Getting to Arapahoe Basin, Colorado
Written by Karl Sander
• Last updated Sep 18, 2017
Arapahoe Basin is about 87 miles west of Denver International Airport off I-70 and US-6 (less from Denver’s city center). That’s usually about two hours, though it depends greatly on conditions and the day of the week – Saturday mornings, for example, are typically crazy as all the Denver-area skiers crowd the I-70 corridor to get to the Summit County resorts. Since there’s no lodging at A-Basin, you’ll need to stay somewhere else. Keystone is the closest population center, about 10 miles to the west. Summit Cove is a little farther to the west, convenient to both Keystone and Breckenridge if you’re considering hitting multiple ski areas on your trip. The towns of Dillon and Silverthorne, along I-70, are about 12 miles away. Frisco, further to the west, is about 15 miles away, while Breckenridge is 20 miles – about a 30 minute drive in good conditions.
Denver International Airport is the biggest one in the area, with the most flights, most rental car companies, and the most shuttle options. Frontier, Southwest, and United are some of the bigger airlines at DIA; Southwest is particularly convenient for skiers since it doesn’t charge bag fees or change fees. So, if you’re lucky enough to be flexible with your dates on short-notice, you could change your reservation to catch a big snowstorm! Denver is low-risk for getting snowed in; the airport is well prepared and equipped to handle storms and keep operating with minimal delays.
Colorado Springs is a bit to the south of Denver (and about 45 minutes farther away from the mountain). It’s a much smaller airport, with only six airlines, but it has direct service from several US hubs (Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington DC, and six others), so you might be able to find a good deal on airfare. Shuttle options are limited, so may find yourself renting a car.
Since there’s no actual “resort” area or lodging at Arapahoe Basin, so most commercial shuttles won’t actually take you there (and it’s way too long for a taxi or Uber). If you’re coming from Denver International Airport, your best bet is to take a shuttle to one of the ski towns in Summit County, drop off your luggage before taking a free bus service to the resort.
There are a number of shuttle services which service Summit County but we recommend you book them in advance so you don’t have to worry about the lack of seating. We’ve listed down a few we’ve used in the past:
Summit Express is a solid choice, stopping at Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Frisco, Dillon, and Silverthorne. The trip takes two to two-and-a-half hours, depending on your precise destination, weather conditions, and traffic. Their vehicles are top of the line with plenty of room for your baggage and gear, and have Wi-Fi (though keep in mind, since you’ll be going through the mountains, there’s no guarantee when it comes to signal strength or speed). They leave Denver International every hour or two from 9 am to 10:30 pm, with return service starting around 5:30 am (exact times depend on where you’re getting picked up). They charge $65 one-way per person for 1-2 passengers, and $52 one-way per person in groups of three or more, with reservations required. If you need to, you can make arrangements for service outside of the normal hours by contacting them directly. They also have private charters, which could be a good choice for larger groups.
Peak 1 Express also offers service from Denver International between 8am and 11pm (or 5am to 8:30pm for return service). Prices start at $64 per person one-way, with private charter vans and SUVs also available. Colorado Mountain Express departs Denver between 8:30am and 11pm (return trips depart beginning at 4:45am, with the last one leaving at 6:45pm). Their rates start at $66 one-way per adult but with 20% discounts for groups of three or more – plus, A-Basin guests get 10% off when they book with CME online!
If you found a good deal on plane tickets into Colorado Springs, your only shuttle option is Rocky Mountain Ride – but they serve Arapahoe Basin, on the off chance you want to ski first and check into your digs later! They also serve Breckenridge, Keystone, and Copper Mountain. Unfortunately, neither of their scheduled pick-up places for the ski-bus are that close to the airport, but you can make arrangements for other pick-up locations by contacting them directly.
Once you get to wherever you’re staying, the county-operated Summit Stage offers free service from all the resorts and towns in the area. Service to A-Basin is on the Swan Mountain Flyer route, which leaves Keystone’s River Run lot almost hourly between 7am and 5pm. The last bus to Keystone leaves A-Basin at 5:10pm. It’s normally a comfortable ride, though during peak times it can become ‘standing-room-only.’
If you’re going to ski Arapahoe Basin exclusively, you may want to consider a rental car if you’re comfortable with winter driving. Otherwise, since you’ll be staying somewhere else, you’ll be relying solely on the Summit Stage. While it’s free and rather convenient, having your own wheels frees you from having to plan around bus schedules. And, of course, if you plan to visit any of the other top-notch ski resorts nearby, having a car is handy for that, too!
Renting a car in Colorado requires a driver’s license – for short visits, like a ski holiday, international visitors can use their home country license. Almost all rental companies require you to be over the age of 25 to rent.
The drive is generally about 2 hours from Denver International Airport, but the number of resorts in Summit County means that there can be quite a bit of traffic on weekends or holiday mornings. It’s also a mountain highway, and even though it’s very well maintained, it does have steep grades and some sharp turns along with the ever present possibility of snow. Black ice is rare, but not impossible – you’re more likely to encounter blizzards and low visibility. If you don’t have winter driving experience, we don’t recommend this as the place to learn!
Cars aren’t legally required to have chains, but if for some reason you rent a 2WD car, it would be a good idea to have some just in case. A better idea would be to make sure you specify a 4WD or AWD car when you book! Book online in advance to make sure you get the type of vehicle and features you need.
Google maps and other smartphone GPS-enabled navigation apps work fine in the I-70 corridor. Once you get into the mountains, there’s two ways to get there. One way is to take the exit for US Highway 6 and head over scenic Loveland Pass, though since it’s windy and steep, it’s subject to closure during winter storms. The alternative is to continue west and go through the Eisenhower Tunnel, which closes much less frequently. Exit in Dillon and backtrack for about 25 minutes on Highway 6. This route also takes you past Summit Cove and Keystone on the way to A-Basin, which is convenient if that’s where you’re staying!