Winter weekend ski traffic can be a total buzzkill—especially after an epic session on the slopes. This is why people in the Denver area are head-over-ski-tips excited about Amtrak’s new Winter Park Express.
The special 500-passenger train follows a historic route that began way back in 1912 and connects Union Station in downtown Denver to the Winter Park Resort in Winter Park, Colorado. It started January 7th and runs Saturdays, Sundays, and select holidays between now and the end of March.
All told, the 56-mile ride from Denver to the slopes takes about two hours and drops passengers within 100 yards of the ski lifts at the resort. Along the way, the train zips north and west through the foothills and up into the Rockies, providing spectacular views of snow-capped peaks ahead and the flatness of the High Plains behind.
The train passes through more than 20 tunnels in all, including the 6.2-mile Moffat Tunnel, the highest railroad tunnel in the United States.
Between these tunnels and the train itself, the Winter Park Express certainly has a colorful history. Train service between Denver and Winter Park started in the 1910s. Around 1940, the train was rebranded and renamed the Ski Train. It operated continuously every winter until the 2008-2009 season, when it became too expensive to keep up.
The train didn’t run between 2009 and 2015, but Amtrak brought the route back for individual days in 2015. Overwhelming demand and a grassroots effort outlined in this CNN article forced the rail carrier to add regular service this year.
Technically, of course, that means 2017 is the inaugural season of the Winter Park Express. And with the publication of this article, there are only seven weekends left to use it.
Tickets for the journey start at $39 and range in price up to $59, depending on when travelers book (and what’s available). According to the rules of the fares, up to two children may accompany each ticketed adult for half-fare. Who needs traffic anyway?
Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.