take CO 131 North to Steamboat.

 

Just be aware that 131 is a quite narrow road.  The road is also less likely to be plowed.

 

Mike

post #8 of 28

Rent a Norelco at DIA and straight-line that shiz!

post #9 of 28

Very slight thread drift here..........

 

In terms of vehicle rental, would it be better to book an SUV in advance without knowing conditions, or book a sedan and then try to upgrade upon arrival at DIA if weather conditions are poor??

 

Turns out we're now flying to DIA instead of driving to Colorado, so we'll be in a very similar situation as the OP.

post #10 of 28

I'd make two separate reservations.   If it's really bad, they will bend you over at the counter.

post #11 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by anachronism View Post
 

Alternatively, if weather is bad, stay on I-70 all the way to Wolcott past Beaver Creek. Take CO 131 North to Steamboat.

 

This route runs through high prairie that sees much less snow and has no high pass crossings. In bad weather in a rental car, I would far prefer this route than Berthoud, Muddy Pass, and Rabbit Ears.

 

 

NO!  that is not a better route if its snowy or windy or certainly at night. ANd don't forget that little thing called the Vail pass on 70 ;) if you go to Silverthorne to access Route 9 to Kremmeling to 40, you won't go over Berthoud. As I said earlier and as echoed above, make a reservation NOW in Denver and one in Silverthorne that you can cancel.  

 

131 does have 2 tricky, winding narrow passes (not as high altitude but climbs none the less) with no guard rails. Its fine if the roads are clear but its not any better if the roads on 9 to 40 are also clear; its just longer.  


Edited by Finndog - 8/21/14 at 11:20am
post #12 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gunnerbob View Post
 

Very slight thread drift here..........

 

In terms of vehicle rental, would it be better to book an SUV in advance without knowing conditions, or book a sedan and then try to upgrade upon arrival at DIA if weather conditions are poor??

 

Turns out we're now flying to DIA instead of driving to Colorado, so we'll be in a very similar situation as the OP.

 

 

Gunnerbob, good idea but the major rental companies sell out of SUV's early and quick.  Bite the bullet and reserve the SUV now.  Make sure you request a specific class as some rental co's will use 4x4 pickups!   There's a reason why flights into Hayden *Steamboat" are so expensive.  Once you add in SUV rental for a week plus gas (you don't need a car in steamboat) its sometimes cheaper for the flight depending on how many people.  There is no denying its ridiculously expensive but do the math to see if it works for you.  Factor in 4 hours each way once you add in time for getting the car and all plus the ride. 


Edited by Finndog - 8/21/14 at 11:02am
post #13 of 28
post #14 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Finndog View Post
 

 

 

NO!  that is not a better route if its snowy or windy or certainly at night. ANd don't forget that little thing called the Vail pass on 70 ;) if you go to Silverthorne to access Route 9 to Kremmeling to 40, you won't go over Berthoud. As I said earlier and as echoed above, make a reservation NOW in Denver and one in Silverthorne that you can cancel.

 

131 does have 2 tricky, winding narrow passes (not as high altitude but climbs none the less) with no guard rails. Its fine if the roads are clear but its not any better if the roads on 9 to 40 are also clear; its just longer.

My point was that 131 gets much less snow and has a higher likelihood to be clear.

 

Vail Pass is going to have as much attention paid to clearing it as anywhere in CO.

 

I stand by my recommendation- if the roads were nasty, that's the route I would take.

 

There is also CO 9.  The only reason I didn't recommend that one is it is still in the snow belt, and you still have Muddy/Rabbit Ears passes.

post #15 of 28

Vail pass closes often in storms, If its that bad, stay at a hotel.

post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Finndog View Post
 

Vail pass closes often in storms, If its that bad, stay at a hotel.

 

Which may be the best advice.

 

I have to admit, my CO 131 experience is generally headed from the other direction. When I lived in Rifle, the shortest way to Steamboat was up CO 13, but the climb up out of Rifle to Meeker was brutal and 9 mile gap was also a consideration.

 

Taking I-70 to Walcott in inclement weather and then heading North on CO 131 was generally a better bet.

 

I have a history with those unnamed hills/passes on 131. In 1993, I was on a small bike tour (about 30 people) that did the Rifle-Meeker-Craig-Steamboat Springs-Eagle-Rifle Loop.

 

We were supposed to do next loop West- Rifle-Rangely-Fruita-Tour of the Moon-Rifle. However, a bridge in the Rangely area washed out a few weeks before and the route was scrubbed.

 

The people putting on the tour rushed and scouted the alternate route over 131 at the last minute. They did so in the middle of the night, and somehow neglected to notice the huge climb from State Bridge at river level on the Colorado up and over that unnamed pass to get to the Eagle River drainage.  As this pass is unmarked, and none of the 20 some tour riders were familiar with the area, we had no clue.

 

As another twist of fate, Ride the Rockies went through that segment 2 days before, and a rider of that tour died on State Bridge when they swung wide and ran head on into traffic. The support people for the tour were very apprehensive and wanted to keep very close tabs on everybody.

 

On the approach to State Bridge from the North, one rider got sick, got off his bike, and knocked on somebody's door for assistance. He was riding alone.  Support staff came up low on the headcount, and drop everything to look for this guy, who is not on the road.  They panic.

 

The tour briefing for the day was that it was an easy, low key day- largely rolling hills to state bridge, then a "small hill" to get over into Eagle.  We find the planned water stop at State Bridge is not set up (support staff looking for the lost rider).  We don't care, and start up the hill. That MF'er of a hill is 15 or so miles of false Summits- every turn makes it look like you are at the top. And, we fully expected we would be at the top of this mystery hill that was not labeled on a map and we had not been briefed. We quickly blow through our water. It is a 90-95* day, no shade, no clouds, just baking sun. No real conservation of energy either, because it is a hill, not a pass, and the summit is right around the next turn.

 

I have no idea how long it took to get up that pass. It felt like an eternity. No sign on the "sag wagon" (supply van).  It felt like we were abandoned, which we were. No water, then no sweat. People are cursing, crying, vomiting. We have no idea what happened to our water vehicle, and we keep deciding that all we need to do is keep climbing to the top, where we can coast down the other side to get to civilization and water.

 

Finally, when I am maybe a football field off of the true summit and hating every single piece of the concept of bicycling, the sag wagon finally re-appears, now full of people with at least borderline heatstroke and one guy with explosive diarrhea.

 

I fill up on water, and start to descend- the part I have been looking forward to all day. At the summit, I get blasted by a 30mph headwind right on the nose, and have to pedal all the way down.

 

Despite this experience, I signed onto this tour for three more years after this before the group folded. Did Canyonlands/Bryce/Zion, Grand Teton/Yellowstone, and then the tour of the moon loop that the first tour was supposed to cover. I never had an experience like that one day on the "hill from hell."


Edited by anachronism - 8/21/14 at 12:54pm
post #17 of 28

^^^ great story and YES!  right at state bridge is where it gets sketchy.  

post #18 of 28

Thanks for the info @Finndog


 

Our arrival at DIA is late morning, so it'll be mid-day driving to the Boat, which should bode well for traffic along I-70 since we'll be on it after the morning rush. Gonna stop for groceries at some point along the way (we'll be staying in a condo, do our own cooking, etc).  I was planning on just doing an overnight rental from DIA to SS (dropping off the SUV the next day in SS), and just stay slopeside or within shuttle distance for the week.  Then we're off to Winter Park for the second week, so I may have an SUV for that timeframe, unless I can figure out some other affordable option.  Shuttles will end up costing a fortune since there's 4 of us and we have to travel 3 separate times.......DIA > SS, then SS > WP, then WP > DIA.


 

Don't need a vehicle for the entire 2 weeks, but not sure if there's any cheaper option than 1 overnight + 1 separate week.

 

post #19 of 28
Thread Starter 

Thanks.  When I called Steamboat, the rep told me to take 131 in event of bad snow.  But really the idea of staying in Silverthorne is better.

post #20 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hitman View Post
 

Thanks.  When I called Steamboat, the rep told me to take 131 in event of bad snow.  But really the idea of staying in Silverthorne is better.

 

I'm telling you if the snow is that bad, don't do it!  Stay at the hotel.  Local's use 131 when rabbit ears closes as its the only other way into to town but its not an easy drive and most actually take 9 to 40 then cut over to 131 just past Kremmeling; most don't go down 70 to 131. You have to understand there's a big difference between driving with the family on vacation on roads you are not familiar with and a local who has to drive those roads and is familiar with them.  

 

Its kinda like how the local bike shops tell visitors from out of town with families to ride their rented mountain bikes up Spring Creek because its an easy ride .....  for them (locals);  its a 5.2 mile ride (one way) with 1500' of climbing with multiple wooden foot bridge creek crossing with no guard rails......    sure, its a nice mostly buffed single track with beautiful views  Perfect for the wife and kiddies and overweight desk jockey dad with no bike handling skills that live at sea level :D 


Edited by Finndog - 8/22/14 at 5:49am
post #21 of 28

We have a safeway and a Krogers (AKA City Market) as well as a Natures Grocers in town.  Otherwise, you would have to go to the supermarket in Silverthorne which is on 9 towards Breck.  I would grab some snacks and some water for the drive up but I would not want to have food/beverages that require refrigeration in the car for 1.5-2 hours. 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Gunnerbob View Post
 

Thanks for the info @Finndog


 

Our arrival at DIA is late morning, so it'll be mid-day driving to the Boat, which should bode well for traffic along I-70 since we'll be on it after the morning rush. Gonna stop for groceries at some point along the way (we'll be staying in a condo, do our own cooking, etc).  I was planning on just doing an overnight rental from DIA to SS (dropping off the SUV the next day in SS), and just stay slopeside or within shuttle distance for the week.  Then we're off to Winter Park for the second week, so I may have an SUV for that timeframe, unless I can figure out some other affordable option.  Shuttles will end up costing a fortune since there's 4 of us and we have to travel 3 separate times.......DIA > SS, then SS > WP, then WP > DIA.


 

Don't need a vehicle for the entire 2 weeks, but not sure if there's any cheaper option than 1 overnight + 1 separate week.

 

post #22 of 28

Finndog,

 

Excellent comment.  Flatlanders (me among them) generally have no idea how difficult real altitude makes normally simple things difficult.  For a flatlander no bike ride, none, at 7 or 8,000 (or more) ft. is easy.  Last spring my daughter and I were hauling all our ski gear across a largish parking lot in NH and we both started laughing about how different (easier) this was to do at 2,000 ft rather than 9,000.  

 

CO is beautiful and worth every effort to go there for skiing or whatever, but flatlanders beward, the altitude will make things more difficult.  And acclimation to it doesn't happen in a week. 

post #23 of 28

Stop in Silverthorne / Dillon area for groceries.   My experience is that the pricing there is comparable to major metro areas like the Midlantic and Chicagoland.

post #24 of 28

not really, the prices here are not really different.  Safeway also has a great line of local grass fed beef and really good pork and lamb.  City market carries some decent (i used to cut fish and I'm very picky) seafood from time to time.  Down town at natures grocer, they carry buffalo and other grass fed organic meats and veggies.  At the Steamboat meat and seafood (not crazy about their seafood) carries ELK, buffalo from just over the pass (you will pass the buffalo farm on 40 just before the rabbit ears pass) Elk and local Yampa Beef and pork.  Yampa Beef and pork is what I eat all the time. Its all natural, grass fed beef, the pork is raised and grazed in open pastures.  they also get the mash from Butcher Knife brewery.  I also try to drink only non homogenized milk (def' not ultra pasteurized) which you can get up here (if you are lucky, you will find some Moonlight dairies).  So, I seriously doubt the prices in Silverthorne are any lower and you won't have all that stuff in your car that you are trying to pack in with all your suitcases and gear.  

 

tip: if you dont have a shopper card for Safeway or City market, they are free and it takes 2 minutes to get one. Its def' worthwhile to pick one up. Both stores put a lot of stuff on sale with the cards as they know many people shopping are from out of town and don't have the card but will buy it thinking its on sale.....

 

Liquor and beer: go to Central park liquors. the really have a great selection of craft beers and an excellent variety of good wines at all price points. Their prices are very good. 

post #25 of 28
Thread Starter 

FYI for anyone renting a 4x4.  Enterprise has the lowest price on full size SUVs.  I reserved one for 10 days for $930 includes tax and fees.  However, it didn't say that I was guaranteed a 4x4.

 

However, I also reserved one from Budget for $1120 and it did guarantee a full size 4x4.

 

I guess I'll keep the two and go to Enterprise first.  I know it's a crappy thing to do, but I didn't design the system of rental cars.

post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Knucklehead View Post
 

Finndog,

 

Excellent comment.  Flatlanders (me among them) generally have no idea how difficult real altitude makes normally simple things difficult.  For a flatlander no bike ride, none, at 7 or 8,000 (or more) ft. is easy.  Last spring my daughter and I were hauling all our ski gear across a largish parking lot in NH and we both started laughing about how different (easier) this was to do at 2,000 ft rather than 9,000.  

 

CO is beautiful and worth every effort to go there for skiing or whatever, but flatlanders beward, the altitude will make things more difficult.  And acclimation to it doesn't happen in a week. 

I live at sea level and have traveled to colorado for skiing many times and never have had a problem , never thought about the altitude and ski all day.

post #27 of 28

My family has lived in the Yampa Valley since the 1880's.  My aunt has a ranch on 7 a couple of miles from 131.The real issues with driving 131 are a) the road is pretty narrow and b) there's much less likelihood to be snowplowing.  The small passes are not that big of a deal as they are much lower than Rabbits Ears pass.  The climb from State Bridge is a bit of a climb, but it is also at lower altitude.  

 

Locals who drive 7 to join 40 as opposed to dropping down to Wolcott are adding time to their journey unless they are planning to avoid a closed or congested Vail Pass.  Gore Pass (highway 7) is narrow, twisty, and steep in spots.  You'd be much better (generally speaking) to drop down to 70 and take Vail Pass if you choose to go that way,

 

However, I don't generally recommend tourists drive 131.  I'm comfortable driving it at 75, but I've done it since I was 15 years old.

 

Mike

post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hitman View Post
 

FYI for anyone renting a 4x4.  Enterprise has the lowest price on full size SUVs.  I reserved one for 10 days for $930 includes tax and fees.  However, it didn't say that I was guaranteed a 4x4.

 

However, I also reserved one from Budget for $1120 and it did guarantee a full size 4x4.

 

I guess I'll keep the two and go to Enterprise first.  I know it's a crappy thing to do, but I didn't design the system of rental cars.

you can only play the game that they created.  My favorite car rental comedy bit.  

 

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