Restoring train service to Winter Park

In March, Amtrak sent a train from its yards in Chicago to Denver, for a weekend ski train to Winter Park. The train lefts off passengers within 75 yards of the ski lifts. Photo/Winter Park Resort

In March, Amtrak sent a train from its yards in Chicago to Denver, for a weekend ski train to Winter Park. The train lets off passengers within 60 paces of the ski lifts. Photo/Winter Park Resort

Winter Park hopes to restore the weekend ski trains from Denver 

Amtrak on board with idea, but OK needed from UP

WINTER PARK, Colo. – Will the past become the future? From 1940 to 2009, almost without interruption, special trains departed Denver’s Union Station every Saturday and Sunday morning, depositing skiers an hour and a half later at the foot of the slopes of Winter Park.

A generation or two of skiers from Denver learned to ski at Winter Park before Interstate 70 opened and soon after Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, and a host of other ski areas commenced business.

But while the ski trains remained popular, they were ended in 2009 by Philip Anschutz, the owner, because of the cost of insurance.

Now, following a special resumption of train service in mid-March that drew 900 riders for the weekend trips, hope remains in Winter Park that the service can become permanent once again.

What’s new is that Amtrak has gotten involved. For the trial run in March, Amtrak delivered trains from its storage yard in Chicago. Amtrak works closely with Union Pacific, which runs 18 to 24 freight trains over the tracks each day.

Steve Hurlbert, spokesman for Winter Park Resort, says discussion will begin in April about permanent resumption. Amtrak, he says, “is as enthusiastic about this as we are.”

The ski train awaits passengers in the morning dawn at Denver's Union Station. Photo/Winter Park Resort

The ski train awaits passengers in the morning dawn at Denver’s Union Station. Photo/Winter Park Resort

Winter Park makes the argument that the ski trains are good for Colorado altogether. The Colorado Department of Transportation estimated that the trains would draw enough passengers to reduce 450 to 500 cars on heavily congested Interstate 70 during peak traffic flows.

With the ski trains, snow riders can arrive at Winter Park just 60 paces from the train to the Gemini lift.

But everything depends upon the approval by UP.

If UP agrees, though, Hurlbert describes a future for Denver-area skiers that would be the envy of many.

Because of the proliferating network of light and commuter rail in metropolitan Denver, it could soon be possible for snow riders to board their neighborhood train to Union Station, and from there transfer to the ski train to Winter Park.

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About Allen Best

Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist. He publishes a subscription-based e-zine called Mountain Town News, portions of which are published on the website of the same name, and also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines.
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