View Full Version : No more ski train

04-22-2009, 04:48 PM
Dangit, never got the chance to ride it, always wanted to... :(

Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 9:09am MDT | Modified: Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 12:35pm

Colorado's Ski Train to Winter Park ends after 69 years

Denver Business Journal - by Mark Harden (http://www.bizjournals.com/search/results.html?Ntt=%22Mark%20Harden%22&Ntk=All&Ntx=mode matchallpartial)


The Ski Train that has run between Denver's Union Station and Winter Park for 69 years has come to an end, a spokesman for the Anschutz Co. (http://denver.bizjournals.com/denver/gen/Anschutz_Co._64B6921E36A449DF95C93858A627E403.html), the owner, confirmed Wednesday. The equipment has been sold to the Algoma Central Railway Inc., a subsidiary of the Canadian National Railway (http://denver.bizjournals.com/denver/gen/Canadian_National_Railway_E2170C1EDBBE498CBC53E5DD48EC4528.html) Co., and will no longer operate in Colorado, Anschutz Co. spokesman Jim Monaghan said.
Terms were not announced.

He said the train has operated "at a consistent loss over the past 21 years."

"Profitability had never been the controlling issue with the Ski Train," Monaghan added, noting that the train has been operated more as a public amenity than as a money maker.

"However, more recently it has faced additional, serious challenges, including escalating costs, particularly liability coverage," he said.
He also said there have been operational conflicts with freight train traffic, "substantial uncertainties" posed by planned redevelopment of Union Station, and "long-term impacts resulting from this nation's economic crisis. Regrettably, the Ski Train could no longer be operated under these conditions."

Union Station, opened in 1870, is to be converted into a multi-purpose transportation center as part of the Regional Transportation District's FasTracks rail-transit program, resulting in a hub for RTD’s commuter trains and buses and Amtrak passenger service, with room for bicycles and taxicabs. The station has served as the Ski Train's Denver departure point and as a parking place for its trains in the off-season.

But the Denver Business Journal reported Jan. 16 (http://denver.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2009/01/19/story6.html) that work at Union Station beginning later this year would reduce close-in parking and platform space that had been used by the Ski Train and its passengers.
At the time, Ski Train manager Jim Bain said that the company had concerns about whether there would be enough space for the Ski Train tom to operate at the station.

The train had been owned by Ansco Investment Co., a unit of Denver investor Philip Anschutz's company. Despite the challenges faces by the train, the Anschutz Co. had not been trying to find a buyer until it was contacted by the Canadian rail company that bought it, Monaghan said.
"The Canadian National Railway approached us ... just at the time these additional issues were becoming more prominent," he said.

Algoma Central Railway is based in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. It operates winter and summer trains in Ontario's scenic Agawa Canyon.
The Ski Train was launched by the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1940 to serve the newly opened Winter Park ski area. Anschutz's company acquired it in 1988.

The train for decades has carried skiers from Denver on a twisting 57-mile route, through the 6-mile-long Moffat Tunnel under the Continental Divide, and then arriving at the foot of the Winter Park ski slopes.
In recent years the train has operated both winter and summer.
In 1997, during the "Summit of the Eight" meeting of world leaders in Denver, then-first lady (and now secretary of state) Hillary Clinton hosted a ride on the Ski Train to Winter Park for the spouses of leaders attending the summit.

The train's last run was March 29.

Uncle Ben
04-22-2009, 04:55 PM
Thats really sad! :(

04-22-2009, 05:17 PM
Really hard to believe. This came as a complete surprise. I wonder if Anshutz had baited the public with the potential for selling, that he may have received more support and funding to keep it going?

04-22-2009, 05:35 PM
Oh man! I really wanted to go on that!

04-22-2009, 08:45 PM
ARRGH. I always wanted to do it.

04-22-2009, 09:51 PM
Really hard to believe. This came as a complete surprise. I wonder if Anshutz had baited the public with the potential for selling, that he may have received more support and funding to keep it going?

Not likely. Anschutz is a shrewd businessman who is out for quick turns for profit. It was a toy for him, and nothing more. When he acquired the D&RGW railroad in '88, his first order of business was to sell any property the railroad owned and didn't directly use. Then he was focused on hacking up the D&RGW and Southern Pacific into nothing resembling their former selves so that they could be incorporated into the Union Pacific system . The only way he made money was to buy something large and divy it up into small chunks for larger sales. Kinda like the guy who will spend time and effort to part out his cruiser instead of giving 1/2 of the add-ons away for a one lump sum.

I am just glad that Bradshaw bought the Silverton before Anshutz got the D&RGW. Otherwise Disneyland RR (What we affectionately call the D&SNGRR) would really be a disneyland. Or parted and sold.

My one and only time riding the Ski Train was on my 18th birthday, March 8th, 1992. The D&RGW still owned it, and there was a blizzard that closed northbound I-25 when we finally got to Denver. We left WP on time, but heavy snow and drifting on the east side of the Moffat Tunnel kept us from reaching Denver until after 8PM. At 7PM we were in North Yard (I-70 and I-25) and the crew had reach their 12 hour limit. So we sat while another crew was brought in, and finally got off the train at 8PM at Union Station. When we tried to drive home to Longmont, I-25 was closed at 120th, so we stayed at the then Holiday Inn on the south-east side. Luckily we got a room, ovr 100 people had to sleep in the lobby. The skiing wasn't great, but the trip home was memorable.

04-23-2009, 10:08 AM
I'd read that he ran it at a loss or at least almost no profit for the ~20 years that he owned it, more or less as a favor to Denver and Colorado. Sometimes rich people aren't all evil.

I can vouch for that. My bro in law is an exec in accounting for Ansco. Philip Anschutz is a good and generous man.

04-23-2009, 12:33 PM
I rode that train so many times in high school that I knew the conductors and the other people running the train. My parents would drop me and my friend of on Saturday mornings and pick us up again around 6. It was great and I am sad to see it go.

Sharon kept bugging me to go on it and I always said next ???? Now I can't say that anymore, man I was/am an ASS! I guess it is true, "live life now for it may not be there tomorrow." Said by an old wise ASS, me!

04-23-2009, 01:08 PM
I always wanted to ride it as well. Rats. :(

04-23-2009, 01:46 PM
I looked into it last season. For a family of four, it got pretty expensive. That's why we didn't do it. A tank of gas was much cheaper, and there would still be fuel in the tank when we got home. The reality of our budget made it a luxury option rather than a viable alternative to driving.

04-23-2009, 01:47 PM
So of the ten replies so far, at least 5 said they never rode but meant to one day (or take someone on it). If that's any indication, I wonder if that's a fair sample of all skiers? If so, I'd bet if even just half of the people who said "Maybe one day" had ridden it if an increase of, what, 50,000 more customers might have made it's viability better? Just something to think about, how much impact we have with where we spend or don't...

Great point, and by the same argument that's precisely why we all ran the Rubicon last summer. :beer:

Ron Helmuth
04-23-2009, 01:51 PM
I can't help but wonder "what if" we tried it like a lot of European countries-

If the rail lines here would allow for the loading of personal cars so that when you arrive at your destination you have transportation arranged and available, there would be greater ridership.

It seems to work over there. Amazing how we have built a network of tracks that are way under utilized.

04-23-2009, 02:03 PM
...For just the two of us it was at least a $200 ski day and we did it just a couple times because of it.
That's why I gave up SKIING! :lmao:

04-23-2009, 03:39 PM
Part of riding the ski train was the charm and camaraderie. I was younger so there was little charm in it but I was able to hang with my friends and horse around. You did not ride the ski train to save money or even to get up there as an easier way, you rode it for different reasons. One of the bad things about the train was the fact that you would get up there after the opening lift had been running for nearly 30 minutes, no freshies for you. Then you had to be on board at 3:30 or the train would leave without you.

I was able to ski so much back then because there was a train. If there was no train I would have had to find a bus or ???? My parents worked on the weekends and could not drive me up the mountains. So many kids rode the train and had their parents drop/pick them up at the end of the day. Even back then it was pricey but worth it to my parents to have me enjoy the fruits of their labor.

The ski train was a treat to most people, a special event to enjoy with family friends and loved ones. Saving money was not the intent. I am sad to see it go and will forever kick myself for not taking Sharon up the hill in the train.

08-05-2009, 11:37 AM

09-18-2009, 01:24 PM
more promising info


09-18-2009, 01:33 PM
Christa and I did it a few years ago , it was pricey-not something you'd do every weekend but was a really nice, different way to go skiing. We had a blast!

12-23-2009, 04:27 PM
the latest...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009, 2:32pm MST

Judge takes up Colorado ski train disputeDenver Business Journal - by Cathy Proctor

A federal judge is expected to make a decision Wednesday that could determine whether the popular ski train makes its first run of the season as planned between downtown Denver and Winter Park ski resort.

About 13,000 people have bought tickets to ride the revived ski train, now called the Rio Grand Scenic ski train, for the December-March ski season.

Judge Robert Blackburn Wednesday morning heard arguments by attorneys for Amtrak, the national passenger-rail agency, and Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC (IPH), based in Chicago. Efforts by both sides to get the ski train operational for the 2009-2010 ski season by the Dec. 27 scheduled start date broke down in recent weeks, leading to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by Iowa Pacific against Amtrak. (DBJ report.)

Iowa Pacific asked Blackburn to make Amtrak live up to agreements reached several months ago about operating the ski train using Iowa Pacific’s equipment. Amtrak told the judge the agency shouldn’t be forced into a “shotgun wedding” with Iowa Pacific.

Issues between the two sides revolve around insurance coverage, the number of people Amtrak needed to run the train, the safety of the equipment, and the financial stability of Iowa Pacific.

The two sides have been negotiating for months, but a contract wasn’t ever signed.

Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific, said small passenger train operations, such as the ski train, typically have unsigned operations agreements in place with Amtrak for months before a signed contract is completed a few days before operations again. Ellis also said Iowa Pacific has spent nearly $750,000 getting the ski train ready and marketing the upcoming season.

The old ski train, operated for 69 years by a company run by Denver entrepreneur Philip Anschutz, ceased operations last March and the train sold to a Canadian company. Anschutz officials cited the high cost of insurance as one reason they were halting the ski train.

Iowa Pacific, which owns four shortline railroads in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, stepped up last fall to restart the train.

Iowa Pacific thought it had reached a deal via conversations and emails that started in August, Robert Smeltzer, a partner with Chicago law firm Lowis & Gellen LLP who represented Iowa Pacific, told the judge. The deal called for Iowa Pacific to pay Amtrak $13,000 per round-trip and provide the cars and locomotives, Amtrak would provide the crew to operate the train, Smeltzer said.

He dismissed Amtrak’s concerns about the safety of Iowa Pacific’s train equipment, which Amtrak’s attorney said had 48 safety violations in a federal inspection earlier this week. Smeltzer said both sides had always agreed that the equipment had to pass federal safety requirements before operations could begin.

“There’s no risk of any train running on that line that has not passed safety inspections,” Smeltzer said.

Iowa Pacific started selling tickets in November, and told Amtrak about those sales, he said.

“We had a deal and we told then what we were doing, if we didn’t have a deal presumably they would have said something,” Smeltzer said.

But in December, Amtrak raised the insurance liability coverage it wanted from Iowa Pacific from $2 million to $200 million. Buying such insurance would cost about $2 million — too high a cost for Iowa Pacific, Smeltzer said.

Amtrak’s attorney, Edwin Aro, a partner with Hogan and Hartson LLP, told Blackburn that he should rush Amtrak and Iowa Pacific into an operations agreement starting Dec. 27 with several issues still outstanding.

Aro also defended Amtrak’s decision to change the terms of the agreement, saying such charges are routine in deals where the parties do their due diligence. The higher, $200 million insurance coverage Amtrak wants is because the ski train isn’t a one-shot excursion tour but a regularly scheduled service carrying thousands of passengers over the train’s ski season. The figure is also equal to Amtrak’s liability cap, he said.

As for the cost of that insurance, Aro acknowledged that there’s a high premium on the coverage.

“Yes, it’s expensive. That’s one reason the former owners quit operating the train,” Aro said. “You can’t assume that nothing bad is going to happen.”

Amtrak expected to make a $28,000 profit on the ski train operations this season, Aro said.

12-29-2009, 04:21 PM
Well it was touch and go for a while there, but the word today is, no ski train.

Monday, December 28, 2009, 11:08pm MST | Modified: Tuesday, December 29, 2009, 12:25pm

Plans for ski train grind to a halt
Denver Business Journal

Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC said late Monday it won’t operate the ski train between Denver and Winter Park after all.

The Chicago-based company tried on Dec. 23 to convince a federal judge to order Amtrak to provide crews for the ski train. Iowa Pacific sued Amtrak after talks between the two parties failed to get the ski train running by its scheduled Dec. 27 start date. Issues between the two sides revolve around insurance coverage, the number of people Amtrak needed to run the train, the safety of the equipment, and the financial stability of Iowa Pacific.

Iowa Pacific said it had contacted Amtrak after the judge’s ruling, but the two companies haven’t been able to reach an agreement.

Iowa Pacific will issue refunds for passengers who had booked passage on the ski train.

“The ski train is heavily reliant on advance bookings, which came to a complete halt last week,” said Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific, in a news release. “In addition to losing the revenue from the initial runs, it became clear that this delay will result in market uncertainty, resulting in insufficient sales for the train to be self-sustaining for this season. Unlike Amtrak, we do not receive any subsidy for operating passenger trains and as we have stated from the beginning, the ski train operation must be financially sound.”

Customers with reservations can contact skitrainservice@iowapacific.com or 877-726-RAIL to get a refund.

Iowa Pacific said the plan to start the ski train service for the 2009-2010 season came after six months of planning and discussions that involved Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration and track owner Union Pacific Railroad.

The old ski train, operated for 69 years by a company run by Denver entrepreneur Philip Anschutz, ceased operations last March and the train was sold to a Canadian company. Anschutz officials cited the high cost of insurance as one reason they were halting the ski train.

Marc Magliari, spokesman for Amtrak, said the problem with getting the ski train running rested with Iowa Pacific. He said Amtrak worked with Iowa Pacific for three months on a plan to run the trains, but two days before Amtrak planned to operate a test train and five days before the scheduled start of service, Iowa Pacific “could not provide to Amtrak a federally certified safe train to operate and adequate insurance. IPH has not been able to supply locomotives with adequate power and brakes to even test their rented railcars back and forth into the mountains.”