Alternatives to Driving to Colorado's Ski Resorts

Skip traffic and take the train or plane to ski this winter

Ski Train
••• The Winter Park Express takes you from Denver to Winter Park, no car necessary. Winter Park Resort

You’re cruising down the hill on perfect powder, a blue sky above. At the bottom of the mountain, après, hot cocoa, a toasty hot tub.

This is how to relax and unwind, Colorado style.

There’s only one problem: getting there.

The drive up Interstate 70 to get to many of Colorado’s most popular ski resorts is bad enough to keep many people from experiencing the state’s ski resorts—and as tourism and the number of people moving here continues to rise, that traffic is only getting thicker.

If you time it wrong, you can spend more time in bumper-to-bumper mountain traffic than actually on the slopes.

While there are some ways to help improve the drive (see our insider’s guide to surviving I-70 traffic), there are some other transportation alternatives to help, too—no need to get behind the wheel.

Winter Park Express Ski Train

Colorado is getting ready for the return of the Winter Park Express Ski Train.

During the 2018 season, from January 5 to March 25, every Saturday, Sunday, and the first Friday of each month (January 5, February 2, March 2), you can board this train in Union Station in downtown Denver. The so-called ski train will take you straight to Winter Park. Rates begin at $29 each way for certain departures, at early-bird prices. Other tickets are available for $39, $49, and $59 on a first-come, first-served basis.

In previous years, more than 3,000 ski train tickets were sold within 24 hours of sales opening.

Colorado also recently launched a new airport train, which can take you straight from the Denver International Airport to Union Station. Combine the airport train with the ski train, and you can fly into Colorado and go skiing, without ever needing to rent a car.

The Winter Park Express by Amtrak is a historic train ride that started in 1912.

It leaves Union Station at 7 a.m. and gets you to Winter Park by 9 a.m. Each afternoon, it departs from Winter Park at 4:30 p.m. and gets you back to Denver by 6:40 p.m.

Note: It’s definitely worth staying the night in Union Station. This quirky destination was recently revamped and features one of Denver’s coolest hotels, multiple great bars, a fantastic coffee shop, and delicious restaurants (including some of the freshest seafood in Colorado and the cult favorite for breakfast, Snooze).

Book your night at Union Station.

Fly-In, Ski-Out

If you want to visit a different ski resort, many have their own nearby, smaller airports, to make transportation convenient for travelers. These airports continue to add new flights — from places such as San Diego, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City.

For example, Aspen Snowmass has a nonstop, daily flight from Atlanta on Delta and Saturday-only seasonal flights from Minneapolis/St. Paul. Take Alaska Airlines from Seattle or San Diego directly to Steamboat and get a free day of skiing included on the day of your flight.

Telluride, Silverton, Purgatory and Wolf Creek are four other ski resorts in the southwest part of Colorado — much farther than up I-70. The distance alone, paired with driving in the snow, can keep visitors from experiencing these destinations.

During the season, Allegiant Airlines has daily flights to Montrose Regional Airport from Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta and weekly or holiday flights from other destinations.

Or fly to the Telluride Regional Airport, a short 10-minute drive from the ski area and town, making it even easier to connect to Telluride, from Denver aboard Great Lakes Airlines.

Air service to the Telluride region is expected to increase. Flying directly to ski and skipping the traffic is definitely a growing trend among travelers in the know. 

As Colorado Flights COO Matt Skinner put it in a written statement, “We now rank among the best in mountain airports for direct flight options, and are one of the few to have major network connectivity, a low-cost carrier, and flights that land just 10 minutes from the slopes.”

For more information and air schedules, visit coloradoflights.org/schedule.