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Amtrak

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Has anyone used Amtrak to get between resorts? I am in Chicago. There is a train out to San Fransisco with stops in Denver, SLC, and Reno. It is slow but maybe my legs could use the rest between resorts.

Just wondering if anyone has any experience with this train.
post #2 of 23

Yeah, that's the California Zephyr.  I've taken it lots of times between Chicago and Winter Park (Fraser, CO) but never further.  The WP free shuttle services the train station so it's very convenient.

 

Feel free to hit me up with any questions regarding that portion of the trip.  Hopefully someone will chime in with info pertaining to destinations west of WP.

post #3 of 23

I can attest to the Reno stop. It's in the middle of town! (it stops traffic when the train makes its daily stops). So you can literally walk to your lodging at Reno. 

 

There're ski buses daily going from Reno to Mt Rose, Northstar and Squaw that I know of. Probably to other mountain too. 

 

(shouldn't this be on the Resort forum instead of the Trip Report?)

post #4 of 23

Did a trip from Seattle to Whitefish.  I recommend getting a sleeping pill for each night.  Good trip otherwise.  Be flexible on times (expect the train to be late).  Find out if there are any frequent disruptions to service on the routes you're interested in.  Find out if there will be a dining car, or if you need to carry food.  Some legs of some runs don't have the dining car.

post #5 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoftSnowGuy View Post
 

Did a trip from Seattle to Whitefish.  I recommend getting a sleeping pill for each night.  Good trip otherwise.  Be flexible on times (expect the train to be late).  Find out if there are any frequent disruptions to service on the routes you're interested in.  Find out if there will be a dining car, or if you need to carry food.  Some legs of some runs don't have the dining car.


Usually, here in Canada at least, flights are just as cheap as trains for whatever reason.  And a lot slower.  I suppose if you want to enjoy the trip, not a bad way to go.  Maybe Amtrak makes it cheap enough to be more competitive?

post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott43 View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoftSnowGuy View Post
 

Did a trip from Seattle to Whitefish.  I recommend getting a sleeping pill for each night.  Good trip otherwise.  Be flexible on times (expect the train to be late).  Find out if there are any frequent disruptions to service on the routes you're interested in.  Find out if there will be a dining car, or if you need to carry food.  Some legs of some runs don't have the dining car.


Usually, here in Canada at least, flights are just as cheap as trains for whatever reason.  And a lot slower.  I suppose if you want to enjoy the trip, not a bad way to go.  Maybe Amtrak makes it cheap enough to be more competitive?

IME it's not about money.

 

Some folks like train travel, some folks dislike air travel.

post #7 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by bumpfreaq View Post
 

IME it's not about money.

 

Some folks like train travel, some folks dislike air travel.


Yeah, I figured it was like that.  I totally get it.  It's a much more leisurely way to go that's for sure.

post #8 of 23

We're taking the Amtrak from MN to Whitefish in March.  I can report back on it if you want.  We've got 2 sleeper cars both ways, which includes you meals in the price.

 

We plan on bringing a bottle of wine to assist in getting to sleep ;)

post #9 of 23
I've done the leg from Spokane to whitefish and back with a stop at Schweitzer. Only one train per day and runs at night each way. I did not get a sleeper, but I was younger and stupider. Brutal, but I did not lose ski time to travel.
post #10 of 23

Sometimes there're deals. 

 

I did a train-to-ski trip some long time ago, precisely because they had a special for college students. At the time, I got all the time in the world but pretty strapped for money. So it made sense in that situation. 

post #11 of 23
Quote:
We plan on bringing a bottle of wine to assist in getting to sleep ;) 

For those who might not be aware, private stocks of alcohol are only permitted in accommodation cars (ie, sleepers). It is not permitted in coach (similar to airline travel). Almost all Amtrak trains which travel in excess of two hours per run have cafe cars, which sell beer, wine, and liquor minis (at airline-comparable prices). Sales are restricted to age 21+ and all liquor purchased on board must be consumed in the car in which it was sold (the exception being beer/wine purchased in the dining car by first class (sleeper) passengers).

post #12 of 23
Quote:
 Find out if there will be a dining car, or if you need to carry food.  Some legs of some runs don't have the dining car.

Generally, the only segments of long distance trains which don't have a dining car are the Lake Shore Limited between Albany/Rensselaer NY & Boston, and the Empire Builder which splits off to go to Portland (the segment which terminates at Seattle carries the dining car). There are exceptions and irregularities, of course. Usually trains which don't have a dining car will at least have a cafe car, which provides snacks, prepackaged sandwiches, frozen pizza, candy, and both soft drinks and a limited beer/wine/liquor selection.

post #13 of 23

The California Zephyr from Chicago to Fraser CO [home of Winter Park] is pretty reliable during ski season (at least compared to summer, when heat and thunderstorms sometimes delay trains), and is probably the most expedient way to get to that ski area. The route traveled is one of the most scenic routes in the Amtrak system, and thus popular with foreign tourists, particularly in summer. Past Fraser is where the most problematic part of the route starts, and is often where delays occur.

 

As a frequent rider on this route, it seems that the majority of travelers to Winter Park are middle-aged & up, who are knowledgeable about the train from their days in college and have been riding it for years.

 

Discounts are available for coach tickets (military & veteran discounts, AAA & senior discounts are standard, with three-day advance purchase), often in the form of seasonal sales. If accommodations are purchased (three different types of rooms are available on most long distance trains in the West), then the lowest general coach ticket pricing is used. For sleeper tickets, coach ticket + accommodation charge = total ticket price. Amtrak operates similarly to the airlines and hotels in using capacity-controlled pricing (as demand goes up, so does the ticket price). Best pricing on tickets is usually obtained 4-6 months in advance, or occasionally, within 48 hours of departure. (Often there are last-minute cancellations which drive the capacity-control algorithm downward.)

 

Pricing can be comparable to the airlines, depending on your point of departure and your destination, especially when factoring in transfers from the chosen airport, shuttles/rental car and other travel incidentals. Amtrak is generally more flexible than the airlines as it relates to baggage, though crackdowns have occurred in the past several years, and much as the airlines, sometimes depends on the flexibility/attitude of the particular crew at the time of travel (as well as the capacity of the train). Sleeper pricing is comparable to mid-range hotel pricing, is based on distance traveled, and, as mentioned, includes meals offered for the duration of your travel. One accommodation charge covers a minimum of two persons, with meals; so it's more economical to bring a buddy/spouse/partner if traveling via that option.

 

As mentioned, sleeping aids are helpful, particularly in coach; know how they will affect you before using them, though. While conductors do their best to alert passengers to upcoming stops, you are responsible for getting yourself on and off the train. Outside of larger cities and service stops (Denver & Grand Junction being the ones in CO for the CZ), stops at designated stations are brief, often from 1-3 minutes in length.

 

Earplugs are also helpful; screaming or fussy children aren't just for airlines anymore, in addition to the regular train noise, which some find soothing and others beyond irritating. Snacks and beverages (excluding alcohol, except in sleepers) are welcome, and many bring small personal coolers. Bottled water is provided as an amenity in the sleeper cars. No one will tell you you can't bring a particular food or beverage item because it isn't in an original container or is in too large of a one. While Amtrak is under the security authority of the TSA and they or their designates have the right to inspect baggage and personal items, in practice this is rarely done unless suspicion is aroused. The only time this usually happens is when reports of drug mules arise or someone attempts to take advantage of Colorado's legal cannabis availability and thus violates both Federal and state law.

 

All in all, it can be a very relaxing and enjoyable way to travel; everyone should take the opportunity to experience it at least once.

post #14 of 23

I've traveled the Seattle-Chicago route that stops right in Whitefish.  A sleeper is recommended.  Trying to sleep on a train is different.  Besides the noise (which wasn't a problem for me) the movement of the train is sometimes not so gentle.  I found that sleeping on my side was not an option since lateral jerks flopped me on my stomach or my back with too much frequency.  When I slept on my back or my stomach, no problems.

 

And the train is always late.  Count on it.

post #15 of 23
Actually, I think @SlowObstacle got home early last time. Oil field traffic is down.
post #16 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

Actually, I think @SlowObstacle got home early last time. Oil field traffic is down.

 

This is what I have heard as well.  The ND oil fields are all but shut down right now and oil train traffic is very low.   Should result in trains coming from the east and going back to the east more on time.

 

They also built more sidings when traffic was higher so Amtrak trains didn't have to wait quite so long as well in the last few years.

 

Sib, do the local cabs all watch the train schedule and then show up at the downtown depot right before it arrives?  I've heard it's not hard to catch a cab once it arrives...

post #17 of 23
Really, you're better off asking Slow. I'm generally asleep at that hour. ;-) I forget where you're staying? A lot of the hotels have their own transport. Personally, I'd be making those arrangements in advance. This isn't a city.
post #18 of 23

We're staying at a condo up on the hill.  4 miles from train station.

post #19 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by focker View Post

We're staying at a condo up on the hill.  4 miles from train station.

Four miles? Ptarmigan? Resort is seven. Too bad it's not at the resort, if you got in on time you could catch the snow bus.
post #20 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post


Four miles? Ptarmigan? Resort is seven. Too bad it's not at the resort, if you got in on time you could catch the snow bus.

 

Yeah 4 miles is wrong.  We're at the resort.  I think the building is called the Pines.   It's one of the big Condo buildings with underground parking.

 

I called the resort and they recommend using Glacier Taxi to get from the Amtrak to the resort is the train is late and the SNOW bus is already done for the night.   So I'm set there.   Cab ride is fine with us.  Probably easier overall that the SNOW bus actually... 

post #21 of 23
Yeah, with the luggage issue, but I can't imagine that the bus is overcrowded on the way up at night other than Christmas.
post #22 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by focker View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

Actually, I think @SlowObstacle got home early last time. Oil field traffic is down.

 

This is what I have heard as well.  The ND oil fields are all but shut down right now and oil train traffic is very low.   Should result in trains coming from the east and going back to the east more on time.

 

They also built more sidings when traffic was higher so Amtrak trains didn't have to wait quite so long as well in the last few years.

 

Sib, do the local cabs all watch the train schedule and then show up at the downtown depot right before it arrives?  I've heard it's not hard to catch a cab once it arrives...

 

IIRC we got in pretty much on time.   Early, but not by any amount that matters.

post #23 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by focker View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post


Four miles? Ptarmigan? Resort is seven. Too bad it's not at the resort, if you got in on time you could catch the snow bus.

 

Yeah 4 miles is wrong.  We're at the resort.  I think the building is called the Pines.   It's one of the big Condo buildings with underground parking.

 

I called the resort and they recommend using Glacier Taxi to get from the Amtrak to the resort is the train is late and the SNOW bus is already done for the night.   So I'm set there.   Cab ride is fine with us.  Probably easier overall that the SNOW bus actually... 

 

Replied to this in a PM, recommending checking out the shuttle that runs to the resort.   That's these guys:  http://www.glaciertransportation.com/.   They're a charter company, so maybe the resort is setting it up?  Anyway, shuttle or taxi, you've got a way to get up there no matter what.   Enjoy the trip!

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