A beloved Colorado ski industry icon is gone. The Winter Park Ski Train, which shuttled tens of thousands of visitors between downtown Denver and the Winter Park Ski area on weekends, has been sold and will be moved to Canada.
Algoma Central Railway Inc., a subsidiary of the Canadian National Railway, purchased the 14-railcar train. The company already operates a Snow Train from its Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, headquarters.
The sale by Denver businessman Phil Anschutz shocked and saddened area skiers even though it was well known that the train lost money every year. While the train was sold out most winter weekends and many during the summer resort season, it faced continuing problems with insurance costs and operating issues like vying with freight trains for track time in order to get to and from Winter Park. Redevelopment of Denver’s historic Union Station also posed problems for the ski train operations, an Anschutz Co. spokesman said.
The Ski Train tradition began nearly seven decades ago when snow enthusiasts in Denver hopped onto mail trains going to the mountains and jumped off when it came to what was then known as Moffat station. In 1940, the winter tradition became permanent with the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad’s Ski Train to Winter Park.
Anschutz bought the train in 1988 and has operated since then. The 1915 coaches were replaced and sold to the Napa Valley Wine Train in California.
The two-hour ride was a great draw for tourists and locals alike, and also afforded a traffic-free way to get to and from the ski slopes. The train left Denver and climbed to the foothills of Boulder where it started up steep switchbacks and went through 28 tunnels, including the final six-mile stretch of the Moffat Tunnel, an engineering marvel that bored under the Continental Divide.