Rockies Region Transit Adventures

The Van Shuttle to Salt Lake City (to do the S-Line) for Three Days of Powder Skiing

This post covers Sunday, January 11th through 13th, 3 Days Skiing Alta Snowbird on my (anti-)Epic Ski Bum Adventure

The next stop on my (anti-)Epic, Mountain Collective Skiing Adventure is Salt Lake City, specifically to ski AltaSnowbird. To get there are two options Alltrans (the airport shuttle companies) Mountain States Express that makes a daily run for $70 that I took last year or the Salt Lake Express that is more of an intercity bus company that takes longer, is slightly more expensive and requires a transfer in Idaho Falls. Alltrans is the easy winner. The only problem is the fact I’m staying in Teton Village and the Mountain States Express leaves at 6:30am, the first START Bus arrives in town at about that time. This means I’m stuck paying an exurbanite rate (of $20 instead of $3) for the 5:30am Airport Shuttle that will drop me off at the Maverick Station where the Mountain States Express leaves from.

I’m told the shuttle will pick me up at 5:30am. It was a late night the previous night enjoying a few Hostel Takeovers (a PBR and a shot of bad whiskey for $5) in one of Jackson’s institutions, the Mangy Moose Saloon. I leave the room at about 5:25 (nearly forgetting my other pair of pants that were drying from skiing) and head downstairs. There are a good half-dozen people. Soon one of Altrans 21 passenger mini-buses pulls up, already with a few people. Me and about four other people board at the Hostel. We make a couple more stops in Teton Village (no getting lost trying to find someone in the Berry Patch like last year) and the next thing I know were just south of Jackson with the bus pulling into the parking lot of the Maverick just before 6:00am to let me off. I’m 30 minutes early

The seven-passenger van that will be making the Mountain States Express run today is already there waiting. I guess the weather is good enough that we don’t need a minibus. I head inside and find my driver, it’s the same guy, Tom as last year. I also buy an excellent (for gas station food) bacon breakfast sandwich. I ask tom how many passengers today and the response is “Three, another one leaving here and we have to stop in Etna for one more. it’s enough to cover gas and pay part of my salary.” I board the van early at about 6:20am and another guy, also a twenty something joins me, saying goodbye to his Dad who is going home to Salt Lake City. We wait until 6:30am, just in case they’re any walk-ons (not something I would recommend doing for the Mountain States Express) and leave on time.

It’s largely an uneventful ride. We soon stop in Etna for our third passenger an older women who is on her way back to California by train tonight (with a friend entertaining her in the 11 hours in between). She spends quite a bit of time chatting with the driver who is also a bit chatty with me. There is a bit too much of discussion about music to my liking. I do take a brief nap and enjoy the empty Wyoming scenery with a brief dip across the border into Idaho. We stop in Cokeville to refuel and for a brief rest stop before taking a short-cut down some fairly remote roads, not going via Kremmerer (where we picked up a teenager who had never left the state of Wyoming last year), entering Utah for awhile, re-entering Wyoming briefly to get to Evanston and then getting on I-80. The first stop today is the Salt Lake Intermodal Center where I get off at 11:30, the shuttle nice and early, with the other local. The woman taking the train tonight is being met at the airport by a friend she will spend the afternoon with.

I just miss the Blue Line TRAX that I might have taken a few stops, and start walking. Salt Lake City has another inversion (meaning pollution is trapped in the valley) making the air seem really polluted. I first walk past the historic Rio Grande Station–(3 Photos).

I then continue to the Red Lion Hotel to drop off my luggage with a friendly bellhop that I scored for just $55 a night unnamed on Hotwire for the next two nights including using a $25 off a $100 or more stay coupon code I had found.

After dropping off my luggage I decide its time for a bit of culture and head to the Leonardo, a new age interdisciplinary museum that’s free with my New York Transit Museum membership (through the ASTC consortium). I go through a well-done exhibit on Utah’s homeless and then some strange more hands-on exhibits on water, sugar, physics and other ideas. The overall goal of the museum is the Renaissance man – Leonardo da Vinci.

I spend an hour there before deciding its time to try and find lunch. The one main place on my UTA revisit list is riding the Sugar House Streetcar again to see how it has changed since my trip there last year with the walkway along the rail line now fully open. I head up to Library Station(4 Photos) and have timed it right for the Red Line to come within a couple minutes. It’s enough time to quickly buy a paper day pass.

I get on the next Red Line Car (it get’s just one car trains on Sundays, running every 20 minutes) down to Central Point. Unfortunately the Red Line’s connection time with the 20 minute frequency S-Line Streetcar is 17 minutes.


I want to revisit the South Salt Lake Central Station and decide to walk the not that short a distance there, arriving with just a couple minutes to spare.

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I take the Streetcar the rest of the way out to Fairmont. There I go and explore the new TOD-adjacent (there is also a good sized parking lot) development and find some more historic buildings in the district. I have a nice sit-down lunch at a Vietnamese noodle shop. I head back, thinking I’m going to walk the streetcar line but a car is in the station about to depart.

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I decide to take this two stops to 700 East.

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I then start walking first reaching 500 East, where the Streetcar LRVs (there just S70s that no longer have their couplings showing) pass on each 20 minute frequency trip.

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I keep walking to 300 East.

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I then get back to Salt Lake Central and jaywalk across wide Main Street, just making the other train that takes me to Central Pointe

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I take the next streetcar to Central Point. My other two revists in Salt Lake City is most of the stops (previously only visited at night) on the Green Line out to the airport and riding the Red Line South to Daybreak again to see if there any signs of new development.

I decide to start by going down to Daybreak, a Blue Line train comes first so I take it to Meadowbrook(23 Photos). I have a nice photo stop.


I then take the Red Line down to Daybreak and am a bit disappointed. At a couple of stops there’s clear construction along the line but still just vacant lots around the last two stops –  that were built with only temporary paths between station and parking. The stops, South Jordan Parkway and Daybreak Parkway haven’t changed at all. I get off at Daybreak Parkway(29 Photos) for a 17 minute stop. I now have far too many photos of this terminus. (I guess try back again in 20 years and see if anything has changed by then).


I have a nice, empty (alone for the first four stops) Red Line LRV ride back into Downtown. At this point it is nearly dark and decide getting more of the Airport Branch of the Green Line is a lost cause on this trip. I get off the light rail and walk into the Red Lion checking into a nice end of hall room on the 3rd floor that has an okay view of the surrounding area. I leave again only to grab some dinner.

The next morning I’m up early to grab the 6:50am Blue Line train, that I just barely make by jaywalking at the Courthouse Station. I tap my credit card to pay my fare and I take this train to Sandy Civic Center where SkiBus Route 992 is waiting for me and I get to the Mountain at 8:30. The lifts don’t open until 9:15 but I have some errands to make. The first is picking up my Mountain Collective Pass that I’m required to attach a credit card to although I’m only planning to ski here today and tomorrow (otherwise I’d have to make a second trip to the ticket office). AltaSnowbird’s IT leaves something to be desired. I then go rent skis and stick to beginning Sport skis for $25 per day, instead of fancy Demo Skis for $50. A dusting of four to five inches of snow is in the forecast. This ski shop doesn’t have an intermediate level that I’m willing to pay for. I’m ready to ski nearly a half hour early at 8:50.


I go and wait in line for Collins lift, making about the fifth chair, as we head up the mountain it starts snowing and doesn’t stop (it snows nearly two feet) in the end all day. I end up doing a couple of warm-up runs in Alta and then head to Snowbird, getting through the gate through Mineral Basin as the man in the information booth informs me it’s about to close due to the snow. I ski down Mineral Basin and take the lift to the top of Snowbird, informed the basin has closed due to Avalanche work. I have an okay day skiing that’s a little frustrating since I haven’t been in powder like this in a while. I do enjoy the front side of Snowbird but stick more to blues than my usual blacks because of the power and extreme lack of visibility. I treat myself to chili at a mid-mountain restaurant (normally I eat peanut butter sandwiches) to get some warmth into me.  I ski Snowbird in the afternoon with a bad moment when I’m convinced I’ve lost a ski taking a stupid fall getting disoriented in the powder. A ski patrolman soon passes and helps me find it within five minutes.

To get back to Alta and return my skis (storing them overnight) I have to take the UTA ski bus back (there’s no other shuttle service), it’s relatively infrequent and clearly not following it’s schedule, my tracker apps are also having a hard time because of the weather. I get back to Alta just before four, do a final easy run off the Collins lift and dump my skis off.

At that point the one daily Murray Central Bus Run, Route #953 is approaching so I hop on that. Tapping my credit card for another $4.50 ride. We leave the Snowbird base area, get halfway down the canyon before coming to a hault. Apparently there is a terrible accident ahead and about six cars have flown off the road. It’s extremely slow going down Little Cottonwood Canyon and I’m very happy to be on a warm bus (complete with chains that can be automatically deployed) we finally arrive at Murray Central Station at 6:30 (we left Alta at about 4:30).

I realize a FrontRunner train is due within ten minutes and I’m craving a ride on an ex-NJT Comet Car. I believe it should be a free transfer as I tap on and off FrontRunner but when I check my credit card statement a few weeks later I see a $2.50 charge (not worth calling UTA up to argue about). The train comes a few minutes late at 6:40 and I go and enjoy a ride in a Comet Car. The same seats except new UTA specific Emergency Exit Instructions

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I grab some take-out from a local Mexican fast-food joint to eat in my room with the cashier commenting that my cash feels cold and wet, and relax my tired self in my hotel room.

The next day I decide to sleep in and try Bus Route #951, that only makes one round-trip a day but stops directly outside my hotel. The road is closed up Little Cottonwood Canyon for avalanche work with a projected opening time of 8:00am I pack-up and check-out, leaving my luggage at the front desk, warning them I won’t be back until late since I’m planning to be on the Zephyr tonight to head out to Lake Tahoe. I head outside and wait a few minutes for it to arrive on time at 8:10. As soon as I’m on the bus we all hear “To all ski bus drivers. Little Cottonwood Canyon Road has reopened resume regular routes.” Excellent.



Traffic is a bit bad up little Cottonwood Canyon since all the locals are heading up for a powder day.  I don’t get to the ski shop until 9:30am. I decide to upgrade to demo skis and put on the much more comfortable boots before heading out to Collins Lift. As soon as I’m outside a close sign goes up apparently there having an electrical problem. We all then head onto the rope tow that also promptly starts and stops a few times to get over to the other base area to Sunnyside Lift. I take this up and am finally skiing at 10:00am. I spend the day with some fog coming in giving off flat light mainly skiing Alta but head over to Snowbird and do a couple of fun runs in Mineral Basin (I’m forced into a combined ticket by the Mountain Collective, why not?) it’s amazing how quickly runs get skied out. I grab a hot lunch again (along with my snacks).

I’m having such a good day, realize it hasn’t snowed in Tahoe in three weeks that it’s time to push my departure back a day. Thank you Amtrak for having no change fees. I return my skis telling them I’m coming back tomorrow. I take the 4:40pm Route #990 bus back. While I’m aboard I look up hotels, Hotwire’s cheapest reasonable hotel is over $90 (a 4 star that might be sort of fun). I know the Motel 6’s sign says $45 for one night but since I need to leave my luggage and 1 star motels I’ve had bad luck leaving my bags at in the past and I decide it’s worth paying a little more knowing my luggage will be safe and for something nicer. I’ve downloaded the HotelTonight app, and see the Crystal Inn is also $95 with fees that I know has an excellent included hot breakfast. I Google and find a $25 off code for my first HotelTonight app booking and courtesy of ApplePay don’t need to take my credit card out. $71 is marginal on my budget but I’ve stayed at the Crystal before and remember how much I like their hot breakfast. We get to Midvale-Fort Union and I just miss TRAX. I spend the time calling the Hostel Tahoe that I think I might be within the cancelation window of but am sadly informed I’ll be eating another $30 hostel night, hopefully tomorrow’s skiing will be amazing! I get on TRAX and rebook my Amtrak Sleeper from Salt Lake City to Reno for only $7 more (losing my NARP discount, the only extra fee). I’m aiming to go to Truckee but it’s over a $100 more expensive so my plan is to switch to coach for $20 for the final hour or take Greyhound about four hours later for $12 and pay Reno a proper visit. I hadn’t quite decided yet in the moment.

I get downtown, stop at the Red Lion to grab my luggage, walk over to the Crystal Inn, drop it off, grab dinner at highly reviewed Belgian waffles and Frites joint. I head to the pool and soak in the hot tub with two interesting guys for an hour (one does remote sales for a company in Elko, the other is in town from Denver for a small trade fare selling snowboards). The truck driver from Nevada is proud to offer me some illegally imported Nevada Full streigth Coors Light (to avoid Utah’s complex gas station 3.2 beer or warm in a liquor store full strength beer laws). I thank him.

I’m in bed after another exhausting day before 10:00pm.