Visit Like a Local – Bill the Bus Driver
● By Alesha Damerville
Bill Blackwell has been driving the free city bus in Steamboat Springs for 11 years. Because sooner or later, everyone rides the bus, he has his finger on the pulse of the community. His 6-year-old daughter, Bella, is a first-grader at Soda Creek Elementary School.
What’s the secret to driving in winter conditions like Steamboat experiences?
Just patience. No one’s going anywhere fast, especially in this small town, so slow down and respond to the conditions. It’s better to park your car and ride the bus. It’s safer, you don’t have to find parking or worry about the conditions. You can enjoy your surroundings and talk with your friends.
Do you have any advice for pedestrians in winter?
Be aware that under those couple inches of snow, there could be ice. We do get black ice in winter; it’s hard to see, but it’s there. I see people wearing YakTrax, and they seem to help.
How about advice for riding the bus?
The floors can sometimes be slick, so use the hand railings. Leave one hand free. For safety, kids have to sit down. Be careful with your poles when you are boarding or leaving the bus. Hold them facing down. Your skis are safe on the outside bus rack, but it’s OK to carry them on if the rack is full. Just hold on to your stuff. When you’re talking on your cell, speak quietly.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened on the bus lately?
I looked in my rearview mirror, and almost everyone was on their phone. So I got on the speaker and told them we were going to try something fun. I asked everyone to put down their cell phones and say hi to their neighbor on the bus. Some people thought it was fun and laughed. Some of the younger people didn’t get it.
In big cities, bus passengers aren’t supposed to talk with the driver. Is that true in Steamboat, too?
Feel free to talk to your driver. We have a lot of local knowledge.
What is your recommendation when people ask about restaurants?
The Ore House is always a good one, if people want a steak house. For breakfast, I like Creekside Café.
What do you and Bella do together in your free time?
Old Town Hot Springs, ice skating at Howelsen Ice Rink, sledding and tubing at Saddleback Ranch, have a hot cocoa. Sometimes we go to the play room at McDonald’s.
Are you a skier or a snowboarder?
Both. I like skis for the groomers, my board on powder days.
What are your favorite runs?
Ted’s Ridge. People underestimate it, but you can take Thunderhead lift right there. It’s steep and deep, with a good fall line. For trees, I like Shadows and Closets.