This Colorado Mountain Has a Dedicated Ski Train and After-dark Tubing

Getting to the mountain should be fun, too.

Person in orange jacket skiing in Winter Park, Colorado

Courtesy of Alterra Mountain Company

In a world where just finding a parking spot near the slopes can be difficult, the idea of taking a dedicated ski train straight to a ski area is a refreshing concept. But dream no more, as it's a reality for those who want to visit Winter Park Resort in Colorado.

The original train, which started running in 1940, has finally returned after a multi-year hiatus, thanks to a partnership with Amtrak. Known as the Winter Park Express, the train regularly travels between downtown Denver and the ski area during the winter months. 

"The Winter Park Express is the only 'ski train' in Colorado," Jen Miller, the public relations and communications manager for Winter Park Resort, shared with Travel + Leisure. "No need to fight traffic, weather, or figure out parking. It's a simple, easy way to get to Winter Park, and fares start at $34 a person this season."

Winter Park may be Colorado's most accessible ski area (in addition to having a ski train, it's just 67 miles from Denver), but it still has a remote, smalltown feel. The ski area sits at 9,000 feet and boasts over 3,000 acres of skiing, including 166 designated trails and over 1,200 acres of off-piste terrain. It also averages just over 344 inches of snow a year and claims to have "the most consistent snow season after season."

Beyond the pristine snow, Winter Park is also notoriously family-friendly, with a ski school and plenty of hot chocolate stops — but that doesn't mean it's not a fit for pro-level skiers and riders, too.

This ski season, Winter Park almost doubled its expert-only terrain with the opening of two new terrain pods. The first is in the Cirque Terrain, named Jelly Roll for its rolling landscape and fluffy snow. The second expansion is in the Chutes area of the resort's Mary Jane Territory. Several new controlled avalanche chutes will now give expert skiers a fun and challenging way to access the Powder Field, which is known for holding epic powder stashes.

"Skiers and riders can access all the new Cirque terrain via a snowcat-drawn sled and about a half-mile to three-quarters-mile hike. The terrain gives an inbounds backcountry experience in a patrolled environment," Miller said. "The expanded terrain in the Chutes area on Mary Jane is mostly improved access points, so skiers and riders can drop into this challenging area quicker and easier than ever before. The Chutes are some of the steepest, most difficult slopes at the resort."

The resort also takes care of skiers who'd rather stick to the groomers — with improved grooming and snowmaking operations that get runs groomed earlier and more often. But the fun doesn't stop once the lifts shut down for the day. Winter Park is now offering several after-dark activities, including tubing, ice skating, and guided sunset skiing. 

"We opened our slopes in 1940 and have been welcoming adventurers of all types ever since," Miller added. "Our history, location, consistent snow, and laid-back, authentic Colorado vibe sets us apart from every other resort in the state."

How to Ride

Lift tickets start at $113/day but can jump to $239/day if you wait till the last minute or visit during high-demand periods. Ikon passholders get full access to Winter Park Resort.

Where to Stay

For super easy access, book a room at Zephyr Mountain Lodge, Winter Park’s ski-in, ski-out lodging. The accommodations are condo-style at Zephyr, so you’ll be treated to full kitchens, gas fireplaces, and multiple bedrooms (1 to 3).

Where to Apres

There’s no better place to end your ski day than at Sunspot Mountaintop Lodge, which is set at 10,700 feet. The lunchtime hotspot morphs into an après-ski go-to on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays starting at 4 p.m. The drinks and grub are great, but what really makes this place special are the views.

How to Catch the Ski Train

The Winter Park Express runs every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday between Friday, January 13, and Sunday, March 26. The train leaves Denver’s Union Station at 7 a.m. and departs Winter Park en route to Denver at 4:30 p.m. A one-way journey starts at $34 for adults and $17 for kids ages 2 to 12. Tickets can be booked with Amtrak.

Skis, boards, bags, and boots can be brought on board for no additional charge and will be placed in the dedicated baggage storage space for the journey, which takes around two hours. Those flying into Denver, can take the A-Line airport train to Union Station and make the simple transfer to the Winter Park Express. 

Upon arrival in Winter Park, skiers need only walk 100 feet to the nearest ski lift — it’s that easy. 

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