Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What the "Worst Ever" Ski Traffic Can Teach Us For Next Time

By Patricia Billinger
If you were one of the thousands who got trapped in what has been described as the “worst ever” ski traffic on Sunday,  let me start by saying I’m sorry. It sounds like it was an awful experience. During peak traffic time, some drivers spent 7-8 hours traveling a stretch of highway that might normally take 2 hours to traverse.

If you escaped that ordeal, you either:
(a)    Long ago gave up on I-70 on the weekends to avoid such traffic.
(b)    Already had plans or obligations, wished you could’ve gone up for the epic powder, and then were supremely grateful that you didn’t.
(c)    Aren’t really into winter sports in the mountains and have no reason to be on I-70.
(d)    Enjoyed epic powder over the weekend, then did your research and took an alternate route home/left before or after the peak travel times.

No matter which category you fall under, Sunday’s traffic disaster offers an excellent opportunity to talk preparedness both in terms of winter travel and general, everyday life.
There are three essential steps to preparedness:
1.    Make a Plan.
2.    Have a Kit.
3.    Be informed.

Those steps apply to being prepared for natural disasters – but they also could have come in handy for folks traveling the I-70 corridor this weekend.

Make a Plan
Here at the Red Cross, we preach that you should always have an emergency evacuation plan, and that plan should include at least two routes out to safety. It should also include meet-up locations and a plan for where you’ll stay.

Although you might think that plan is more important to be ready to evacuate your home or workplace from a wildfire or flood, you should also plan for travel and vacations. Know the risks related to the places you’re visiting (hint hint: road closures and awful traffic count) and then plan your escape route, what resources you’ll need, and a back-up plan in case you can’t get out.

In the case of I-70, a good emergency plan for Sunday would have been researching alternate routes. As a snowshoe fanatic who visited Breckenridge over the weekend, I was one of the fortunate few who enjoyed clear-open roads and a minimal delay by ditching I-70 and instead taking Hwy 9 south to Fairplay and then hopping on Hwy 285 into Denver.

If Hoosier Pass had been closed, I would’ve needed a back-up plan. That could have been booking a hotel, finding a friend to stay with, or finding a way to stay entertained until after the bulk of the traffic volume on I-70 passed (9 or 10 p.m. in this case).

Have a Kit
In the instance where you aren’t able to foresee a disaster, make sure you have the supplies to survive/increase your comfort level. When traveling in Colorado’s mountains, it’s always a good idea to pack a car safety kit with a blanket, food, water, gloves, shovel and kitty litter (for traction), among other items. (See full List Here.)

Oh…and if you’re planning on traveling I-70, you might want to purchase and pack something to ease your discomfort after being stuck on the road for hours with no trees in sight, no exit nearby and thus no private place to relieve your full bladder.

Be Informed
Before you travel, find out road conditions and other hazards. CDOT warned travelers starting Friday night that weekend traffic would likely be a bear, and as reported by this CBS article, its site warned that vehicles without chains/AWD/4WD might struggle with Sunday’s conditions.

In today’s wired world, it only takes 5 minutes to check out travel sites like and Google maps to potentially save yourself 6 hours of hell on wheels.

I’d say that’s worth it!


  1. AAA Colorado has winter auto safety car kits for sale to both AAA members and non-members: Be prepared!

  2. ^That's a super easy solution if you haven't had time to assemble a safety kit!