Why would anyone climb into a cramped bus, awkwardly carrying objects with sharpened edges, unwieldy poles, helmets, and goggles while walking in big, clunky boots?

On the ski bus, more often than not, you end up sitting next to the park rat, who may not have washed his jersey in the last few weeks—only to realize that you haven’t washed your own long johns in about the same amount of time. Or, you end up standing for the whole ride next to a toddler who can’t stop swinging her heavy, shin-bashing boots. And this is just the tip of the ice burg in the ways of the ski bus.

But there are good things about it, too. Riding the ski bus eases your driving needs. You use less gas by leaving your car lower on the mountain or at home. You can leave the driving of sketchy mountain roads to the professional shuttle bus driver. And you get to ditch dealing with parking too close to the next car to open the door, or traipsing through the long, icy parking lot with arm loads of unwieldy gear.

The shuttle bus is a great way to get a feel for a new mountain. Buses frequently have maps posted, and it gives you time to look one over. If you can sit yourself next to an old, salty tele skier who has been riding this mountain for 40 years, she can point out all the good trails and secret safety meeting places in the trees.

The ski bus also gives you time to set a plan with your riding buddies, which many times gets neglected in the hustle of parking and charging to the lift. It is always good to determine whether you will lap certain chairs or hit the terrain park, and where to meet if someone gets separated. And, of course, you have to choose when to meet for happy hour.

If you are riding solo, the ski bus is an excellent way to meet your new riding buddy. Walking onto the bus, you can scan for that empty seat and plop yourself next to another loner. It is always good to find a buddy to keep an eye out for when you are skiing the trees, and maybe they will buy the first round.

When you think about it, the comradery on the ski bus is like no other. On the ride up, there is the shared sense of anticipation from everyone—from those who are new to the activity of sliding down the mountain to those who are headed straight to the back bowl. And on the way down the mountain, when the bus is full of people burning off all that adrenalin and a beer or two, someone may start a round of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Several of our local mountains offer some kind of shuttle bus. Check their websites for updated schedules. Have your gear well packed, remembering that ski and boot straps make loading the bus easier. Be aware when you are turning around in those tight aisles that your helmet or boots don’t collide with someone’s face. Finally, make sure you check the schedule so you are not left trying to hitch back to town after that last bus has already left.

How to Catch the Ski Bus

Lookout Pass

A free bus runs from Kellogg, departing at 8 a.m. PST and returning at 3:30 p.m. PST from Jan 7 to March 11. Catch the bus at these locations in the Silver Valley: Pinehurst Elementary, 8 a.m.; Lookout Ski Shop in Kellogg, 8:15 a.m.; Stein’s Family Foods in Osburn, 8:25 a.m.; Silverton Post Office, 8:30 a.m.; and at Harvest Foods in Wallace at 8:45 a.m.

Schweitzer

Park & Ride Mt Express Shuttle, free for season pass holders, $3 uphill ride for non-pass holders. The bus runs from the Red Barn Park & Ride area. Catch the bus Saturday, Sunday & on Holidays every 30 minutes. The first bus up is at 6:30 a.m., with the last ride down departing at 5:30 p.m. Monday – Friday, catch a ride every 30 minutes from 6:30 a.m. to noon then hourly until 5 p.m.

Mt. Spokane

Free shuttle between lodge 1 and 2.