Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Wake-Up Call: End of the line for the Ski Train

My first view of Denver was from a train -- the Denver Zephyr, which a group of families had boarded in Chicago one afternoon in the mid-'60s. The kids had commandeered the dome car, where we slept on the floor under the seats, and as the sun rose, we got our first sight of the Rockies.

My first view of Winter Park was from a train -- the Yampa Valley Mail, which we boarded at Union Station for the ride up into the mountains. We put on our ski clothes in the same car that had milk and mail bound for people living in Frasier and Granby, and got out right at the base of the mountain, not wanting to miss a minute of skiing.

But the Winter Park ski train will not be leaving the station this season, and maybe not any other season.

At the end of the 2009 season, Phil Anschutz, who'd purchased the old Winter Park Ski Train and run it for twenty years, pulled the plug on the project, which was facing uncertain economics and several years of construction disruption at Union Station, selling the equipment to Canada. And yesterday, the group that had tried to revive the route with some excursion equipment as the Rio Grande Scenic ski train, pulled the plug on that concept, too

Iowa Pacific Holdings had overcome several obstacles on the tracks, but it wasn't able to come to a final agreement with Amtrak, which had added a $200 million insurance policy to its demands before the train could operate on Amtrak tracks, with Amtrak crews. And when U.S. District Court Judge Robert Blackburn refused to issue a temporary restraining order that would have let the train take its first run on December 27, as originally planned, Iowa Pacific decided that it couldn't resurrect this season at all.

It would have been the seventieth for a ski train.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun