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How to Make the Most of the Ski Train’s New Lounge Car Before Hitting the Slopes

An alcohol and snack-filled ride on the Amtrak Winter Park Express, which runs west from Denver’s Union Station

A hand-held, Executair brand travel bar late last week was discovered on Amtrak’s Winter Park Express. For weeks, the “ski train” that carries its passengers directly from Denver’s Union Station to the base of the Winter Park resort was hiding one empty brown briefcase, the alcoholic contents of which had been drained on an indulgent end of January trip.

This winter season, Amtrak and Winter Park introduced their Express train lounge car. Through the end of March, it will be serving 360-degree mountain views across a two-hour rail journey, now with beer, wine, spirits, and snacks onboard.

The spirits of course are shooters, the beers New Belgium, and the snacks, brands from Kind to Sara Lee. As for the views, they start with sunrise and a 7 a.m. Denver departure time. They’re interrupted only by a system of 28 tunnels that cut through the Rockies along the way, and they peak near the two-hour mark, at around 9,200 feet. For a meditative 6.2 miles, and just before emerging in Winter Park, the Express train goes dark passing underneath the Continental Divide.

Champagne, homemade deviled eggs, and more add to the ski train’s offerings
A green light signals go heading into the tunnel district
During the morning ride, Amtrak sells coffee, hot cocoa, even bloody marys to drink

By that point, it’s last call for the lounge car; conductor Brad Swartzwelter instructs diners and imbibers to head back to their regular seats. But for the 90 or so minutes before, through sunrise and then dusk on the way back east, there’s enough time for a full-on train car breakfast and a proper après ski. Eater tried it.

Enlisting the help of Run for the Roses, a new bar coming this spring to Dairy Block, two extravagant travel menus were created using a mix of the lounge car’s offerings and some of Denver’s own for the morning and evening trips.

Highlights were Amtrak’s hot cocoa with a healthy splash of Becherovka liquer, the train’s blueberry muffins paired with Fruition Shepherd’s Halo cheese, Oscietra caviar piled on potato chips, and Cart-Driver’s chicken liver mousse spread over packaged pound cake. The last time the Executair was seen that day, it was shortly before the gin martinis came out.

Here, a visual guide to making the most of the ski train this season, travel bar not required.

During ski season, the Winter Park Express departs Saturdays and Sundays (and the first two Fridays of the month) from Union Station. Passengers should plan to arrive between 6 and 6:30 a.m. for the 7 o’clock departure.
The cafe is a new addition this year to the 2-year-old Winter Park Express train
Passengers wait in line for breakfast on the ski train; only five at a time are allowed in the lounge car’s cafe
Doritos, Lays, and more packaged snacks on the train
Sunrise while heading into the mountains on a recent Saturday morning trip
Becherovka and hot cocoa make for a warming morning drink
Another morning beverage option: the Harvey Wallbanger with vodka, Galliano, and orange juice
Fancy cheese pairs well with the train’s blueberry muffins
The train arrives around 9 o’clock at the base of Winter Park
Passengers unload with their gear at Winter Park; some personal belongings can be stored on the ski train for people returning to Denver the same day
A view of the mountain from the lodge at Winter Park
Kids dabbing, posing, and getting ready to ski at the top of the gondola
The Executair travel bar spotted on the mountaintop
First opened in 1928, the 6.2-mile Moffat tunnel is the last stretch of the train journey before entering Winter Park and the first when leaving the mountain
Conductor Brad Swartzwelter looks out a window during the ride
The Winter Park Express stays parked Saturdays and Sundays for its two out-and-back mountain trips
Passengers can’t reserve seats in the train’s lounge car
The seats and tables are first come, first served
An après-ski spread mixes Amtrak’s offerings with some brought items — chips, cheeses, chocolate, spreads, breads, canned seafood, and drinks
Train passengers can watch the sunrise on the ride out and sunset on the way back down to Denver

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