Ski train rolls up into the mountains every weekend. (Winter Park/Facebook)
North America’s only slopeside railroad service resumes this week with Amtrak’s weekend service to Colorado’s Winter Park Resort.
Special train cars are scheduled to run on Saturdays and Sundays – and first Fridays of each month -- through March 25. Seats are limited, numbering some 500 for each run, so rail line officials encourage early reservations.
Tickets will be sold on different pricing tiers, beginning with early-bird $29 one-way for selected runs, and rising to $39, $49 and $59 depending upon date and availability. Children 12 or under pay half fare when accompanied by ticketed parent or guardian.
The train departs at 7 a.m. from Denver’s Union Station and stops at Winter Park at 9 a.m. – just when the lifts open. The return trip picks up skiers and riders at 4:30 p.m. and arrives in downtown Denver at 6:40 p.m.
At Union Station, commuting skiers and riders can link into Denver’s metro transit system, including commuter trains to Denver International Airport, light rail, local or intercity buses and Lyft, a new national partner of Amtrak, which is offering a discount for new users’ first four rides and rideshare requests directly from Amtrak mobile apps.
Traveling 56 miles and rising 4,000 feet in elevation, the train first winds through Denver and hits into the Front Range south of Boulder up Eldorado Springs canyon. The train crosses the Continental Divide through six-mile Moffat Tunnel – one of 49 tunnels on the route -- before rolling into the Winter Park station.
The service was suspended in 2009 after owners of the venerable Ski Train that began in 1940 could no longer make the numbers work. Amtrak revitalized the route in 2015 with a few experimental runs that sold out in hours, and put a full-on schedule in place for the 2016-2017 season.
The seasonal Winter Park Express will share the route with the daily Amtrak California Zephyr service, which stops in Fraser just downstream from Winter Park, and operates a full schedule between Chicago and San Francisco via Denver.