Company puts brakes on Colorado ski train service
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER – A company that wanted to keep train service going between Denver and the Winter Park ski area said Monday that it is giving up for now.
Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC said it won’t be able to operate the ski train this season after failing to resolve differences with Amtrak. The company was negotiating to use Amtrak crews.
The Chicago-based Iowa Pacific claims last-minute demands by Amtrak for insurance coverage derailed the effort. A federal judge last week rejected the company’s request for a temporary restraining order against Amtrak that would have allowed it to start running the train last weekend.
Iowa Pacific President Ed Ellis said the railroad had to cancel what would have been the train’s 70th season because it relies on advance reservations and they were halted last week. He said the company has refunded most of the 13,000 reservations that were sold.
The company, however, said it will pursue its lawsuit accusing Amtrak of breach of contract.
“We were damaged by Amtrak’s changes,” Ellis said. “We had invested three-quarters of a million dollars by last week.”
Spokesman Marc Magliari said Amtrak worked with Iowa Pacific for three months on a plan to run the ski train, but five days before the start of the season, the company “could not provide Amtrak a federally certified safe train to operate and adequate insurance.” Meanwhile, Iowa Pacific was selling tickets for a schedule it knew it couldn’t meet even in the best circumstances, Magliari said.
Ellis said he made clear in November e-mails to Amtrak that Iowa Pacific accepted Amtrak’s terms and that reservations were being sold. Iowa Pacific claims Amtrak then made other demands.
Ellis disputed that there were safety problems. He said minor modifications were made to bring the train into compliance with current regulations.
A company owned by Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz operated the Ski Train until April, when it was dropped because of costs, schedules and other problems.
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Colorado’s Western Slope is considered a climate hot spot where temperatures are increasing faster than the global average. This warming has contributed to more than 20 years of dryness, which scientists are calling a megadrought.