Tracks to Trails :: Winter Park Ski Train

Choo choo, choo choo ch’boogie. The Winter Park Ski train opens its 68th season of ferrying skiers from tracks to trails on Dec. 27.

Upwards of 500 skiers, snowboarders and sightseers ride the train from Denver’s downtown Union Station to the base of Winter Park Resort on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and some Thursdays through the bulk of the snow sports season.

From long curves through the Colorado Front Range foothills, to steep mountain switchbacks and a tunnel more than 6 miles long, the Ski Train offers a unique look at the Rocky Mountains and a peek into the state’s railroad and skiing history. Winter Park, Colorado’s oldest continuously operating resort, got its start in the 1930s when intrepid Denver-area residents with skis hopped the freight trains for a ride to the steep mountains on the other side of the Continental Divide.

The train travels a 56-mile route, getting guests to the ski trails around 9:30 in the morning and heading back to Denver around 4:15 pm, making for a long-enough day on the slopes without the traffic and driving annoyances. The scenery is stunning with mountain views seen nowhere else.

Prices range from $49 per person in the coach cars to $74 in the club cars. Both sections have comfortable reclining seats, although the club cars offer more room, include a buffet breakfast and après-ski snacks. Group rates and special trips also are available.

The train features two café/lounge cars and several snack bars. Discounted lift tickets are also available on-board. Reservations (www.skitrain.com) are recommended as the train sells out most weekends.

The ride through the historic Moffat Tunnel alone is worth the price of a ticket. It gets very dark in a very long tunnel deep beneath the Continental Divide. The light at the end of that tunnel is the bright white snow of Winter Park’s trails, just steps from the train’s stopping point.

Try to get a few minutes with Jim Bain, president and general manager of Ski Train operator Ansco Investment Co., a subsidiary of the Anschutz Corp. He’s on board most weekends, telling great stories about the train’s distant and more recent history, like the time an avalanche closed the road into Winter Park, turning the ski train into something of a slumber party for as many stranded guests as could fit for the ride back to Denver.

Posted by Janet Day on December 17, 2007 in Travel

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