Is There a Future for the Winter Park Ski Train?

After successful trial run this March, Amtrak and Colorado officials are at the drawing table again

Will the Winter Park Ski Train run again? PHOTO: Wikipedia creative commons
Will the Winter Park Ski Train run again? PHOTO: Wikipedia creative commons

The train may have only been a promotional deal, but for the first time in six years the legendary Denver to Winter Park Amtrak Ski Train returned to action earlier this month, shuttling 450 people 56 miles up into the Rockies and away from infamous I-70 traffic. However, the limited run may have done more than just appease a few train lovers, as the public, local government, and even train operators themselves rallied behind a potentially more permanent return to action for the popular ski rail system.

“I think, with the way people are wanting to address the congestion and challenge of I-70, that we should be able to find a way, with the kind of interest we are getting on trains, to find a regular train to move not just throughout the metro area but also up in the mountains,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock in a Denver Post interview earlier this month.

From 1940 to 2009, the Winter Park Ski Train shuttled skiers from Denver to the mountains for 69 years. PHOTO: SkiTrain.com
From 1940 to 2009, the Winter Park Ski Train shuttled skiers from Denver to the mountains for 69 years. PHOTO: SkiTrain.com

Originally the resurrection of the Ski Train was billed as merely a symbolic ride to celebrate Winter Park Resort’s 75th anniversary. But, after the March 14 ride sold out in just 10 hours, Amtrak realized it had struck a chord, adding a second train for the 15th, and thoroughly considering a limited return to operation for next year.

“We are going to take a hard look at this because obviously there is demand,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

The Ski Train began operation in 1940, shuttling skiers and mountain enthusiasts from Denver’s Union Station two hours up to Winter Park. The train ran until 2009 when then-owner Philip Anschutz decided to pull the plug on the operation, citing declining profits and operating issues amidst rising insurance costs.

But 69 years of history does not die overnight, and when Amtrak announced its limited time offer—a $75 round trip with a $15 voucher for use at resort restaurants and retail stores—the public jumped.

“Train, train, ski. Train, train, home,” said Colorado resident Josh Winstead in a Post interview. “Gotta love that.”

While no official plans are in place, both local governments and Amtrak are open to ideas for next year and have scheduled a meeting for April to discuss the train’s future as a regularly operating entity according to the Denver Post. While the future of the train remains unclear, the momentum is pointing toward a reinvigorated form of ski travel.

As Amtrak’s route director Jim Brzezinski told the Post, “Here’s the question so many are asking: Will Amtrak want to do this again after this weekend? Well, the answer is, ‘You betcha.'”

Original article appeared in the Denver Post.