The Saratoga and North Creek Railway will bring back a tradition from the mid-1930s when it starts running the Gore Mountain Snow Train on Dec. 30.
Railway officials, however, expect only about half the people boarding the train will be downhill skiers, while the others will be people looking for a winter getaway in the North Country.
“Some may want to do other things [rather than downhill ski],” said Ed Ellis, owner of Iowa Pacific Holdings, the Chicago-based operator of the new excursion service that runs between Saratoga Springs and North Creek.
Back in the mid- to late 1930s, ski trains were popular, bringing hundreds of people each winter weekend from as far away as New York City to Saratoga Springs and then up to what is now the Gore Mountain Ski Center in North Creek and the town of Johnsburg.
Ellis said some people taking the snow train may want to cross country ski or hike in the North Creek area or just enjoy the country charm of the village.
The ski train will have two engines, one in front and one in back, at least one dome car, and coach cars.
Downhill skiers will also be able to purchase a package for $70 that provides them with the round-trip train ride, a lift ticket to Gore Mountain, and two complimentary drink tickets.
Ellis said this is a 30 percent savings as compared to paying for the train and the ski passes separately.
When skiers arrive at the North Creek train station, there will be free shuttle service to Gore Mountain.
The Saratoga and North Creek Railway will offer two classes of seating coach or the more expensive dome car, room for sporting equipment and full dining and beverage service.
The snow trains will run Fridays, Saturday and Sundays from Dec. 30 through March 31. The train will leave Saratoga Springs at 7 a.m. and arrive in North Creek at 9:15 a.m. The train departs from North Creek at 4:30 p.m. and arrives back in Saratoga Springs at 6:45 p.m.
Ellis said the railway company is working with hotels in Saratoga Springs to offer package deals that include shuttle service from the hotel to the Saratoga Springs train station, located off West Avenue.
“This is a good thing for Saratoga,” Ellis said during a news conference Thursday afternoon at the train station. He said the winter rates at hotels in Saratoga Springs are significantly lower than during the summer tourism season.
The Saratoga and North Creek Railway first started running scenic excursions this summer. The popularity of the trains, including the Polar Express that began last month and is running through December, is much greater than Iowa Pacific expected.
Ellis said the railway expects to have more than 55,000 riders between July 23 and the end of December.
So many have been riding the trains that their cars have filled the parking lot at the Saratoga Springs train station and the railway has been providing shuttle service to the train station from other parts of the city.
Michael Bowers, owner of Bar Vino in North Creek, said the new train service has been excellent for business in the hamlet.
“We are looking forward to the snow train,” he said, especially the 45 to 50 percent of the snow train passengers who don’t downhill ski.
Musical entertainment and other special programs are being planned to entertain these non-skiers during the winter months.
Ellis said when the Polar Express is running, the Saratoga and North Creek Railway employs 120 people, almost all of them local.
Iowa Pacific Holdings was created in 2001 and is a holding company for a series of freight and passenger railroads. The company has acquired and operated six railroads over the years, including scenic passenger lines in Colorado, Oregon, Texas and now Saratoga Springs. The company also operates railway lines in the United Kingdom and South America.
There are a variety of train and ski packages and special prices for children and senior citizens. For more information about schedules and prices see: www.sncrr.com.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette: