Colorado's Winter Park Express put the ski train back in business, and that business is having a great run. Traveling between Denver and Winter Park Resort usually only on Saturdays and Sundays, the seasonal train service is often sold out.
The Amtrak ski train is a revival of a historic train service between Denver and Winter Park to the northwest. The renewed service began Jan. 7, 2017, and is scheduled to continue through March 26. More than 15,000 people had ridden the ski train by Feb. 14, which was about the midpoint of its planned trips for the ski season. The train can carry 554 passengers.
The original rail service connecting Denver and Winter Park, which sometimes is spelled Winterpark, started in 1912, and weekend journeys were added in 1940. In 2009, the service ended, partly because of financial reasons.
Several entities are responsible for the ski train's return. They include Winter Park Resort, Amtrak, Union Pacific Railroad, Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado Rail Passenger Association, which is a nonprofit group.
The train trip treats passengers to scenic views of the Rocky Mountains, and it features 28 tunnels through them. One of those inner-mountain passageways is Moffat Tunnel, which is along the Continental Divide. Whether traveling to the ski resort or returning from it, the one-way trip takes about two hours by train. By car, the journey covers about 70 miles of road.
More than skiers and snowboarders have taken advantage of the revived rail service. Some people who get on the morning train in Denver visit the ski resort for its many amenities other than the opportunity to glide down mountain slopes. Some of them also stay overnight instead of taking the afternoon train back to the state's capital city. The Winter Park recreational area has many lodges with accommodations for visitors.
Each Saturday and Sunday during the ski season, the Winter Park Express is scheduled to leave Denver's Union Station at 7 a.m. and to reach Winter Park Resort at 9 a.m. The train departs Winter Park at 4:30 p.m. both days and pulls into Union Station at 6:40 p.m.
On two occasions, the train service extended beyond Saturdays and Sundays to two Monday holidays: Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 16 and Presidents Day on Feb. 20.
The ski train takes passengers all the way to the Winter Park Resort's base, where they are only a brief walk to ski lifts. When they first leave the train, they travel a platform that has built-in heating coils, which help to prevent slips and falls on snow and ice. The platform stretches 950 feet along the train track.
The train and the platform are accessible to people in wheelchairs. Passengers' skiing and snowboarding accessories are kept on the train's lower level during the trip.