Steamboat Springs Mark Walker marvels at the number of people who will walk up to one of his vehicles at Denver International Airport and ask him for a ride to Steamboat.
Walker is in the taxi business, so there's certainly nothing unusual about someone hailing a cab. But when the anticipated trip is one of 165 miles, a reservation isn't a bad thing.
"You sure would think people would arrange their ground transportation in advance," Walker said. "But there are a fair number of walk-ups. We ask ourselves, 'what were they thinking?'"
Business on Alpine Taxi's shuttle between DIA and Steamboat is strong enough that the company is adding a third daily round-trip this summer for the first time. A round-trip fare is $120.
The company typically goes back and forth across the mountains five times during the ski season. But this is the first time Alpine has added a late afternoon departure in summer. The increasing cost of gas, parking at the Denver airport and round-trip commuter airfares all encouraged Alpine Taxi to add the third daily ground shuttle van.
"We've always just run two in the summer," Walker said. "I never thought that the shuttle would take off like it's taken off."
The last shuttle of the day will now leave Steamboat at 3 p.m. and arrive at DIA at 7 p.m.
The primary reason for the shuttle is to collect passengers at DIA bound for Steamboat, to eliminate the need for the travelers to wait overnight for a ground shuttle, Walker said.
The last shuttle of the day leaves the airport at 9 p.m. and delivers travelers to their lodging in Steamboat by approximately 1 a.m.
"We really initiated the third shuttle because of the pickup time," Walker said. "People who were flying into DIA after 4 p.m. had to get a motel and then wait for the first return trip at 11 a.m. the next day."
Steamboat passengers have the option of using the shuttle to get to and from Kremmling ($60 round-trip) or Silverthorne ($90 round-trip), which are passenger pick-up points along the way.
Passengers bound for downtown Denver, Coors Field or Six Flags Elitch's, can get off at Interstate 70 and Kipling, where a convenient cab stand can get them a second ride to the heart of the city.
Two other daily shuttles leave Steamboat at 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. The first shuttle of the day arrives at DIA at 10 a.m., turns around at 11 a.m. and returns to Steamboat at 3 p.m.
The second shuttle leaves at 10 a.m., gets to the airport at 2 p.m., turns around at 4 p.m. and returns to Steamboat at 8 p.m.
The shuttles pick up and deliver at passengers' front doors.
And the shuttles are never booked full, always leaving empty seats so passengers can stretch out in comfort, Walker said.