Nothing can spoil a ski trip out west quicker than a major winter storm coursing through the mid-section of the country that causes your flight to be canceled along with hundreds of others. Traveling by air these day has lost a lot of its thrill and charm. Navigating through airports on a normal day with long security lines seems more like an excruciating run through a gauntlet instead of an exciting adventure. The journey becomes even less enjoyable trying to check luggage like ski equipment and filing on to planes with cramped legroom and narrow aisles.
For those with an extra spare day or two a trip to the Colorado Mountains can take on a romantic journey of years gone by. Amtrak offers train service from the Midwest to the doorsteps of ski resorts like Winter Park in Fraser, Colorado. Originating in Chicago the California Zephyr takes the traveler through Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado with a majority of the trip through the plains occurring during the nighttime. Passengers will want to take a seat on the right side of the train for morning time in Colorado. At daybreak passengers awaken to the sight of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains getting closer as the train travels toward Denver.
After a stop in the mile high city, the train makes the climb up the mountain heading for Winter Park. The trek will be reminiscent of your childhood as you watched model trains take an imaginary journey around a mountain complete with tunnels. A panoramic view of Denver and the Great Plains will develop as the train chugs higher and higher up the mountainside. After passing through a series of tunnels passengers will be treated to a Kodak moment as a snow encased village creeps by. You may even see a cowboy complete with a red bandana on a horse trudging through the drifts of white powder. The next stop is Winter Park where the train literally stops at the base of the resort. No need to worry about picking up a rental car as vans and buses are available to take you anywhere in the village.
The Winter Park ski resort has slopes for every type of skier from the novice to the expert. Except for the very beginner, a trip to the summit is a must see. After snapping a few pictures at over 11,000 feet of elevation, an individual has several options to swoosh their way back to the base. Advanced skiers can streak down the face of the summit and then weave their way through the tree line below before joining up with the main trail. For the less daring skier a trail on the perimeter of the peak leads the individual gently down the mountain.
In addition to the beautiful scenery and extra legroom, the train also plows through weather that normally cancels flights or closes the interstates. And looking at the twinkling lights of Denver below is not a bad way to fall asleep for the journey home.