Local Spotlight: Jaime Tannenbaum finds camaraderie on the Snowmass Village Shuttle team

Village Shuttle co-workers are like family, bus driver says

Snowmass Village Shuttle driver Jaime Tannenbaum sits at the wheel of her bus on Saturday, April 24, 2021.
Kaya Williams/The Snowmass Sun

Take a deep breath next time you board the Snowmass Village Shuttle: If it smells like peppermint, odds are Jaime Tannenbaum is the one behind the wheel.

The 44-year-old Snowmass local adds the minty spritz as a personal touch after the bus — like all vehicles in the Village Shuttle fleet — is sanitized and disinfected to meet COVID-19 protocols.

“We strive in customer service here and go over and above and beyond for it,” Tannenbaum said in an interview at the transportation department offices this weekend.

The pandemic has changed the bus driver-rider dynamic, she said, but she still finds ways to maintain the connection. In a small town like Snowmass Village, Tannenbaum knows her riders well — the local regulars as well as the folks who return season after season. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows your name, “like the ‘Cheers’ theme song,” Tannenbaum wrote in a followup email.

“With being screened off and everyone masked, it’s hard to recognize people so that changed a little bit, but people tend to recognize me,” she said. “They always say hi and then I say hi back.”

Tannenbaum moved out to the valley seven years ago almost to the day; after 25 years as a tennis pro — 15 of them in Chicago — she was eager to get to the mountains where she could ski more. She came out for a tennis teaching position (it was “great” but not quite the right fit, she said) and started looking for other opportunities.

She saw an ad in the newspaper for the job with the Village Shuttle but didn’t have the Commercial Driver’s License necessary for the gig.

“It was a match made in heaven,” she said.

This year marks Tannenbaum’s sixth in the transit business: she started as a full-time seasonal driver with the Village Shuttle in 2015 and went year-round in 2019. She logged Snowmass Village local status when she made the move from Glenwood Springs to the town three years ago.

“I could definitely see 20 to 25 more years here with the company,” she said. “And what a lot of people end up doing when they retire, they come back for the winter season, you know, full-time winter season, and I could definitely see myself also doing that.”

The “camaraderie” of the Village Shuttle team makes for a close-knit culture among her co-workers, she said.

“We all look out for each other — even though there’s a lot of different personalities in our crew, we’re a family. We’ll do whatever it takes to help each other out during working hours or out of working hours.”

Plus, she notes, there are plenty of other perks: good insurance, a free ski pass, and support from supervisors who regularly check in on matters like COVID safety.

“They ask our opinions, too. Like, ‘Does this work?’ ‘How do you feel with this?'” Tannenbaum said. “It’s not just them saying ‘this is what we’re doing.’ They always ask our opinions when it comes down to our safety and the bus and what we’re doing.”

There are challenges, to be sure — navigating technical routes with wintry roads and the drivers on them in a 30-foot-long vehicle isn’t exactly a piece of cake — but rotating schedules and different routes always keep things interesting.

And those winter conditions also make for recreation opportunities, which along with the scenery and the people are part of what makes Snowmass special to Tannenbaum.

“(You can) walk out your door and ski, walk out your door and mountain bike. Whatever you want to do is within a 10-minute drive,” she said.

Or, for her riders, within a 10-minute ride on a Village Shuttle bus.