Vail Mountain Closing Day Celebration (“4 at 4”) – April 23, 2017

Vail’s Closing Day 2015 Mountaintop Celebration & Pond Skimming Event

Another stellar season at Vail. Not the best year for snow, but the endless parade of activities, events and excitement took the Vail Valley to a new height. The 2015 World Skiing Championships put Vail and Beaver Creek on the international map — again. It was the third time Vail/B.C. hosted these races.

April 19, 2015 – Closing Day was chilly and snowy, so costumed characters were bundled up. But it did not subdue the spirit that only Closing Day can bring. Bittersweet fun and celebration as usual.

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All photos and artwork included in this Web site are copyright-protected and the exclusive property of Eric Schickler Photography. No downloading, use, reproduction, manipulation, sale and/or distribution permitted without express written consent.

© Eric Schickler Photography

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IMG_2466 2015-04-19 IMG_2463 2015-04-19 IMG_2460 2015-04-19 (1) IMG_2451 2015-04-19 IMG_2434 2015-04-19 IMG_2429 2015-04-19 IMG_2425 2015-04-19 IMG_2423 2015-04-19 IMG_2418 2015-04-19 IMG_2417 2015-04-19 IMG_2408 2015-04-19 IMG_2400 2015-04-19 IMG_2396 2015-04-19 IMG_2388 2015-04-19 IMG_2386 2015-04-19 IMG_2376 2015-04-19 IMG_2362 2015-04-19 IMG_2361 2015-04-19 IMG_2360 2015-04-19 IMG_2360 - Version 2 2015-04-19 IMG_2355 2015-04-19 IMG_2352 2015-04-19 IMG_2350 2015-04-19 IMG_2348 2015-04-19 IMG_2342 2015-04-19 (1) IMG_2340 12015-04-19 IMG_2338 22015-04-19 IMG_2337 2015-04-19 IMG_2336 2015-04-19 IMG_2334 2015-04-19 IMG_2333 2015-04-19 IMG_2332 2015-04-19 IMG_2330 2015-04-19 IMG_2329 2015-04-19 IMG_2328 2015-04-19 (1) IMG_2326 2015-04-19 IMG_2325 2015-04-19 (1) IMG_2322 2015-04-19 IMG_2321 2015-04-19 IMG_2320 2015-04-19 (1) IMG_2319 2015-04-19 IMG_2318 2015-04-19 IMG_2317 2015-04-19 IMG_2316 2015-04-19 IMG_2316 - Version 2 2015-04-19 IMG_2315 2015-04-19 IMG_2314 2015-04-19 IMG_2313 2015-04-19 IMG_2312 2015-04-19 IMG_2311 2015-04-19 IMG_2310 2015-04-19 IMG_2307 2015-04-19 IMG_2306 2015-04-19 IMG_2305 2015-04-19 (1) IMG_2303 2015-04-19 IMG_2302 2015-04-19 IMG_2301 2015-04-19 (1) IMG_2300 2015-04-19 IMG_2299 22015-04-19 IMG_2298 12015-04-19 IMG_2297 2015-04-19 IMG_2296 12015-04-19 (1) IMG_2295 22015-04-19 IMG_2294 2015-04-19 IMG_2293 2015-04-19 IMG_2291 2015-04-19 IMG_2290 2015-04-19 IMG_2289 2015-04-19 IMG_2285 2015-04-19 (1) IMG_2284 2015-04-19 IMG_2283 2015-04-19 IMG_2281 2015-04-19 IMG_2280 2015-04-19 IMG_2276 2015-04-19 IMG_2275 2015-04-19 IMG_2273 2015-04-19 IMG_2271 2015-04-19

“Vail Kaleidoscope” – Lifestyles and Scenery in and around America’s Premier Mountain Resort

 

All photos and artwork included in this Web site are copyright-protected and the exclusive property of Eric Schickler Adventure Photographer. No downloading, use, reproduction, manipulation, sale and/or distribution permitted without express written consent.

© Eric Schickler Adventure Photographer

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IMG_4579 - Version 3 2008-10-04

Avon-Game Creek Bowl- Vail- HI-RES 2009-05-03 2014-05-12 Balloon-Hot Air-Steamboat-Wild West-HI-RES 12009-07-06 332014-05-12 Balloons on Nottingham Lake- Avon- HI-RES-CHOICE SHOT 22009-07-18 342014-05-12 Colorado River Train & Canoe on Shore-HI-RES - Version 2 2009-05-23 292014-05-12 Fireworks-Vail-HI-RES-Choice Shot 2009-04-23 172014-05-12 Gore Creek-near The Hamlet-Winter 2009-05-04 282014-05-12 Hanging Lake Waterfalls-PRIMO SHOT-HI-RES 2009-07-29 312014-05-12 IMG_0143 2010-12-25 82014-05-09 IMG_0585 - Version 4 2011-01-08 92014-05-09 IMG_0586 - Version 3 2011-01-08 102014-05-09 IMG_0992 2011-04-25 202014-05-12 IMG_0995 2011-04-25 212014-05-12 IMG_1015-edited 2011-04-25 482014-05-12 IMG_1023 - Version 2 2011-04-25 472014-05-12 IMG_1102 32004-09-18 352014-05-12 IMG_2263 - Version 2 2007-07-25 222014-05-12 IMG_2281 2007-07-25 202014-05-12 IMG_2303 - Version 2 2014-03-02 462014-05-12 IMG_2318 - Version 2 2014-03-02 92014-05-12 IMG_2776 2014-04-03 (1) 452014-05-12 IMG_2869 2014-04-14 442014-05-12 IMG_3874 - Version 3 2012-08-19 542014-05-13 IMG_3908 2012-08-20 552014-05-13 IMG_3924 2012-08-20 562014-05-13 IMG_3936 - Version 2 2008-07-13 112014-05-09 IMG_3965 2012-08-21 572014-05-13 IMG_4006 2012-08-23 122014-05-12 IMG_4012 2012-08-23 132014-05-12 IMG_4031 - Davos Trail - West Vail - Mount of the Holy Cross & Notch Mtn. - Choice Pick* 2008-09-26 12014-05-12 IMG_4043 - Version 3 2008-09-26 22014-05-12 IMG_4160 2008-10-03 612014-05-13 IMG_4167 2008-10-03 602014-05-13 IMG_4203 2008-10-03 592014-05-13 IMG_4206 2008-10-03 582014-05-13 IMG_4223 - Version 2 2008-10-03 182014-05-09 IMG_4259 2008-10-03 172014-05-09 IMG_4267 2008-10-03 162014-05-09 IMG_4494 - Version 3 2012-09-16 422014-05-12 IMG_4514 2012-09-16 392014-05-12 IMG_4522 2012-09-16 382014-05-12 IMG_4534 2012-09-16 (1) 402014-05-12 IMG_4537 - Version 2 2012-09-16 142014-05-09 IMG_4542 - Version 2 2012-09-16 412014-05-12 IMG_4543 - Version 5 2012-09-16 432014-05-12 IMG_4546 2012-09-16 152014-05-09 IMG_4650 2008-10-05 192014-05-09 IMG_5438 2009-06-20 142014-05-12 IMG_5863 2009-10-05 322014-05-12 IMG_6588 - Version 2 2013-02-17 162014-05-12 IMG_6595 - Version 3 2013-02-17 182014-05-12 IMG_6630 2013-02-22 252014-05-12 IMG_6641 2013-03-25 242014-05-12 IMG_6764 2013-04-13 62014-05-09 IMG_6778 2005-09-30 302014-05-12 IMG_6790 - Version 2 2013-04-14 492014-05-12 IMG_6814 - Version 3 2013-04-14 52014-05-09 IMG_6881 2010-02-26 (1) 262014-05-12 IMG_6984 2013-04-14 72014-05-09 IMG_6988 (1) copy 32013-12-09 IMG_6989 2005-10-01 232014-05-12 IMG_6994 2013-04-14 (1) 502014-05-12 IMG_7022 2005-10-11 262014-05-12 IMG_7846-edt (1) copy 2013-10-13 IMG_8433 - Version 2 2010-09-11 152014-05-12 IMG_8545 - Version 2 2013-12-30 532014-05-12 IMG_8546 2013-12-30 522014-05-12 IMG_8547 2013-12-30 512014-05-12 IMG_8549-edt-med. size 2013-12-30 12014-05-09 IMG_8552 - Version 2 2013-12-30 42014-05-09 IMG_8582 2013-12-30 242014-05-12 IMG_8593 2013-12-30 642014-05-13 IMG_8595 - Version 2 2013-12-30 662014-05-13 IMG_8600 - Version 4 2013-12-30 652014-05-13 IMG_8679 - Version 2 2013-12-30 32014-05-12 IMG_8682 2013-12-30 42014-05-12 IMG_8770 2014-01-01 52014-05-12 IMG_8834 2014-01-03 632014-05-13 IMG_8840 2014-01-03 622014-05-13 IMG_8844 2014-01-03 102014-05-12 IMG_8846 2014-01-03 112014-05-12 IMG_8886-edtd 2014-01-03 62014-05-12 IMG_9036 - Version 2 2014-02-21 222014-05-12 IMG_9053 2014-02-21 72014-05-12 IMG_9061 2014-02-22 82014-05-12 IMG_9065 - Version 2 2014-02-22 232014-05-12 IMG_9696 2006-09-30 252014-05-12 Kayaker-S.Platte River - wide-HI-RES - Version 2 2009-07-08 122014-05-09 Piney River Scenic-HI-RES 2009-08-11 272014-05-12 Train along Colorado River-fall colors-HI-RES 42009-05-23 362014-05-12 Wildflowers -Lupines-Purple-Vail Mtn.-HI-RES 2009-04-18 212014-05-12

Vail’s Closing Day 2014 Mountaintop Celebration

These great people sure know how to party. And when the sun and warmth shows up, they bring out their best.

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All photos and artwork included in this Web site are copyright-protected and the exclusive property of Eric Schickler Photography. No downloading, use, reproduction, manipulation, sale and/or distribution permitted without express written consent.

© Eric Schickler Photography

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IMG_9487 12014-04-20 IMG_9488 22014-04-20

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Winter Fun and Nature’s Beauty in the Central Colorado Rockies

It has been a busy winter so far for the ol’ Canon camera. The incomparable Colorado landscape, plentiful snow and animated clients and visitors provided wonderful visual imagery. I lost a few pounds and almost a few fingers (to frostbite) capturing these photos. But I hope you’ll agree it was worth the effort. Enjoy these selected snapshots of winter fun in the Colorado high country.

Most are from Vail Mountain and Summit County locations during Dec., Jan. & Feb.

As always, most of these images are available as high-resolution fine-art prints, or as electronic stock images for consumer and business publications or web site/Internet uses.
If you are Colorado local, I am also available for private photo shoots of any type.
Contact me for image prices, shoot fees, and terms of use.

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All photos and artwork included in this Web site are copyright-protected and the exclusive property of Eric Schickler Photography. No downloading, use, reproduction, manipulation, sale and/or distribution permitted without express written consent.

© Eric Schickler Photography

IMG_2227 2014-01-31 copy IMG_2239 12014-01-31 copy IMG_9054 22014-02-21 IMG_9055 12014-02-21IMG_9084 - Version 2 IMG_8961 (2) IMG_8887 IMG_8818 (1) IMG_8745 IMG_8593 - Version 2 IMG_8548-edtd-8x10 IMG_8525 IMG_2287 IMG_2186 (1) IMG_2110 (2) copy IMG_9078 - Version 2 IMG_9036 - Version 2 (1) IMG_9008 - Version 3 IMG_8959 IMG_8957 IMG_8906 (1) IMG_8845 IMG_8812 (1) IMG_8811 - Version 2 IMG_8805 IMG_8800 IMG_8784 IMG_8779 IMG_8778 IMG_8772 IMG_8770 IMG_8765 IMG_8764 IMG_8763 IMG_8762 (1) IMG_8728 (1) IMG_8698 IMG_8696 IMG_8682 IMG_8680 IMG_8557 - Version 2 IMG_8514 - Version 2 IMG_8504 IMG_8496 IMG_8493 (1) IMG_8449 (1) IMG_8448 - Version 2 (1) IMG_8432 IMG_8428 (1) IMG_2261 IMG_2164 IMG_2160 IMG_2153 IMG_8970 IMG_8444 (1) IMG_2318 2014-03-02 IMG_2309 IMG_2314 IMG_2303 - Version 2 copy IMG_2321 (1) IMG_8600 - Version 4 IMG_8552 - Version 2 IMG_9039 IMG_9047 IMG_9056 IMG_9082 Holy Cross IMG_8766 - Version 2 IMG_8768 - Version 3 IMG_8798 IMG_8573 IMG_8571 IMG_8663 Snow-covered cars in Vail IMG_8889 - Version 3 (1) IMG_2190 (1) IMG_2247 (1) IMG_2252 IMG_2236 IMG_2194 IMG_2184 (1) IMG_2269 IMG_2267 (1) IMG_2268 IMG_2218 IMG_2213 IMG_2216 IMG_8735 - Version 2 copy IMG_8477 IMG_8484 (1) IMG_8509 (1) IMG_8536 IMG_8844 - 8x10 cropped IMG_8842 IMG_8895 IMG_8892 (1) IMG_8458 IMG_8953-edt IMG_8831 - 8x10 IMG_8976 IMG_8982 - Version 2 IMG_8973 - Version 2 IMG_8549IMG_2241 2014-01-31

 

 

 

Vail Mountain – Closing Day Celebration – April 14, 2013. The Ceremonial End to Vail’s 50th Season. *

* Two days later, the season was extended for the three-day weekend of April 19-21 due to abundant amounts of new snow.

Not sure what kind of party will happen on Sunday 21st, but this would be hard to re-create. There is nothing like Closing Day at Vail:  colorful, noisy, wild and unpredictable. Full of customs, costumes, vittles and bevvies, and plenty of tradition. Sweet and bitter, happy and sad. But always memorable.

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All photos and artwork included in this Web site are copyright-protected and the exclusive property of Eric Schickler Photography. No downloading, use, reproduction, manipulation, sale and/or distribution permitted without express written consent.

© Eric Schickler Photography

IMG_6805 - Version 2 IMG_6863 IMG_6841 IMG_6840 IMG_6838 IMG_6845 IMG_6834

 

IMG_6766 IMG_6899 IMG_6900 IMG_6907 (1) IMG_6908 IMG_6911 IMG_6914 IMG_6917 IMG_6918 IMG_6921 - Version 2 IMG_6922 IMG_6923 IMG_6925 IMG_6926 (1) IMG_6932 (1) IMG_6936 IMG_6937 IMG_6939 IMG_6941 IMG_6944 IMG_6945 IMG_6946 IMG_6947 (1) IMG_6950 IMG_6951 IMG_6954 IMG_6956 (1) IMG_6961 IMG_6977 IMG_6982 (1) Powerline Glade IMG_6984 IMG_6992 (1) IMG_6996 IMG_6998 (1) IMG_7019 IMG_7031 IMG_7034 IMG_7036 (1) IMG_7040 - edt IMG_7041 IMG_7046 (1) IMG_7052 (1) Your Photographer IMG_6898 IMG_6896 IMG_6894 (1) IMG_6893 IMG_6892 IMG_6890 IMG_6888 IMG_6884 (1) IMG_6883 IMG_6881 IMG_6880 IMG_6879 IMG_6878 (1) IMG_6876 IMG_6874 IMG_6868 (1) IMG_6866 (1) IMG_6864 IMG_6863 IMG_6860 (1) IMG_6859 IMG_6857 (1) IMG_6855 IMG_6848 (1) IMG_6843 IMG_6836 (1) IMG_6835 IMG_6830 IMG_6824 IMG_6820 (1) IMG_6816 IMG_6813 IMG_6811 IMG_6809 (1) IMG_6802 IMG_6801 IMG_6799 IMG_6798 (1) IMG_6796 (1) IMG_6790 IMG_6785 (1) IMG_6781

 

Vail Mountain Closing Day 2012 Summit Celebration

IMG_3031 IMG_3045 IMG_3043 - Version 2 IMG_3036 IMG_3034 IMG_3033 IMG_3032 IMG_3224 - Version 2 IMG_3213  IMG_3203 IMG_3202 IMG_3200 IMG_3199 IMG_3196 IMG_3188 IMG_3184 - Version 2 IMG_3183 IMG_3180 IMG_3179 (1) IMG_3172 IMG_3170 IMG_3167 IMG_3166 IMG_3164 IMG_3150 IMG_3147 IMG_3146 IMG_3144 IMG_3143 IMG_3142 IMG_3140 IMG_3139 IMG_3138 IMG_3126 (1) IMG_3123 - Version 2 IMG_3121 IMG_3120 IMG_3118 IMG_3117 IMG_3116 (1) IMG_3115 IMG_3110 IMG_3109 IMG_3108 IMG_3107 - Version 2 IMG_3106 IMG_3104 IMG_3101 IMG_3099 (1) IMG_3098 IMG_3093 IMG_3088 IMG_3086 IMG_3084 (1) IMG_3078 IMG_3077 IMG_3072 IMG_3071 IMG_3070 IMG_3069 IMG_3064 IMG_3063 IMG_3062 IMG_3061 IMG_3059-a1 IMG_3057- (1) IMG_3056 copy IMG_3051 IMG_3048-edtd IMG_3047 IMG_3046

IMG_3205 - Version 2

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All photos and artwork included in this Web site are copyright-protected and the exclusive property of Eric Schickler Photography. No downloading, use, reproduction, manipulation, sale and/or distribution permitted without express written consent.

© Eric Schickler Photography

 

 

A Life Lived Well … from Starting Gate to Finish Line. Tribute to Jimmie Heuga

A Tribute to My Friend, Jimmie Heuga

Photo by Jim Heath

The public relations business requires that its practitioners promote, protect, market, and manage the reputation of a product, service, company, or in some instances, a single person.

At the heart of the PR business is careful management of media coverage and public opinions.

In my 25 years of work in the PR business, spanning promotion of complicated high-tech products, building materials, transportation projects, recreation services, health services and a myriad of Internet businesses, the greatest job I ever had in the PR/marketing business was assisting in the promotion of the man Jimmie Heuga, and the Jimmie Heuga Center.

Being hired as part of the Heuga Center, as its PR Director, was a indeed a privilege. Joining Jimmie and all his supporters in promoting the philosophies and programs of the Center quickly became so much more than a job. It became an avocation. A labor of love. A train ride.

I recall during one of my first chats with Jimmie, he said, “Ya know, Eric, the Center is growing, we have plans to do a lot more, and expand nationally. You’re our first designated PR man. You can keep the job if you can accomplish one thing:  make those media people spell my name right! It’s Jimmie with an “ie,” not a “y.”   Then he flashed that incomparable smirk and walked out of my office.

After just a few weeks working with Jimmie, I knew my work was indeed part of a shared mission. It was never difficult to get up in the morning to go to work at the Heuga Center. It was, however, often difficult to feel like the day’s work was done, even as darkness fell each night. We had only to watch Jimmie and the grueling schedules he would keep to squeeze a few more hours of work out of ourselves each night.

I cannot count the number of friends I gained through working alongside him to help people fighting MS. The experiences shared with co-workers, the tireless fund raising efforts, the long winter seasons traveling from ski resort to ski resort to make each SKI EXPRESS event as successful as possible. The national media promotions, interviews and partnerships. The special events and dinners.

As staff people at the Heuga Center, we occupied an interesting position. We were the intermediaries between legions of the greatest friends, volunteers and donors in the world, and the people around the United States who were searching for some hope in dealing with the ravages of multiple sclerosis.

Fueling it all, inspiring it all was Jimmie Heuga. Jimmie was our spiritual and enigmatic leader. He was the fulcrum of this great, unique, developing storm against multiple sclerosis. The momentum was unstoppable as more and more people found out about who Jimmie was, what he sought to do, and how he was doing it.

Photo by Jim Heath

The most rewarding part of my job, as with my various other nonprofit, human-service jobs, was seeing the human benefit that resulted from all the public support, fund raising events and work of the staff, volunteers, and board members. That was what fueled my energy for the years I worked for the Heuga Center.

I watched countless inspirational talks by Jimmie, in front of numerous and diverse audiences across the U.S.  But the best talks were those between him and the people he understood so intimately—the participants in the medical programs—other people who had MS.

I witnessed the sense of yearning, desire, hopelessness, despair, frustration, anxiety, uncertainty, anger and fatigue in the folks who signed up or were sponsored to attend the Heuga CAN DO programs.

After five days in the program, assistance from the many talented health and wellness specialists, and daily interaction with Jimmie, these people’s outlooks, spirits, and energy were lifted out of the mire. They were changed human beings.

They were now hopeful, enabled, confident, eager again to continue their lives within the limitations of MS. Now they were oriented toward what they still COULD DO; the focus was no longer on the limitations.  The Heuga Center gave them the individualized templates they needed to live again. To love life again. To cope and prosper. And it was all borne out of what Jimmie experienced and did for himself in his mid-20s, when MS cut short his promising competitive skiing career.

After witnessing this miracle time after time, program after program, I was equipped with the tools, the beliefs, the buy-in, the motivation and a clear awareness of mission to perform what I consider to this day my most meaningful and rewarding public relations, marketing and fund raising work.

As Jimmie’s PR guy, I had something most PR people never have…..a tireless, talented, dedicated, inspirational, extremely kind and likable PR machine. The Jimmie Heuga Express.

His life story, his revolutionary, iconoclastic ideas about dealing with MS, his vision and plan and mission, coupled with his undeniable magnetism, resulted in thousands of changed lives.

Even for those of us who don’t have MS, if you ever met the man, if you had the privilege of spending time with him, learning from him, and watching him do his magic in life, you are now a richer person. You’ll forever be on board the Jimmie Heuga Express.

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High on the Winner’s Podium

I was fortunate enough to spend time near a man in Colorado who possessed enviable courage and inspired countless people around the world to live productive and meaningful lives.

He transferred his exuberance for skiing into an exuberance for living daily life, despite the debilitating constraints imposed on him by Multiple Sclerosis.

His courage and his smile were infectious. He rallied so many toward his cause and created a family of supporters, a family of friends, all of whom loved him dearly.

With his bright outlook, his witty humor, his energy, his tireless dedication to helping others with their MS, and his daily endurance of his own MS, Jimmie Heuga became a champion in life.

Yet that champion would happily engage in a personable conversation with anyone he met, anywhere, anytime. He even offered a ride to my hitchhiking brother one cold Colorado night in the 1970s, along a dark road in Vail. He was just a great guy, a great local in the Vail Valley. My brother had no idea he got a ride from an Olympic champion.

His reach in life was enormous. His impact immeasurable. He touched so many lives.

But what will endure most for me is his simple, inspirational and transformational message of hope. He helped me develop a strength within my own self when I was a young man; he became a mentor. I will always strive to keep the lessons Jimmie taught me through his example foremost in my mind:

“There is no need to complain about your woes in life, …… cope with them, be strong, focus on what you CAN DO, not on what you CANNOT.”

JIMMIE HEUGA

1943 – 2010

http://www.vaildaily.com/article/20100208/NEWS/100209617/1078&ParentProfile=1062

Denver’s Union Station and the Colorado Ski Train

 Union Station:  the Alpha and The Omega

After a harrowing slide down the mountain in my trusted Mazda MX-6, I lugged my ski gear across the frozen parking lot, slipping on the fresh snow. (Better to slip on my feet, I thought, than off a mountain road in my car).


Sunrise over Denver from the Evergreen foothills.
Photo: Eric Schickler

 

The fallen snow had created a scenic white cityscape, unusual in Denver even in the middle of winter, and made Union Station look more prominent and historic than ever, its monstrous white-stoned bulk lurking in the foggy haze. Its juxtaposition in a relatively open area of Lower Downtown allows it to be seen like a statue in the center of a courtyard, from a greater distance and more perspectives than is usually afforded in tight city street grids. Its classic 1914 architecture makes it stand out in a downtown district that sees a new building pop up almost monthly.

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The large lighted red letters that crown the building boldly announce where you are, and in a circus-attraction manner, promote a specific mode of transportation as if it were the latest fad worthy of curious exploration — “UNION STATION — TRAVEL by TRAIN.”  It reminded me of the entrance to Disneyland or the inviting allure of the lettering over an  amusement park. It was definitely a throwback to the past.  But that was part of the charm.

The station is indeed a testament to Denver’s colorful, historic past, when train travel was the fastest and most comfortable way to get around. And as we are learning, the station will again become a bustling transportation hub and social center for Denver. Will it become the giant it once was, or become even more magnificent, as its history and crucial location are blended with new commercial and residential development, travel technology and a myriad of visitors from even more distant lands? The dark quiet morning gave way to the glow of warm lights and activity in and around the terminal. The massive arched windows above the entrance beckoned me inside, as did the warmth of its cavernous hollow. I slipped into its massive hull, inhaled, swallowed up — like a wandering fish by a giant whale.

My lonely drive from the foothills into the deserted city streets gave way to an instant feeling of connection as I let the doors close behind me. Connection to the city, connection to people wide awake at 6:30 a.m., to the rail tracks that ran along the rear of the building, and to faraway destinations at the other end of the tracks. I was thankful for the activity and my senses were awakened. A wave of warm air met my frozen forehead, condensation formed on my eyeglasses, then my friends approached with a hot cup of coffee and warm greetings. Conversations quickly shifted to the nature of the approaching voyage we would make together.

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Footstep echoes flittered across the grand atrium, mingling with muted, yet excited voices. Bundled-up children sat restlessly in the long wooden pews, as if they were about to witness a church service. But the facial expressions were not those you’d see as old Father Murphy marched past them to the alter. They were more like those you’d see on Christmas morning. The eager hum among the children grew with each passing minute. Even grown adults exuded child-like anticipation and excitement.

Everyone readied themselves and their baggage for boarding the quarter-mile-long train for the 7 a.m. departure for the mountains. Most city rail stations would see a 7 a.m. train screech to a halt, fill up quickly, depart, only to be followed within minutes by the same ritual, another train. With short visits from only two Amtrack trains per day, however, the activity around Denver’s Union Station today is like the flickering flame on the wick of a near-empty oil lamp. It’s akin to life in a western ghost town, where a smattering of weekend tourists provide enough commerce for seclusion-hungry locals to cling to a bare-bones existence.

The stark, expansive room seemed haunted with its early 1900’s decor and rich ambient history. In the few minutes I had before boarding, I imagined what it was like to be a child lost in the middle of a bustling throng of Depression-era travelers, filing in and out if the station during its heydays when nearly 80 trains a day pulled in and out. What a contrast to life at Union Station at the very end of the 20th century. Union Station stood as a static relic, an anomaly in Denver’s revitalized and vibrant Lower Downtown district. An unprecedented surge in LoDo’s economic activity was ignited by the 1995 opening of Coors Field. It was followed by widespread residential and commercial development, new businesses, sports, entertainment and cultural attractions, restaurants, galleries and shops. But the decline in rail travel and train commerce had relegated Union Station to a shadow of the activity center it once was.

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 On this day, as the snow continued to fall, Union Station was as busy as it ever gets. It was a weekend in the winter, so the two daily Amtrack trains would be complemented by the Rio Grande Ski Train, which carries passengers to Winter Park Resort for a day of downhill fun or sightseeing, as it has for 60 years. People rave about the Ski Train. It’s a must for every Coloradan.

I had driven from Evergreen to Denver before dawn, and would go back up the hill later that evening.  Was all that effort worth a train ride? I was joining a group of friends for the excursion, my first ever on the Ski Train. I was just as excited as any of the children making their first trip. And I was just going for the ride — I had a broken heel at the time and could not ski. That made no difference. The best parts of the day are the train rides.

On the train, I delighted in the fact that I and 749 others were sitting back enjoying the passing countryside, instead of clinging white-knuckled to my steering wheel as I maneuvered snow-packed I-70, U.S. 40 and Berthoud Pass. For two hours, we rode 56 comfortable miles, climbing 4,000 feet in elevation, passing through 28 tunnels. Then we approached the final mountain underpass, the 6.2-mile-long Moffat Tunnel, the highest railroad tunnel in the U.S.

www.skitrain

But for some reason, the visit to historic Union Station was the most memorable part of my day. That building was the first and last impression of my trip, and it dawned on me that it’s the place where you say goodbye and hello, where you cry, smile and hug loved ones. Union Station is like the old worn leather cover of a great novel. The start and the finish, with so many memories in between. And you always end up sharing it with someone you love.

The last time I traveled any great distance by train was 1987 in New York State. After visiting Union Station and taking that ride on the Ski Train, I now think differently. I’ll look for an excuse to ride the train, and take my friends. Recent security concerns in airline travel have forced people to think again about rail travel. I’ve been thinking about it ever since I first walked into Union Station on that wintry morning.

Oh, getting back to my question…. Was it worth all that effort just to ride a train?  Oh yes. To ride a train and visit Union Station. When it comes to trains, the journey is the reason you ride, but I just love going through that station.

* All photos in this article (except sunrise image) courtesy of Denver’s Union Station and The Ski Train.

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© Eric Schickler Photography, Communication & Design