If you’re coming to ski here in our stunning Rocky Mountains, prepare to battle the notorious Interstate 70. It is the gateway to over a dozen ski resorts and is also famous for its congested traffic and the occasional accident. The winter weather conditions, steep inclines and high-speed traffic makes this a challenging drive. Lucky for you, as a local skier who braves the I-70 on a daily basis every winter, I’m going to give away my secrets on avoiding traffic, alternative routes and the best places to fill up both your car and stomach!
The bulk of the drive for destination skiers is from Denver International Airport to Glenwood Springs (where you turn off for Aspen Area Ski Resorts) and this takes a minimum of 3 hours. The I-70 “Corridor” covers most of the big resorts (Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Vail and Beaver Creek) and there are seven segments to this journey:
- DIA to Golden – This leg will take you through Denver city and all rules around peak hour traffic apply! Try to time your flight or drive to dodge the morning and evening traffic (Friday afternoon is especially horrendous).
- Golden to Idaho Springs – 30 minutes: The ascent begins, so prepare your body for altitude sickness. On a powder day, I’m already on I-70 near Golden by 6:00am, especially on a Saturday. Traffic starts building up after that and start clearing by 11:00am.
- Idaho Springs to Georgetown – 20 minutes: Georgetown will be your last chance to fuel up before reaching Summit County on the other side of the Continental Divide. This is a smooth drive, just make sure you don’t get stuck behind a semi-truck struggling to make the climb.
- Georgetown to Eisenhower Tunnel or Loveland Pass – 20 minutes: If you’re going to A-Basin, you have the option of skipping the Eisenhower Tunnel choke point by taking Loveland Pass. Just be wary of the conditions!
- Eisenhower Tunnel to Breckenridge & Copper Mountain – 40 minutes: For Breckenridge, take Highway 9 off I-70 to avoid steeper and curvier roads that you encounter on Highway 6 to Route 1. For Copper, beware of black ice! Ten Mile Canyon leading from Frisco up to the resort is deceptively sloped and I’ve seen careless drivers going too fast sliding off into the ditches.
- Vail Pass to Vail Resort and Beaver Creek – 30-50 minutes: Beware the downhill section of Vail Pass – it descends faster than most think, and is often the location of many accidents that shut down the interstate!
- Beaver Creek to Glenwood Springs – 1 hour: Traffic is smooth sailing after Beaver Creek, but there might be detours if you’re heading to Aspen as the Grand Avenue Bridge at Glenwood Springs has road construction during off-peak hours.
My best advice is to avoid peak travel times in the morning and evenings with the exception of Friday, when the traffic buildup starts as early as noon. To give you an idea of timing, on a Saturday or a powder day, I’m looking to be on I-70 near Golden by 6:00am at the latest. Also, make sure to check the official GoI70 website for travel forecasts on the day before your trip. Now If this is your first time tackling the I-70, here are some tips that might be helpful about this drive: