Just imagine: While your friends who skied at Breckenridge today are stuck in the gridlock of Eisenhower Tunnel traffic and your friends who skied at Vail are spinning their wheels behind a closed Vail Pass, you are making your way back to Denver from Winter Park in style -- on the Ski Train, with a Railyard Ale close at hand and spectacular scenery stretching out all around you.
Denver may be confused about what to do with Winter Park, the city-owned ski resort, but the Ski Train -- which bills itself as "A Denver Tradition for Generations" -- shows no such hesitation. Owned since 1988 by Ansco Investment Company, the train just keeps chugging along the route it first took back in 1940 -- although the three locomotives in front of the fourteen passenger cars are sporting fancy new orange paint jobs this year. This month, the train kicked off its 61st season of weekend trips between Union Station and Winter Park (starting in February, Fridays join the schedule, too). The train leaves the station at 7:15 a.m. -- sharp, as evidenced by a few tardy skiers who are always left running alongside the tracks -- and then heads northwest for just over two hours, passing through 56 miles of stunning vistas, dozens of tunnels and, of course, no traffic. The last tunnel is the 6.2-mile-long Moffat Tunnel, which deposits you at the base of the ski area.
The train leaves Winter Park at 4:15 p.m. -- sharp, again, as evidenced by the few skiers who are always trying to outschuss the cars -- for the ride back down, complete with bar service and, of course, still no traffic. And in case you haven't quite had your fill of fun by the time you return, Union Station (another Denver institution in a certain state of flux, since RTD is considering taking it over for a transit center) is conveniently located in the heart of bar-filled LoDo -- and you've already paid for your parking (or your car was towed hours ago).
Ski Train tickets in coach run $40 round-trip for adults, $20 for kids (you can buy discounted lift tickets on board, too); slightly cushier club-car service is available for $65. And, for this holiday week, the Ski Train has added extra trips. Although it won't be running on New Year's Eve, the train still has seats available for the December 28, 29 and 30 runs.