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 (for starters, don't drive west Friday evenings or Saturday mornings and don't drive east Sunday afternoons or evenings; visit on weekdays whenever possible), there are some other transportation alternatives to help, too—no need to get behind the wheel.

Winter Park Express Ski Train

One of the most convenient ways to get from Denver to ski territory is by hopping aboard Colorado's Winter Park Express Ski Train.

This train runs from early January through late March, and it books out quickly. You can get your tickets as early as August. And we recommend planning ahead to do so. 

You can board this train in Union Station in downtown Denver. The so-called ski train will take you straight to Winter Park. Rates aren't bad, either, beginning at $29 each way for certain departures, at early-bird prices. Other tickets are available for higher prices 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 offers an 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: If you want to stop and spend some time in Denver along the way, book a night at the quirky and luxurious Crawford Hotel, the lodging located right inside Union Station. The station is also home to restaurants (including some of the freshest seafood in Colorado and the cult favorite for breakfast, Snooze), shops and bars, so you could easily center your trip around this hub for a few days and venture out to explore the city via Denver's easy-to-use public transportation. The station is centrally located, even across the street from the incredible spa at the Oxford Hotel.

 

It’s definitely worth staying the night in 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 more flights — from places such as San Diego, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City.

For example, Aspen Snowmass has offered a nonstop, daily flight from Atlanta on Delta and special, seasonal flights from Minneapolis/St. Paul. Alaska Airlines has offered flights from Seattle or San Diego directly to Steamboat (and these even included a free day of skiing 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 worthy destinations. During the ski season, Allegiant Airlines has offered daily flights to Montrose Regional Airport from locations such as Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, as well as weekly or holiday flights from other destinations.

Check each airline's website for specific flight information, as it may from vary year to year. 

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 of various airlines within Colorado, visit www.coloradoflights.org/schedule.