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Denver To Winter Park Ski Train Revival Project is Gaining Ground

Photo from Steve Hulbert.

The horrors of I70 traffic don’t go unnoticed by the skiers and snowboarders of Denver, Colorado. The freeway's ridiculous congestion is a major headache for residents along the corridor, travelers, and any human being that enjoys breathing clean air.

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From 1940 to 2009, skiers and residents alike had ridden the iconic Winter Park train from Denver to Winter Park. Although the train has been long out of commission, Winter Park recognized that the railroad tracks still existed and were perfectly viable. Why not use them again? And so, with a great deal of time and effort Winter Park temporarily resurrected the Winter Park Train during the 2015 season. It was nothing short of an immense success.

Photo from Steve Hulbert.

For two days during the 2015 season, the Winter Park Railway carried 500 passengers from Denver’s Union Station to the mountain. The two day test run was such a hit that the tickets sold out in less than 14 hours! About 900 people rode the trains that Saturday and Sunday according to Amtrak and had nothing but nice things to say.

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Photo from Steve Hulbert.

Sadly, the train isn’t set yet to run for good this coming season. There is still a lot that needs to be done before it can open for good. When asked what the current status on the train was, Steve Hulbert (Director of Public Relations and Communications at Winter Park Resort) expressed his determination to continue pushing the project and his excitement for the prospective seasons.

We are still working closely with Amtrak and Union Pacific on making it happen for January, 2017. For safety reasons, both the Federal Railway Administration and Union Pacific require a permanent platform for all regular train service, which is what we’re working on at the moment. Our hope is to build a platform this summer and then begin regular train service next ski season.

Photo from Steve Hulbert.

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In a more extensive interview, Steve Hulbert provides deeper insight into the project.

Q: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in getting the train up and running? 

A: Our primary focus is doing this the right way, so if it does come back it comes back for the longterm and just doesn’t run for a year and go away again. That involves working closely with Amtrak and Union Pacific Railroad and frankly takes time.

Q: What are the environmental concerns of the train? 

A: The Winter Park train would run on pre-existing track so there is no environmental impact from construction whatsoever because all the infrastructure already exists. That’s why, although there is some advocacy for an I-70 train, it’s really not feasible at this point because it would take decades to build and cost billions (with a B) of dollars. The Winter Park train, on the other hand, requires no infrastructure construction because it already exists.

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Q: Any idea how much the train would reduce carbon emissions from resort goers transportation vehicles? 

A: Last year when we brought the train back for a weekend, CDOT estimated that the train could take around 250 cars off the corridor during peak travel times, which is fairly significant in terms of traffic and emission mitigation.

Q: How many passengers can each train take? How often would they run? 

A: To start with, the train would run every Saturday and Sunday (and holiday Mondays) from January through March, 2017 and would carry around 500 people. The idea, though, is given the demand for rail service, it could easily grow to include summer service or even year-round service. There is so much incredible potential with the train that could significantly alter travel into the mountains. While it’s fun to think of that potential, however, our focus right now is solely getting it off the ground, so to speak.

Photo from Steve Hulbert.

Our fingers are crossed that by the 2017 season this iconic train will be alive and well, reducing traffic emissions and carrying happy skiers and snowboarders to the slopes.

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