Driving in the mountains can be rough if you’ve never done it before.  Especially in the wintertime!  Driving in snow is a learned skill, and when you add in mountain passes and steep inclines/declines, it makes for a difficult drive, even on the interstate and highways.  Coming from Florida, it took me a while to become comfortable in the snowy conditions.  

If you are visiting in the wintertime and you do not have experience driving in the snow, now is not the time to learn.  Invest in the extra money and hire a private car or shared shuttle to take you to and from the airport.  Odds are, once you arrive in Beaver Creek or Vail, you won’t be needing a car much anyway because many things are in walking distance in each village, and most of the big activities will do pickups.  My recommended car company is Alpine Luxury Transportation, a locally owned and operated company who cares about their guests, and they are the best in the industry!

Notice how I didn’t say Lyft or Uber from the airport…. Although the ride shares are gaining traction in the big cities, they are incredibly unreliable in our small mountain towns because it is very hard to make a living as a ride share driver.  In addition, they are not allowed to be at the Eagle Vail Airport (there is a geo-fence around the airport) and the odds of getting a ride share driver to take you from Denver International Airport to Vail/Beaver Creek is slim to none.  I hear horror stories all the time from guests who are used to relying on these apps who are stranded at the airport because they cannot get a pickup and keep getting cancelled on.  The drive from DEN to our area is over 100 miles and goes through 2 large tunnels and over numerous mountain passes.   To expect a driver to make the trek with no guarantee of a trip back is something most people don’t think of, and the equivalent is like taking a Lyft from Portland to Seattle.  

If you do have the experience driving in the snow and mountains, make sure you rent a car which is traction law compliant and has 4 wheel or all wheel drive.  Spend the extra money!  You can have all the skill in the world, but if you’re driving up Vail Pass in a 4 cylinder front wheel drive car, you’re not going to make it.  It’s worth the extra money!  If you are unsure if your car is traction law compliant, ask before you leave the rental facility.  

My favorite app for finding gas stations along the way is called “Gas Buddy” and I always make sure I have enough food, water, and extra layers for the drive, especially if it is actively snowing.  There’s also an extremely helpful website by the Colorado Department of Transportation called COTrip.org with the most up to date traffic and road conditions.  I always check it when I’m driving to and from Denver.  If you find yourself driving and come across a road closure due to an accident or road conditions, stay where you are or find the nearest exit to wait it out.  Don’t try to use a traffic app to look for an alternate route!  Our mountains get in the way of roads, and just because something looks like a friendly line on a map doesn’t mean it is in real life.  There are plenty of horror stories of these apps taking people onto closed roads, over treacherous passes, or 8 hours out of the way.  Be smart, be patient, and don’t be like these people. 

If you are coming to visit us in the summer, these warnings are not as dire.  It is much easier to drive in the mountains when you don’t have to worry about snow as a factor.  In fact, at our hotel our team regularly suggests renting cars in the summertime because you can go exploring and have more activities you can get to.  It’s a whole different beast!  I still wouldn’t rely on Lyft/Uber though, no matter the season.


There are some great places for put stops along the I-70 corridor if you need a break during your drive, or if you find yourself having to wait due to a road closure from an accident.   (Remember, alternate routes in Colorado don’t mean quicker routes!!)

Frisco, MM201
Butterhorn Bakery – Great sandwiches and breakfast items.  Open 7:30AM—2:30PM daily. (970) 668-3997 to call in an order ahead of time.

Dillon, MM 205
Blue Moon Bakery – Sandwiches, GF bread and treats, AMAZING cupcakes!  You can call in your order from the road here, too.  Open 7AM-4PM daily. (970) 513-0669.

Georgetown, MM 228
Gateway Visitor Center – Clean bathrooms, a grassy/snowy lawn for kids and Fido to run around, and drip coffee (free, although a small donation is always appreciated).  Open 6AM—10PM daily. (303) 569-2405.

Downieville, MM234
Starbucks.  My dad’s favorite stop, with clean bathrooms, a latte pick-me-up, and small snacks. 

Idaho Springs, MM240
A small mining town, with a quaint Main Street (called Miner Street) and a rich history.  If you need an extended stop, there are a couple of great restaurants:

  • BeauJo’s:  Colorado-style pizza, with GF crust options.  Open 11AM—9PM daily.  (303) 567-4376
  • Tommyknocker Brewery & Pub:  Expansive menu to please the whole family!  Open 11AM—10PM daily.  (303) 567-4419.
  • Two Brothers Deli:  Great for a quick stop or grab & go.  Open 6AM—7PM daily. (303) 567-2439.

Denver West Village, MM 263
Within this shopping plaza is a couple of chain restaurants.  I like to go to Whole Foods, since they have a large section of prepared foods to grab & go.  Open 8AM—9:30PM.  (303) 277-1339.

Once you have arrived to the airport, go through security as soon as you can if security lines are long.  You can monitor security line times at FlyDenver.com.  If you have time to kill outside of security I enjoy Tom’s Urban and within the secure area I absolutely LOVE going to Root Down, which is located in Concourse C.  They’re open 7AM—9PM and have a delicious coconut gin fizz!

Leave a Reply