2009-08-25

Ski Train Revival Takes Another Step Toward Reality

Iowa Pacific Holdings, the parent company of the San Luis & Rio Grande Railroad and the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, both of Alamosa, took another step toward reviving the Ski Train. The Denver Post explains,
In a letter last week to the Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA), Winter Park Resort president Gary DeFrange and Iowa Pacific president Ed Ellis said: "It is our understanding that DUSPA had plans to fund as well as accommodate the parking, loading and unloading of the Ski Train near Coors Field on a temporary basis during the redevelopment of Union Station."

Noting that the station authority intended to assist the Anschutz-owned train with the temporary platform, Ellis and DeFrange said Iowa Pacific hoped "to step in and operate a new version of the Ski Train this upcoming winter" with railcars that hold more than twice as many passengers as Anschutz's cars, thus making a temporary station easier to build.
By starting a relationship with DUSPA, Ellis and DeFrange are addressing one of two relationships that must be in place for the Ski Train's revival. The other relationship is with Union Pacific Railroad, the company that owns the tracks from Denver to Winter Park. Once those two are in place, we could see a Ski Train, in some form, later this year when ski season starts.

The real work is still ahead. Neither DUSPA or UP have any obligation to a new operator and rates for platform space as well as trackage rights to Winter Park could be so exorbitant that the ticket price, already likely to go up, would be well out of reach for most skiers. When Anschutz sold the Ski Train, he cited rising costs above and beyond what he was already paying to keep the operation going, something no one expected a new operator to take on.

On the other hand, no one expected an expanded, standard gauge passenger train over La Veta Pass a few years ago, but the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad has made it a regular, daily operation. A lot of people can start up a railroad service, but fewer can keep it running year-in, year-out, especially in this economy. Something tells me that Iowa Pacific is serious enough about the Ski Train. The question is, will DUSPA and UP listen?


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