Before drinking around Vail, consider your parking situation and a safe way to get home |

Before drinking around Vail, consider your parking situation and a safe way to get home

John O’Neill
Special to the Weekly
A crew departs the Turtle Bus for a Halloween party at the Minturn Saloon on Saturday, Oct. 31. Turtle Bus is available for scheduled pick-ups and drop-offs, as well as private parties.
Townsend Bessent | |

Every 51 minutes someone in the United States dies in a car accident involving an alcohol-impaired driver, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2013, 10,076 people were killed in alcohol-impaired crashes, accounting for 31 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the country.

In 2014, 395 Eagle County residents were charged with DUI or DWAI, clocking an average blood alcohol content of 0.159, according to, which pulls its data from 2014 judicial district statistics.

“We’ve found them (drunk drivers) all over the county,” said Eagle County Deputy Robert Burner. “There is no specific area that is worse than another. I think I could speak for every law enforcement officer out there when I say we’d absolutely rather have you leave your car behind in a parking lot than risk driving drunk.”

With the Vail Valley spanning roughly 37 miles from Gypsum to East Vail, where a resident drinks and where a resident lives can be miles apart. All are encouraged to be responsible and find a safe ride home.

Rules regarding overnight parking are different and can become difficult with snow-removal operations in the winter. Be aware of posted signs when you arrive. The Vail Village and Lionshead parking structures permit overnight parking, but vehicles must be removed by 10 a.m. the next day.

Other areas, such as The Riverwalk at Edwards — an area that houses a number of popular bars and restaurants — have posted signs stating that cars parked overnight will be towed. In instances such as this, have a conversation with your bartender about where your car is parked to see if there is something they can do to help prevent any penalty.

With not just the likelihood you’ll be caught and punished for impaired driving but the real dangers of causing serious damages to yourself or others on the road, consider one of the following ways to get home.

Plan ahead, bring a sober friend

Price: $0.

Operates: Anywhere, anytime.

A designated driver, someone who abstains completely from alcohol in order to drive to and from the bars, is most recommended.

“If you are going to go out and have a good time, plan ahead,” Burner said. “It is the most responsible thing to do. You know how you are going to get there and how you are going to get home.”

Working with your designated driver is free and the cheapest way to get around the valley if you are planning on drinking.

Vail Transit Bus

Price: $0.

Operates: East Vail to West Vail.

More information: Visit

If you live in or around Vail and are drinking in Vail Village or Lionshead, then don’t be fooled by the short distance you may have to drive to get home. Consider the free buses organized by town of Vail that pick up and drop off from West Vail to East Vail only.

The summer and early-winter bus schedules will remain until Nov. 29 and include departures as late as 2 a.m. on request only by folding particular routes into others. You can check with a representative at the Vail Transportation Center or one of the bus drivers to make sure you are on the right bus to get home.

Eco Transit

Price: $4.

Operates: East Vail to Gypsum, Leadville.

More information: Visit

The ECO bus picks up and drops off for a $4 fare and can take you anywhere from East Vail to Gypsum, with stops along U.S. Highway 6 from Vail to Edwards and then from Eagle to Gypsum. The bus does not go up into Beaver Creek and takes Interstate 70 between Edwards and Eagle.

Currently, the last ECO buses depart from the Vail Transportation Center at midnight. However, starting Nov. 29, the ECO bus will start its winter schedule and bring back the 1 a.m. departure from the Vail Transportation Center, said Jeff Wetzl, operations manager at ECO Transit.

The Turtle Bus

Price: $8.

Operates: Edwards, Avon, West Vail, Vail.

More information:

The Turtle Bus enters its seventh year of operation and costs $8 per person, one way. The bus holds a liquor license and includes an on-board bar. Drinks cost $3 each, and you have to be 21 or older to get on the bus.

“Transportation comes first,” said Shane Ward, owner of the Turtle Bus. “Alcohol is just an amenity. We understand everyone wants to have fun, but we understand people want to get where they are going and back safely.”

It works like a public bus, with scheduled service between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights, with pickups and drop-offs in front of Woody’s in Riverwalk, Loaded Joe’s in Avon, the Bear and Elk lots in Avon, the Ale House in West Vail and the Vail Transportation Center.

The Turtle Bus is authorized to make drop-offs only at any ECO bus stop along Highway 6, and the last bus leaves the Vail Transportation Center at 1:50 a.m. Shuttles to Eagle and Gypsum can be arranged, but only on a private reservation.

New for the 2015-16 ski seasons is Tiny Turtle — a smaller bus. Ward is not yet sure how it will be operated on a general schedule this winter, but it will be available for private reservations of seven people or more, seven days per week.

Hummers of Vail

Price: Flat rates zoned to the drop-off area.

Operates: Valleywide.

More information: Call 970-977-0028 or visit

Jonathan Levine is the owner of Hummers of Vail, and he is passionate about fostering the nightlife in Vail by offering his fleet of hummers, sport utility vehicles and Sprinter vans for a flat-rate fare out of the Vail Transportation Center or on call.

“People won’t go out if you are going to charge them $100 in a cab to get home,” Levine said. “If Vail wants to grow and become the nighttime mecca it was, it needs to make access to the village easier and cheaper.”

That is where Levine hopes to make a difference. He has drop-off zones that cost a flat rate per car, meaning you won’t be charged differently whether it is one person or six in the car.

To get an idea of rates, Vail to West Vail might cost $18 or $21, Vail to Eagle-Vail might cost $28, Vail to Beaver Creek might cost $45, $49 or $55, depending on where in Beaver Creek you are going.

Levine’s Hummers and SUVs hold six people, the Sprinter van holds 11, and a larger “Monster Sprinter” holds 14. The price goes up as the van gets bigger, but Levine said if you have seven people it is still cheaper to take the bigger van than two cabs.

Also, Hummers of Vail tracks its customers and offers discounts to locals and those who use the company frequently. The company will also give you priority in pick-up times if you used them to take you into wherever you were headed.

“If we bring you in, we make sure we get you out,” Levine said. “When it comes to 2 a.m. and I have three busy cars in the area, they have priority to bring the people we know home.”

Ride Taxi

Price: $3.30 for the first 1⁄10 of a mile. $3.30 for every mile after that, with no fare spike after 1 a.m.

Operates: Valleywide.

More information: Call 970-949-1111 or visit http://www.ride

Ride Taxi, the valley’s newest fleet, opened for service on July 25. The company currently operates six six-passenger vans and claims to be 20 percent cheaper than High Mountain Taxi. Ride Taxi’s fares are odometer-based, costing $3.30 for the first 1⁄10 of a mile and $3.30 for every mile after that. Ride Taxi does not raise rates after 1 a.m.

“We have had a huge local response,” said Nash Pillsbury, founder of Ride Taxi. “We’re totally locally owned and operated, and I think that is a huge thing for everyone in town.”

The vans are owner-operated and are black with yellow logos and an old school, New York-style taxi sign on top. On Sunday, they will roll out their local rewards program — spend $100 with Ride Taxi over time and get $10 off, which will be tracked by credit card.

Regular service currently goes as far west as Eagle and Gypsum, and in December, the company will up its fleet to 20 vans and expand its downvalley coverage.

“People downvalley have been frustrated because cabs run down to the airport and then back upvalley,” Pillsbury said. “It was impossible to hail a cab. Now, Eagle and Gypsum are going to have a taxi service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

High Mountain Taxi

Price: $6.75 first mile, $3.77 per mile after that, with rates rising between 1 and 5 a.m.

Operates: Valleywide drop-offs; pick-ups in Gypsum and Eagle only if they have a car in the area.

More information: Call 970-476-8294 or visit

High Mountain Taxi is a convenient way around town, operating on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and all of the company’s vehicles hold six passengers.

High Mountain Taxi operates on a meter system. The initial charge is $6.75 for the first mile, and every mile after that is $3.77. There is no surge pricing, meaning the rates don’t go up on New Year’s or during special events, said Brian Kolzow, manager of High Mountain Taxi’s operations around Vail. However, rates do go up between 1 and 5 a.m.

The company can do drop-offs as far west as Eagle and Gypsum and will do pickups downvalley if they have a car in the area. They have cabs waiting at the Vail Transportation Center to help the bar traffic get home and can also be on call for private events.

Uber and Lyft

Price: Changes on demand.

Operates: Scarcely.

More information: Visit

Yes, the popular ride-sharing programs are available around town, but they are scarce. In August, Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller talked to Uber representative Jamie Moore, who described the area as a “tough nut to crack.”

Miller reported that fares are regularly cheaper than traditional taxi companies. A ride from West Vail to Avon, for instance, might cost $10 to $13. Or, according to the fare calculator, a ride from Vail to Edwards could cost $35 to $45.

You can check if there is a car in the area by downloading the app to your smartphone.

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