Route 66 Cities Beaches


Getting There


One of the reasons we like Winterpark is because from Kentucky and the Ohio Valley it's easy to get to. You have three choices : highway, railroad or by air into Denver and then either rental car or train on to Winterpark. If you choose to drive, you simply head West on I-64 and then I-70 and stay on them through St. Louis, Kansas City and Denver. Lawrence, Kansas is the halfway point. There is a very nice Holiday Inn just off the interstate. It has a great indoor heated pool and hot tub and a good restaurant. Stay on I-70 past Denver to the Winterpark (State Route 40) turnoff. The spectacular part of the trip is the climb over 11,700 ft. Berthoud Pass, one of the highest altitude highway crossings in North America, and down into Winterpark. Coming up you'll climb seven switchbacks and the snow will get ever deeper. Highway crews keep the road plowed and salted but it snows daily on the pass so expect slow going. The road is straighter on the other side but you'll still be creeping along behind plows and salt trucks. If you get out of Lawrence by 9:30 you'll get into Winterplace at dinnertime even with the slow speeds over the pass.

ski train

Your second option is to combine a flight into Denver Airport and a trip on Amtrak's famous Ski Train. Originally run by the Rio Grande Railroad, the Ski Train has transported Denverites to Winterpark for a century. You need to go to the Amtrak Ski Train website and make reservations. This will be more complicated than your other two options because you need the airline round trip tickets, taxi or van shuttle to and from Denver Station, round trip tickets for the Ski Train, and possibly overnight hotel accommodations in Denver according to when your flight arrives and departs. Nevertheless, the Ski Train is an American icon. Denver actually owns Winterpark as part of the city recreation department, and subcontracts its operation to Intrawest. But residents had to have a way to get there. So long before reliable highway transportation, the train began daily round trips from Thanksgiving to Easter. It's a short but beautiful trip, with spectacular mountain scenery and a ride through the famous Moffet Tunnel, considered an engineering masterpiece when it opened and still one of the most incredible tunnels in the world.

However, by a wide margin, our recommendation is Amtrak. When the Washington - Lexington -Winter Park - California route was in operation, the trip lasted 24 hours, and was the only way to go. Due to cutbacks by Congress, that route has been suspended. Now, you have to catch the train at Maysville and go to Chicago before coming back down to St. Louis. But it's still the best way to go. You book by phone or online. You'll need to make reservations well ahead of time, because Amtrak fills up. There are Amtrak ski packages which combine the train ticket, Winter Park lodging and lift ticket into a pretty good deal. Maysville is about an hour from Lexington and has a charming 1920 station left over from the Chesapeake & Ohio RR days. What discourages people are the awkward times. You depart at midnight and return a week later at breakfast. But remember you can climb into bed and sleep all the way to Chicago, then sleep again on the way back. When booking, remember Winter Park is just the ski resort; Fraser is the name of the town and the station. Maysville Station
Chicago station You'll change trains in Chicago and have a two hour layover. But this is good, because it gives you time to explore the magnificent Chicago Union Station. Built in 1928, it is the third busiest railroad terminal in the U.S. and the center of Amtrak operations. All Amtrak routes east of the Mississippi and west of the Mississippi converge on Chicago Union Station except for the ones in the Deep South. It's a great place for photography, people watching and train studying. You'll even have time to explore a little of downtown Chicago, but be careful and not stray too far since that two hours passes quicker than you realize. And you want plenty of time to find your train (the California Zephyr), load and settle in before it pulls out. We recommend reporting to the gate 30 minutes before departure. The Zephyr originates in Chicago so it's guaranteed to depart on time.
On its long distance trains, Amtrak offers the choice of Coach, First Class and Sleeper, although sometimes the labels they use change. It's true you can travel very cheaply by booking Coach seats, but we don't recommend it. We recommend a sleeper compartment. You can book a single, double or family version. They're very comfy. The beds flip up during the day to form tables, easy chairs and a couch, so you can read or work while glancing out the window at the scenery. The rooms have wifi, temperature controls and bathrooms. We recommend booking one from Maysville to Chicago and from Chicago to Winter Park. The price of a sleeper may seem a bit high, but it includes meals in the dining car, and those are very good meals, equivalent to a good sit down restaurant back home. On the trip from Maysville to Chicago you'll get breakfast, and en route to Winter Park you'll get dinner and breakfast. Buying a sleeper ticket also gives you an extra day's skiing. You'll arrive at Winter Park just after breakfast, so if you have a good night's sleep you can ski all day. If you've been sitting up in Coach or First Class, even if you nap, you won't be rested ennough to hit the slopes. Amtrak bed
Amtrak dining car

Railroads have honed their restaurant business to a fine art. This is not airline food. Everything is prepared fresh on board by skilled chefs. Kitchens are cleverly designed to fit everything in a compact space. Menus are limited because there's a limit to the raw ingredients they can stock. But at every meal there are several entrees with salads, soups, sides and desserts. The beverage list includes wines, beers, liquors, milk, juice and coffee. The lunch and dinner menus offer a vegetarian, fish, meat, steak and sandwich entree. Breakfast offers eggs, omelettes, pancakes, french toast, cereal, sausage, fruit, etc. The Porter comes around an hour before each meal and you choose from the menu and the time you want to eat. When you report to the dining car, your table is ready and the meal is served hot as soon as you sit down. If you're alone or a couple, you'll be seated with other passengers to fill out a four person table. This allows you to meet other passengers. The dining cars are one of the highlights of any Amtrak trip, and the meal is made more enjoyable because while eating you can watch the scenery drifting by.

Another feature of the long distance Amtrak trains is their observation cars. You can leave your sleeping compartment or coach seat, climb up the stairs and sit in one of the cushy, swiveling seats facing huge panoramic windows. It's a great way to view the scenery along the way while meeting other passengers. These are very comfortable chairs, and there are double wide versions so parents can sit with their kids or couples can sit together. This car will be especially popular as you get into Colorado. It's heated, and of course the sun pours in through the big windows, so regardless of how cold it is outside the car is toasty and people will wear short sleeves. observation car
Kansas City station Many of the Amtrak stations are magnificent. You should see Kansas City (left) in the evening and Denver (right) at breakfast. KC is 100 years old; Denver is new. Tell the Porter to wake you as the train enters Denver to make sure you see it. You'll stop there for 15 minutes. Denver station
Amtrak at Fraser You'll pull into Fraser Station at about 10 a.m. Those are the Winter Park slopes you see on the mountains in the background. Depending on where you're staying, shuttles will arrive as the train pulls in to take you to your lodging. The train station is in downtown Fraser, and a continuous bus shuttle runs along the main street, which ends in a loop at the base of the slopes. So even if you were renting a house or staying off resort, you can still easily get around. One tip : if you're bringing your own skiis with you, be sure to buy one of those hard plastic carriers. Don't bring the skiis unprotected and don't rely on one of the soft cloth or nylon covers.
We have to emphasize that while going by Amtrak takes longer and is more complicated it is still a great trip, and it may be a rare opportunity for you to experience a good old fashioned overnight train trip where you sleep in a bunk and eat in the dining car, then sit in the observation car and watch the country roll by. The train ticket may seem high but it includes two nights lodging and two days meals and you're not putting miles on your car or buying gas. You don't have to worry about traffic or weather and you can read a book or watch a movie along the way. Just before arriving in Winterpark you come through famous Moffat Tunnel, one of America's engineering miracles. Amtrak in Colorado
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