Uber launches new skier transit service in high country | VailDaily.com

Uber launches new skier transit service in high country

Kailyn Lamb
klamb@summitdaily.com

Local Uber driver Gail McManus (left) and her carwith the new uberSKI rack. The new service allows skiers and snowboarders like Lacie Greenwald (right) to head straight to the slopes. Greenwald is a professional skier that trains at Copper Mountain.

There's a new option for skiers and snowboarders to get to their favorite slopes without the hassle of parking.

Uber, the international ride-sharing service, launched a new program called uberSki in Colorado earlier this month. Like the original, riders can request a driver using their Uber app. Drivers are equipped for at least four passengers, and have special racks for their gear. Drivers with large enough trunk space to store gear without crowding passengers can also sign up. Users can select regular uberSKI drivers, or go for the upgraded Black service. On top of the regular fees to use the app, a $6 charge is added for uberSKI.

FIRST STEPS

The company tested the special ski service in Reno and Salt Lake City last year. Taylor Patterson from Uber communications said that they wanted to see what people were using the service for — from the airport directly to the resorts, or residential areas and hotels.

"What we found was that it was all of the above," she said.

Because of the resorts here, Patterson said that Colorado was a natural choice as the next location for the new service. UberSKI launched on Dec. 9 in Aspen and Vail, as well as Breckenridge, Silverthorne and Frisco. Patterson added that in Colorado she thinks more people will be using the service from hotels and homes since the airport is so much farther away. In the Salt Lake area, the airport is only 30 minutes away from Park City.

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"It's a great thing to for the people here," said Uber driver Michael McManus. "(Riders) can Uber from their house or their condo, wherever they're at, right to the slopes. … They don't have to park."

MAKING THE BIG BUCKS

Michael McManus and his wife both started driving for Uber in April. The company has been offering rides in the county for a year, but started advertising for drivers on Craigslist as early as January 2015. The "semi-retired" couple drives for the company as their only job. With the increasing demand for drivers, Michael called it one of the highest paying jobs in Summit.

Since the launch for uberSKI last week, McManus said that every third ride for him has been for a skier. Michael estimate that there may be around 100 drivers for Uber in Summit, but that most of them are only part time. Patterson did not have an official count of how many drivers Uber had in the mountain areas in Colorado.

"The number of riders is growing faster than the service itself," McManus said.

He added that there has been times where he or his wife will be the only drivers available during the day and that many people don't know Uber is offered in Summit.

FILLING THE HOLES

The service launched just in time for Dew Tour, and Michael said that he drove several people to and from the event. UberSKI will also provide riders with another option to get to the mountains, since the Summit Stage had to decrease services for this season due to a staff shortage. While the county will still try to offer additional buses for routes that get crowded, outdoor enthusiasts can use Uber if they don't want to wait.

UberSKI offers services in Summit and Eagle, but drivers can take riders nearly anywhere in the western half of the state. McManus said that one of the places he sees the most opportunity is rides between Vail and Summit since there are currently no public transportation routes between the two.

"If you're on the Frisco side of the county, or the Dillon side of the county and you want to go to Vail, you can Uber over there cheaper than you can pay to park," he said.

LOCAL WOES

While the company is making new moves in Vail with uberSKI, it has also recently taken a step back with services in Eagle. The Vail Daily recently reported that Uber would not be using the Eagle County Regional Airport due to high fees. The airport requires that each car coming in and out pays a fee of $1.50 per seat in the car. For Uber drivers, they could be paying this fee for rides on the way in, and again with new passengers on the way out.

According to the article, Uber did not give a counter offer to the airport.

Fewer CARS, MORE PARKING

Zipcar, a similar car sharing program, started in Breckenridge started in Breckenridge on Dec. 1. Six cars are parked throughout the town, allowing people to rent them hourly, or by the day. The company's website for Breck says that all of the vehicles in the town are "mountain-ready," with ski racks and bike racks.

Zipcar was another step for the town trying to take more cars off the road to help parking and traffic congestion. Patterson said that for locals, the app is a convenient way to avoid parking hassles in town or at the resorts. Michael said it can also help to keep drivers off the road that shouldn't be driving.

"It's keeping a lot of people off the road that don't need to be there," he said. "Every trip that we do is one less car in the parking lot."

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