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The Ski Train: Colorado's quiet treasure

  • Story Highlights
  • Ski Train from Denver to Winter Park has been a local favorite for 68 years
  • Train ferries skiers to slopes in Colorado's Rocky Mountains
  • "The train ride up there is spectacular," says Denver resident
  • Train passes through 6.2-mile Moffat Tunnel underneath the Continental Divide
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By Steve Almasy
CNN
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(CNN) -- Many skiers who visit Colorado prefer the slopes of Aspen, Vail or Breckenridge. But there's a cool little day trip from Denver that often gets overlooked by out-of-towners.

Passengers board the Ski Train in snowy Winter Park, Colorado.

The Ski Train begins its round-trip journey to Winter Park at Union Station in Denver, Colorado.

The Ski Train is a 68-year-old local favorite that shuttles about 750 people between Denver and Winter Park. It runs on weekend days -- leaving Denver's Union Station at 7:15 a.m. -- and begins the return leg nine hours later.

The 56-mile trip takes about two hours each way, and many riders say it's worth the cost to avoid the traffic hassles of the oft-congested I-70.

A roundtrip ticket costs between $49 and $85. There are additional expenses, such as parking at the train station in Denver and lift tickets for skiers. If someone chooses to shop instead of ski, a free shuttle into Winter Park is available.

Train riders love the trip route, which winds through the Rockies and climbs to 9,000 feet. It also travels through almost 30 tunnels, including the 6.2-mile Moffat Tunnel, which passes underneath the Continental Divide.

"The train ride up there is spectacular. You see wonderful vistas as you leave Denver through the northern plains and into the mountains," Kristal Kraft, a real estate agent in Denver, says. "And once you get through the Moffat Tunnel, you're right there at Winter Park."

Kraft says she enjoyed her maiden voyage on the train, which came courtesy of a local home builder that bought group tickets in one of the club cars.

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"I loved the convenience [of the train],' she says. "We relaxed, talked, socialized. And when you get off the train, you are right there at the slopes."

According to skitrain.com, three additional cars are available for charter and one for company retreats. The Web site lists the price for the presentation car at $5,000 for a winter trip. The site says the current train cars were purchased after Ansco Investment Company bought the Ski Train in 1988.

Kraft says the cars are comfortably heated and there is ample room to move around. Kraft, an amateur photography buff, enjoyed switching from window to window, side to side, to take pictures.

There is one occasional hitch to riding the train. It shares the track with the Union Pacific Railroad and at times has to stop or pullover to make way for a freight train or Amtrak. And there are instances where another train has an accident.

One time a coal train derailed in a tunnel and the Union Pacific officials told the Ski Train operators it would take two days to clear the tracks, says Ski Train media relations director Jim Bain.

They called the passengers together in a cafeteria in Winter Park and advised them to call friends and family to come pick them up. The company also arranged for a few buses to come gather the remaining passengers and Bain says they were all headed back to Denver by 8:30 p.m.

It was a worst-case scenario, he says, and it only happened once. There are occasional delays of a few hours.

The bad news is you're delayed; the good news is you're on a full service train with food service and restrooms. And there's the ability to find a beverage.

One reviewer on the Web site yelp.com said there's another bonus to the train.

"What's great is that once you get back into Denver you can hit Wynkoop brewery or any other bars around there to keep the party rolling," Ramon G. wrote.

All About AmtrakUnion Pacific CorporationDenver

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