With ski season well underway, many passionate skiers and snowboards year for the slopes but cringe at the soaring gas prices and the thought of horrendous traffic en route. The Bay Area Ski Bus provides an appealing alternative.
The bus is operated by Recreation Company Inc. (RC Inc.), an organization established in 1996 which specializes in giving ski tours. For $99, the Ski Bus provides both transportation and a lift ticket. Depending on location, each Saturday at around 4 a.m., a large charter bus drives ski and snowboard enthusiasts to ski locations such as Northstar and Heavenly, where they can ride the slopes the whole day without worrying about the long drive home. After a full day on the slopes, the bus leaves at 4 p.m. and returns home at about 9:30 p.m. While the staff applies snow chains, navigates through nasty traffic and deals with buying gas at the end of the day, passengers can drink hot chocolate and watch movies together.
“The people are really nice,” junior Veronica Milliken said. “It’s an easy enough way for teens to have fun.”
Veronica has snowboarded for four years and plans to ride the bus at least a few more times before the end of the year.
Junior Patrick Drenker has snowboarded since he was about 10 years old and is a Ski Bus regular. He has already taken it three or four times since late December.
“I just had a lot of fun hanging out with friends,” Patrick said. “And its saves you about $50 since you usually have to pay about $150 for gas if you drive yourself.”
The bus has been especially praised for the quality service the staff provides. It is known for being flexible and able to compensate for those who might have slept in a bit too late.
“[The people who run the bus] are very friendly and lenient,” Patrick said. “When my friend missed the first bus stop … they waited for him for about 20 minutes at the second one.”
For those who crave a bit of extra independence, the bus provides a casual daytime getaway from parents and allows teens to relax and enjoy the day with friends.
“To a certain extent, I like the freedom of not being supervised by my parents,” Veronica said. “It’s pretty carefree.”
Sophomore Dillon Dowdell has snowboarded since he was in the third grade and is planning to take the bus at the suggestion of some of his friends.
“Last year I went snowboarding only one day out of the year, so [the bus] sounds like a pretty good alternative,” Dillon said.
Prospective riders must register for an account online at the Ski Bus website (bayareaskibus.com) and select the trips they want out of a wide variety of options. Signing up is similar to making a purchase on Amazon. Those who change their minds afterward can receive credits, which can be used the next time they book a ski bus trip — but only if they declare cancellation at least five days in advance.
A set of warm clothing, as well as skiwear and equipment (rentals are not included in the $99 package), is recommended. Beginner skiers or snowboarders have the option of paying an additional $30-45 for rentals, a beginner’s chair lift ticket and a 90-minute lesson.
Whether beginner or expert, family or individual, everyone can find a rightful seat on the Ski Bus. But if planning to sleep on the way back, bring earplugs. “Sometimes people are annoying, since there’s a lot of little kids on the bus,” Patrick said. “But that’s pretty much my only complaint.