History of the ski train
January 31, 2017
The Fraser Historic Church was packed on Friday, Jan. 27 for a presentation on the history of the ski train. Tim Nicklas, Museum Director at Pioneer Village in Hot Sulphur Springs and Grand County Historical Association's Resident Historian, gave an hour-long presentation showing the history of the ski train dating back to the early 1900s.
He described the evolution of the ski train, which has provided mountain sports enthusiast with transportation to what is now Winter Park Resort for many years.
Nicklas described the train as beginning with a vision from David Moffat who wanted to build a western railroad out of Denver. In 1904 the rail originally went over the continental divide, which caused many problems due to massive amounts of snow. Traveling over the divide was not reliable and trains would get stuck for several days at a time. As skiing became more popular people discovered Berthoud Pass and Winter Park as great places to ski.
The ski train, which was originally called the snow train began in 1912. The train traveled through Hot Sulphur Springs, where a small ski area existed. The development of the Moffat Tunnel made the train much more reliable and eventually turned into a main-source of travel for skiers.
Many skiers think they earn their turns by using the latest ski-touring technology, but passengers of the snow train would hike up Winter Park Resort in the 1930s to get their fill of skiing.
Nicklas told stories of passengers persuading the train conductor to slow down enough so they could jump off the ski train at West Portal Station, where the Winter Park Express drops off passengers today.
During World War II most ski areas shut down, but Winter Park remained open. It was the only ski area in Colorado to stay open during the entire war. The ski train continued during this time, as employees would travel from Denver to operate the ski area on weekends. This gave Winter Park an advantage as a developing ski resort.
As the train developed further and experienced a few years of inactivity, Winter Park Resort began to add more towropes and T-bars and eventually evolved into the beloved resort used by Coloradoans today.