The new Winter Park Express weekend Amtrak train between Denver Union Station and the high-country ski resort has seen more than 15,000 passengers since it started on Jan. 7.
The train runs Saturdays and Sundays through March 26, with an extra train added to the schedule on Monday, Feb. 20 — President’s Day.
The success of the train — the result of a partnership between Amtrak, Winter Park Resort, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the nonprofit Colorado Rail Passenger Association — has surprised many.
“The fact that there are 15,000 people who have done this, and we’re half-way through the season — the number is eye-popping,” said Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman.
Saturday trains frequently are sold-out events, Magliari said.
Five of the first six Saturdays have sold out and the remaining weekends in February and March are selling fast, according to Amtrak.
Steve Hurlbert, a spokesman for Winter Park Resort, said resort officials are “stunned” by the numbers.
“Amtrak does this kind of thing for a living and knows the metrics. We’re blown away,” Hurlbert said. “We knew it would be popular but the fact that we’re only half-way through the season and we’re at 15,000 people is incredible.”
The train’s schedule calls for leaving Denver Union Station on weekends, plus Presidents’ Day, about 7 a.m. and arriving at Winter Park between 8:30 and 9 a.m. It leaves the resort about 4:30, arriving back in Denver shortly after 6 p.m.
The train’s special platform, with heated coils embedded in the concrete to combat ice and snow, is about 50 paces from the first lifts.
But the train isn’t only popular with skiers, Hurlbert said.
“We’re seeing lodging pick up on the weekends and we have more non-skiers coming up,” he said.
Each train can hold more than 500 people, and on average “a little more than 100” of the people on the Saturday morning trains are spending the night, Hurlbert said.
CenturyLink signed on as a sponsor of the train service, and new sponsors have also joined, including Noosa Yoghurt, Clif Bar and Koelbel & Co. real estate company.