Maybe I watched The Lone Ranger a few too many times as a child, but nothing says "Old West romantic" like a train ride through the mountains: Give me beautiful vistas, dark tunnels and the lurking danger of horse-riding bandits every time.
Don't get me wrong: I realize that this is the 21st century, and that my chances of getting held up by pistol are much higher in my local 7-Eleven than they are on board a train. But when I jumped off the Union Station platform onto the Ski Train bound for Winter Park a few weeks back, I was looking for a day of adventure.
A Colorado winter favorite since 1940, the Ski Train has been running summer excursions for the past five years, leaving Union Station every Saturday at 8:30 a.m. sharp. I didn't have to worry about breakfast, because the 1,500-foot train has two cafe and lounge cars and several snack bars, more than enough to sustain a rider during the two-and-a-half-hour trip.
"The views in the summer are just spectacular," says Julie White, spokeswoman for the train. "It's such a pretty ride." After passing through the 6.2-mile-long Moffat Tunnel, you'll have about four hours to play in Winter Park. Options including slipping down the alpine slide, barrelling down the mountain at 30 miles per hour on your bike, firing a round of miniature golf or hiking straight up a double-black-diamond run at Mary Jane. Visit winterparkresort.com for a complete list of activities.
When the clock strikes 3 p.m., passengers get back on board for a relaxing ride down the mountain. "It's a great way to spend the day," promises White. "It's always about ten to fifteen degrees cooler up in the mountains than it is down in the city, and you avoid all the summer traffic hassles."
With summer in full swing, now is the perfect time to crack open an ice-cold beer and settle in as picturesque views of the Flatirons, Gross Reservoir and South Boulder Canyon fly by. I spent a good part of my time looking for my trusty masked man. Yoo-hoo! Over here!
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