How to avoid I-70 ski traffic like a pro

CDOT's tips for a smooth ski season commute

Dec. 1, 2023 - CDOT offers helpful tips to beat Colorado ski season traffic. Drive at off-peak times, use the CDOT COtrip app, ride the Snowstang bus service to popular ski resorts, carpool, use Mountain Express Lanes, or delay your trip until extreme weather passes
Traffic backing up along I-70 mountain corridor
Traffic backing up along I-70 mountain corridor)

It’s here … ski season is upon us. But with the promise of fresh powder comes the challenge of navigating the often unpredictable conditions along the I-70 mountain corridor. While the heaviest volumes on I-70 occur around the holidays, school breaks, and on weekends in January and February, you can still plan to encounter weekend traffic during the entire ski season. Fortunately, CDOT is here to help you conquer the roads and ensure a hassle-free journey to Colorado’s high country. Here are our top tips for mastering I-70 during ski season:

1. Drive at off-peak times

Plan your travels during off-peak hours, avoiding I-70 during the busiest times – typically Friday afternoons between 2-7 p.m. on westbound and Sunday evenings between 3-6 p.m. on eastbound (a though traffic starts to build as early as 11:30 a.m.) To avoid the jam, stay in the mountains for dinner, or stay Sunday night and head back to work or school Monday morning. Many local businesses run special deals to help you avoid peak travel times. If possible, plan your departure for mid-week or during the early morning hours to enjoy a smoother ride.

2. COtrip is your friend

CDOT's COtrip is your ultimate companion for conquering the I-70 corridor. This mobile-friendly web tool provides real-time updates on road closures, current conditions, construction activities, and traffic information across Colorado. Take advantage of the Trip Planner feature to map your route, allowing you to view estimated travel times and road conditions along your journey. Sign up for travel alerts to receive text and email notifications as they happen, and view road conditions from our traffic cameras. Did you know that COtrip has a dedicated mobile app as well? Download the COtrip Planner app on any Apple or Android device today! Through the app, you can also get turn-by-turn directions to your destination and get notified of upcoming closures or traffic impacts from the most reliable source – CDOT’s Traffic Operations Center. You can also save your favorite cameras for quick and easy access, even while stopping for that much-needed coffee break.

3. Saddle up on Snowstang and Pegasus

For a stress-free and convenient option, consider hopping on the Snowstang and let someone else do the driving. This Saturday and Sunday roundtrip bus service provides comfortable and reliable transportation to popular ski resorts along the I-70 corridor.
Snowstang offers a convenient alternative to driving, allowing you to relax and enjoy the journey and provides services between Denver and the Loveland Ski Area, Arapahoe Basin, Steamboat Resort, and Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs. In addition to Snowstang, you can also use the express shuttle, Pegasus, to connect to local transit providers at each stop. Pegasus departs year-round from Denver’s Union Station, with stops at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, Idaho Springs, Frisco, Vail and Avon.

4. Carpool or use the Express Lanes

Reduce your environmental impact and ease congestion by carpooling with friends or family. CDOT encourages the use of the I-70 Mountain Express Lanes, including the new westbound Express Lane, to keep traffic flowing smoothly. Express Lanes are open on holidays, weekends and during peak travel times. Drivers will be billed for using them either through their license plate or ExpressToll pass. To note, the I-70 Mountain Express Lanes are toll only. They are not free for HOV vehicles.

5. Avoid driving in bad weather

When the snow and ice piles up – so does traffic on I-70. While CDOT does its best to keep roads clear and safe for motorists, the highway can become quite treacherous during poor weather conditions. Traffic incidents can create major delays or cause a full closure of the interstate. During winter storms, it’s good to consider putting your trip to the mountains on hold — or keep an eye on the weather and leave before the snow flies or wait until it’s over. And if you absolutely must leave the house, be sure to leave plenty of space for CDOT’s snowfighters and never pass snowplows on the right.

6. Follow CDOT on social media

CDOT has a secret shortcut to the mountains – known only to those who follow our social media accounts. Just kidding … but staying connected with us on Facebook, X, TikTok and Instagram is a great way to access timely updates, alternative routes and tips to navigate I-70.

In the event you do get stuck somewhere on Colorado’s highways, CDOT provides roadside assistance at no cost to drivers. This includes changing flat tires, jump starting vehicles, moving disabled vehicles to the shoulder, assisting stranded motorists, providing fuel and more. The CDOT Safety Patrol sponsored by GEICO operates on sections of Colorado's highways, including the metro area, during peak travel times on weekdays and weekends.

We hope this helps you make the most of your winter adventures this ski season –spending less time in traffic and more time on the slopes. For more tips on how to stay safe while driving this winter, visit CDOT's winter driving webpage. To learn more about
how we keep Colorado highways safe and open year-round, or to explore careers with CDOT, visit our Division of Maintenance and Operations homepage. We do more than you think.