First tracks: the Winter Park Express arrives
Weekends often leave Colorado drivers frustrated and their skis all waxed up with no place to go as they slowly creep towards the Eisenhower Tunnel or Berthoud Pass. Interstate 70 is often deemed a “parking lot” on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but Jan. 7 marked the beginning of a new consistent mode of transportation to one Colorado Ski Area.
The Winter Park Express horn echoed out of the Moffat Tunnel at 9 a.m. on the dot on Saturday morning. That morning, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) reported up to a 90-minute drive time from C470 to the Eisenhower Tunnel causing the train passengers to step onto the platform with a sense of accomplishment in their transportation choice.
Braving negative temperatures, resort visitors lined the train platform gates to cheer for the Winter Park Expresses’ arrival and the area turn into a mini question and answer session between those onboard and those not—the overwhelming answer: the experience was great.
The train, which was sold out, carried over 550 passengers from Union Station to Winter Park Resort. One notable passenger was Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Winter Park Resort is the only ski area in the country with direct rail service from a major city. Round-trips from Union Station to the ski area run on Saturdays and Sundays, with additional round-trips on Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day.
The new commuter rail line from Denver International Airport to Union Station enables visitors to travel directly from their flight to Winter Park without stepping foot in a personal vehicle.
Seth and Lauren Payne of Denver said the train was very convenient for them. The Paynes live only five minutes away from Union Station by Uber ride. The two said the ride was great and much better than driving. They bought their tickets as soon as the return of the train was first announced, and have been patiently waiting ever since. Lauren pointed out that they did have to get up early, but it was fully worth it to avoid traffic, and for the overall experience.
Hannah Atkinson also of Denver said the ride to Winter Park was scenic and active with wildlife.
“It was a smooth ride with no problems,” Atkinson said. She thinks future passengers that have not been to the area before will enjoy the scenery and chance to see Colorado wildlife.
Sara Cassidy, Colorado and Wyoming Director of Public Affairs for Union Pacific Railroad, a partner in the Winter Park Express, said everything went smoothly for the train’s maiden voyage.
Cassidy lives in Edgewater and was able to drive her car to Union Station and leave it there for the day while the train took care of the rest.
“It was a great experience and nice to avoid traffic,” Cassidy said.
“The train was well-run with efficient loading and unloading procedures.”
“The inaugural weekend of the Winter Park Express was an incredible success, with hundreds of skiers and riders enjoying the ability to avoid the quagmire of I-70 traffic, said Steve Hurlbert, Director of Public Relations and Communications for Winter Park Resort. “That the operation ran so flawlessly is testament to the amazing attention to detail of Amtrak, which provided a first-class service, and we’re so proud to join with them and Union Pacific to bring this iconic tradition back to Colorado.”
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