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Photo Courtesy of Yvonne Lashmett

Catch the Train to Your Next Backcountry Adventure

Thanks to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, backcountry skiers and riders can more easily access Chicago Basin in late April and early May.

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No skier or snowboarder rejoices at the end of powder season—especially in a year, like this one, when the snow took so long to get here. Thankfully, experienced backcountry adventurers can still shred beyond winter via an unexpected resource: the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The train allows springtime skiers and boarders to get on in Durango and jump off at either the Needleton or Elk Park wilderness access points in the San Juan National Forest. In April, devoted patrons can hire private four-person rail cars for about $500, but most backcountry skiers wisely wait until May and opt for the standard class adult fare of $89 for a seat and $10 for their gear. Typically, powder hounds depart from Durango on either the 8 or 8:45 a.m. train, hop off in Needleton three hours later, and skin their ways about six miles into Chicago Basin, where they set up camp with their own tents for an overnight stay. From there, thrill seekers can access area fourteeners such as Mt. Eolus, Sunlight Peak, or Windom Peak. One warning: Depending on the time of year, the train only comes a few times a day, so make sure you’re back at the Needleton pickup point by your preferred departure time. Otherwise, you’ll be adding another night of camping to your already adventurous itinerary.

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