Tips for Avoiding the Worst Presidents Day Weekend Ski Traffic on Interstate 70

Next weekend is likely to be one of the busiest of the season for skiers and snowboarders braving the rigors of Interstate 70, so if you plan to take advantage of the four-day break from presidents, it might help to have an informed game plan to avoid the worst inevitable traffic hassles.

Presidents Day weekend was the seventh busiest of 2021, measured by vehicles passing through the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels (152,999) and was the third busiest of the ski season behind the weekend New Year’s Eve and Martin Luther King Day weekend. Thanksgiving weekend ranked first (196,792) for 2021. Others ranked ahead of Presidents Day weekend were July 4 weekend, Labor Day weekend and Memorial Day weekend.

Although the snow arrived late in most ski areas this season, the traffic was faster than last season. The total number of vehicles in December and January exceeded 2.19 million, an increase of 4.7% compared to last season.

Based on tunnel traffic over Presidents Day weekend last year, here are some numbers to help skiers and snowboarders avoid the worst:

  • Friday was the busiest day of the weekend with 42,806 vehicles passing through the tunnels. Of these, 26,112 were westbound and 16,694 eastbound.
  • Monday was the second busiest day of the weekend (39,881), with 23,807 going east and 16,074 going west.
  • The heaviest westbound traffic over the weekend was Friday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • The best day to get out of Front Range was Sunday, with just 14,351 westbound vehicles, but Sunday traffic to Front Range reached 20,163, the second-highest total for eastbound traffic.
  • The heaviest eastbound traffic was Monday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., with the worst occurring between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Eastbound traffic was also heaviest on Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Other heavy traffic periods included Friday eastbound 5-6 p.m., Saturday westbound 12-1 p.m., and Monday westbound 8-10 a.m.

It’s still early to reliably predict snowfall for next week, but it looks like the mountains will get at least a “respectable” amount of snowfall by the middle of next week, according to OpenSnow founding meteorologist Joel Gratz. OpenSnow is an independent snow monitoring and forecasting service.

“Our next chance for a significant storm will be the middle of next week,” Gratz reports. “It looks like we could see some flakes on Tuesday, with the best chance of snow around Wednesday and Thursday. Most models continue to show that this storm will dip to our south with much of its energy through New Mexico. If this happens, a southerly and easterly wind should favor our southern and eastern mountains, but there is also a chance that additional storm energy will move directly through Colorado, and that might help other mountains see at least decent snow totals.

Gratz says the mountains will likely be dry over Presidents Day weekend, with another storm system possible just after Presidents Day.

CDOT’s weekend Snowstang bus service will be expanded to include Presidents Day. Round-trip fares from Denver to Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, and Copper Mountain are $25. Round-trip service to Steamboat Springs is $40 and requires an overnight stay.

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