Ski Train

Dec 28, 2009 - Ain't back

Amtrack wouldn't come to an agreement with Iowa Pacific, so hopefully next year...

The new Ski Train web site

Sept 18, 2009 - The Ski Train is back!!! 

From the Denver Post:

Chicago-based Iowa Pacific Holdings, which operates freight and excursion trains in six states including Colorado, wants to take over the service. On Thursday, Omaha-based Union Pacific agreed to let Iowa Pacific use the same route the previous Ski Train owners used.

Iowa Pacific President Ed Ellis says the train would use his company's equipment and Amtrak would provide the crews. An Amtrak spokesman said Friday the company is reviewing Iowa Pacific's proposal but no decision has been made.

As of April 22, 2009, the Ski Train has been sold and is moving out of the country.

From the Ski Train web site on the 23rd:

The Anschutz Company is confirming news reports that the Ski Train has been sold to the Algoma Central Railway Inc., a subsidiary of Canadian National Railway, and will no longer be operated in Colorado.

A subsidiary of the Anschutz Company has operated the Ski Train at a consistent loss over the past 21 years.

Profitability had never been the controlling issue with the Ski Train. However, more recently it has faced additional, serious challenges including, escalating costs - particularly liability coverage; operational conflicts with freight train traffic, substantial uncertainties posed by redevelopment of Denver's Union Station; as well as long-term impacts resulting from this nation's economic crisis.

Regrettably, the Ski Train could no longer be operated under these conditions.


In 1923, construction of the Moffat Tunnel was started.  A construction camp, oddly enough named West Portal, was built to house the workers on the west end of the tunnel.  The tunnel was completed, and the first train passed through in February 1928.  By the early 30s, all work in the area was finished and the camp was abandoned.  The city of Denver purchased the abandoned camp in 1939 to build a winter recreation area.  In 1940, a new town and ski area, named Hideaway Park, opened to the public.  It boasted a 1/2-mile long tow rope and one-dollar lift ticket.  The town was eventually renamed Winter Park to lure more skiers to the area.

1947 saw the start of weekend train service on the Denver & Rio Grande Western to and from Winter Park.  The train has remained in continuous operation since.  At times it has struggled with ridership, but today it operates daily through the winter with 14 - 17 cars and 750 passengers, usually sold out.  Weekend summer service has been added and is proving very popular.  The train also makes periodic appearances at special events around the country.

The train runs two hours, 56 miles, from Denver's Union Station, through the tunnel district (28 tunnels) and stops at the west portal of the Moffat Tunnel to discharge the passengers about 100 yards from the ski lifts.  The train then continues to Tabernash, where it turns on a wye, and is parked at Fraser until the return trip in the late afternoon.

Current power is provided by three ex-Amtrack F40PH. 

Three luxury cars are old D&RGW cars: business car Kansas, diner Utah, and dome/sleeper Califonia.  They are not always on the train, but may be chartered for group use.  The remaining 14 cars were purchased in 1988 from VIA Rail's Tempo Train in Ontario Canada. The worn out 1915 vintage coaches were sold and are today part of the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Philip Anschutz transferred ownership of the Ski Train in 1988 from the D&RGW to his Ansco Investment Corporation, and retained the ownership when he sold Southern Pacific Lines (Rio Grande, Cotton Belt and Southern Pacific) to Union Pacific in 1995. 

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