It’s almost that time of year again. And we’re not just talking about ski season—we’re talking about spending hours of our weekends sitting in traffic. And now that (seemingly) the entire population of Earth is moving to Colorado, we fear it isn’t going to get any better.
Luckily, there’s a new way to hit the hill this season: The Winter Park Express ski train is back. The 500-plus passenger Amtrak train, which connects Denver’s Union Station with Winter Park Resort in a two-hour ride, is taking passengers up to the high country—and off the roads—on Saturdays and Sundays from January 7 through March 27, plus an extra roundtrip on Martin Luther King and Presidents Day. The train leaves Union Station on weekend mornings at 7 a.m. and returns from Winter Park at 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon.
The express train service should be a boon to Coloradans, but it’s also perfect for visitors to our fair state. Winter Park is now the only resort in the country that out-of-staters can reach directly from the airport without getting in a car, according to Colorado Ski Country USA public affairs manager Chris Linsmayer. With the new University of Colorado A Line train from Denver International Airport to Union Station, travelers can get to downtown Denver and then head directly to the base of Winter Park.
This season will be the first year the train will be offered since 2009. Previously, a train from Denver to Winter Park had operated every year since 1940, but regulations made the cost too high for it to continue, Linsmayer says. Last year, Amtrak and Winter Park teamed up with Union Pacific for two weekends to test the waters on the ski train’s return, and tickets sold out in minutes. That was all the motive Amtrak and the resort needed to officially reinstate the train this season. A new multi-million-dollar, handicap-accessible train platform at Winter Park was one of the key pieces that allowed the train to return. The platform—funded by a collaboration of private and public entities—is already under construction, and is expected to be completed in December.
The Winter Park Express, along with new direct flights from major U.S. cities to Colorado ski towns, should give I-70 a little bit of a breather on its usual congestion. If you’re planning on driving up on Friday night or Saturday morning, we wish you luck. We’ll wave from the train.
If you go: You can buy advance tickets for the train on Amtrak’s website through March 26.