6.1 Chartered Motor Coaches in Winter Weather

Please visit with your bus company regarding the following three topics when contracting for motor coaches, or anytime before your trip to Winter Park.

  1. Experience of bus drivers on mountain roadways within winter climates
  2. Who gets to change a group’s trip itinerary
  3. Snow Chains or other approved devices for each bus

The biggest weather problem with groups traveling to/from Winter Park, is when the whole state gets a big winter storm.  It seems that that the long stretches of interstate in the flat lands don’t have the same amount of equipment or resources to keep the roadways immediately plowed in heavy snow fall.  Warmer temperatures in the flat lands may create ice on the roads rather than snow.  If there are any significant travel delays- they will most likely occur in the flat lands of Colorado based on our experience.

Before we touch on the three topics- just a quick summary of how weather affects roadways when traveling to/from Winter Park and within the Winter Park area.  First, there is a big difference between normal snowfall, and a snow storm.  During any spring months throughout Colorado, and especially in the mountains west of Interstate 25, snow can be expected any day, and especially every night!  It may only be 1-12 inches, or could be much heavier with up to 3-4 feet per day.  Our experience with challenging weather for groups traveling to/from Winter Park seems to be worst for snowy conditions that affect the whole state versus snow fall west of Denver, or in Winter Park.  The Colorado Department of Transportation and local municipalities seem to always be prepared for snowy inclement weather in the mountains west of Denver.  They obviously have the all the sand/chemical/snow plow trucks needed to keep this mountainous region of the state drivable for its citizens.  Having said this- Interstate 70 west of Denver and the higher mountain passes can sometimes enforce chain laws, or be temporarily closed due to excessive amounts of snow.

Back to our three topics:

The first topic goes without mention towards the travel safety of your group with experienced mountain drivers within winter climates.  DEMAND your bus company provide drivers with this experience!!!

  • With mountain/winter experienced drivers- hopefully they will be knowledgeable of what highway routes to take within various weather conditions or the benefits of traveling on better maintained major interstates rather taking less traveled routes when snow is expected along your travel route.
  • With experienced mountain/winter drivers, they understand that snowfall in the mountains is a common occurrence, and can be driven safely within, without an overwhelming fear.
  • Drivers with mountain/winter experience may be more likely to approach any driving conditions with a stable attitude, and not just park the bus as a solution.
  • Drivers must have adequate winter attire, knowledge, and enough physical strength to install any snow chains or other approved devices when needed.  This is further discussed below.

Drivers who change a group’s itinerary due to their inexperience of mountain/winter driving

  • Unfortunately, we have attending groups that come to Winter Park, and get their trip cut short, or completely altered, because of inexperienced drivers, or drivers that use snow on roadways as an excuse to depart early.  How?  It seems that drivers can always get a group to Winter Park according to the trip itinerary, even if there is some delay due to heavy snow storms.  But any chance of snow on the day or night a group expects to depart; some drivers will begin to intervene with the travel itinerary!  A common occurrence is when a group expects to depart Winter Park after the awards ceremony.  We suppose some drivers feel that the awards ceremony is an intangible component of the trip that isn’t really necessary to attend, and begins to either make decisions on their own, or contact their dispatch about getting home early because it is snowing, or could snow that evening.  Directors- there is snowfall almost every day and night in Winter Park, and unless it is extremely heavy snow fall, or a bad storm, the roads will be maintained for safe travel!  If the roads are too dangerous for travel, the highway department will give warnings and/or close them.  Have a conversation with your bus company before, or after executing your contract, about what reasons would constitute your trip to be cut short.  Remember, the festival has purchased a travel protection plan for every group member, that should well cover any additional cost of being delayed.  We want every group and student to not miss that last day of skiing, or our awards ceremony, because a driver is suddenly worried about getting home due to a chance of some snowfall.
  • You might sense that this is a sensitive subject for the festival staff.  Directors share with us how their students love and think the awards ceremony was the best part of the trip, how it creates group pride and enthusiasm, and their students’ enjoyment of being surrounded by so many other enthusiastic student musicians.  It is so frustrating when a group has to leave early because a driver decides its time to leave, or because there is a chance of snow.  And of course, 50+ other buses leave that same evening without any travel problems whatsoever. Talk with your bus company about who makes the decision to alter your trip itinerary, and for what reasons.  Again, experienced drivers should only be provided to you!  

3rd topic:  Snow Chains are required for every commercial vehicle (including motor coaches) traveling on Interstate Highway 70 west of Denver, to be equipped,or ready to be equipped with snow chains or approved traction devices, from September 1 to May 31.

https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/Tire%20Chain%20Requirements%20revision%20Date%203.20.15pdf.pdf 

  • Demand that your bus(es) have snow chains or snow cables on-board the bus before you depart your hometown, and available during your trip.   There could be a chain law enforced anytime during your trip route.  Why jeopardize your entire planned trip, to be required to turn around somewhere short of Winter Park,and return home, simply because your bus company failed to not have snow chains (the proper number of sets) onboard, or the wrong size of chains that don’t fit the bus’ tire size, or a driver that can’t install them.
  • Having/using snow chains is not so much as being able to drive in unsafe conditions- but rather to be safe when driving, or even with a stuck parked bus. Anytime there is any significant amount of snowfall in the Winter Park area- almost all roads, driveways, parking lots get plowed for travel.  But the pavement surrounding a parked bus may not be plowed because of its parked location, or other vehicles/curbs/objects surrounding it.  The #1 reason for our groups’ travel delays in Winter Park is a stuck bus after being parked overnight.  Without chains- the bus driver has to arrange with their dispatch or central office to get a local tow which can take up to several hours to eventually get the bus unstuck.  Of course- this will happen at the most inconvenient times such as prior to your scheduled performance time or ski lessons. Rescheduling these events, may cause a ½ day or even an entire day of missed recreation.  With a set of tire chains available and quickly installed- valuable time can be saved in just minutes.

 

6.2 Winter Park Ski Area Shuttle Service

  • The Winter Park shuttle buses operate as a convenient way to get you around town and to and from the slopes during your leisure time.  This is not a fast means of transportation!  They follow an established route that runs twice an hour and is available for all other visitors of the town and ski area.  The routes are color coded (see maps) and are relatively easy to understand the operation once ridden. The bus capacity is 44.  If your group uses the shuttle buses for primary transportation- remember to start early!
  • A map is located with the maps section of your WPSMF Online table of contents.  These are detailed with times, routes and more.  Please print as many maps as needed for your group members.
  • You will find the shuttle bus convenient for moving individuals or small groups to and from the slopes or town for souvenir shopping, restaurants, etc. when promptness is not an important issue.  At the ski area- there are signs designating the route and the lodging facilities that the route serves.  Wait for your bus under the appropriate sign.  If your place of lodging is not listed- simply ask any bus driver which bus route to use.  BE SURE YOUR STUDENTS KNOW THE EXACT NAME OF YOUR LODGING FACILITY.  THE SHUTTLE BUSES DO NOT SERVE SNOW MOUNTAIN RANCH LODGES AND CABINS. 
  • Your own buses should be used when your group has to be at a given destination at a specific time (such as ski rentals, ski returns, ski lessons, performances and/or award ceremony/street party).
  • The local shuttle buses will not transport your group to/from Middle Park High School or East Grand Middle School for performances unless arrangements have been made by your group to hire these shuttles.  There will be a charge for this transportation! $75/ per hour with a 2 hour minimum.  The buses typically hold 44 passengers.  Passenger allowances need to be made for instrumental groups with instrument cases, since these are similar to school buses, without undercarriage storageThe telephone number for the local shuttle bus is (970) 726-4163.  If needed, make arrangements at least a month in advance.
  • If you are arriving by air and have made airport/charter bus transfer arrangements to transport your group to Winter Park, and your buses will not be with you during the entire stay, you will need to hire the local shuttle for your performance site transportation, unless you will be performing immediately after your arrival.  This could possibly save a little extra cost for you.
  • In 2017, the East Grand School District will be providing transportation for groups needing to hire a bus(es) to and from the performance site.  The school district contact is Mike Thompson through his cell number:  970-531-3548 or email mthompson@egsd.org