Once primarily a favorite with Denver day-trippers, Winter Park is now a major destination resort with excellent facilities and seven distinct areas across 3081 acres (1246ha).
- Exploring the seven different ski areas, each with a unique offering.
- The compact, happy village area.
- A variety of accommodation options in the village and downtown.
- The legendary moguls on Mary Jane.
- The stunning drive from Denver over the Berthoud Pass (a favorite of backcountry skiers).
- The down-to-earth, family-friendly atmosphere.
- The cute carts provided to help lug gear and kids around the village.
- Only a few runs will really challenge expert skiers.
- You can grab an après drink at some good bars but don’t expect a vibrant nightlife.
- Dining options in the village are fairly limited. Downtown Winter Park offers more.
- Also look to downtown Winter Park for some very affordable lodges and motels.
In 2015 Winter Park Resort celebrated its 75th anniversary making it Colorado’s longest continually operated ski resort. Today, it’s Colorado’s fourth largest ski area, and a favorite of many thanks to a great variety of terrain and excellent facilities. Yet despite this, and unlike many of the state’s other ski areas, it retains an almost small-town ski hill atmosphere; it’s down to earth, friendly, relaxed and not over-developed. Better still, the price of a Winter Park ski vacation is almost small-town-ski-hill-esque.
Downtown Winter Park is just a five minute drive from the ski resort and where you’ll find restaurants, bars, shops … and real people. Yes, unlike some other purpose-built resorts, real people live year-round in Winter Park, and they’re super friendly authentic Colorado types.
The ski area is focused with just one base, The Village at Winter Park, meaning that everyone starts and ends their day in the same place. This makes it highly convenient for getting everyone in your group on and off the mountain, and if you’re staying at the village your condo will only be a short walk to the slopes (or even better if it’s ski-in ski-out). Winter Park village is tiny, especially when compared to some other resorts. But it’s cute, has a handful of good bars and restaurants and has all the hallmarks of a well-planned, Intrawest resort.
Many skiers and boarders will only be at the Village base area at the start and end of the day. Winter Park ski area spreads out far and wide from this point and, fortunately, so do the skiers.
With seven distinct “territories” it really has something for everyone. The most well known is Mary Jane. Featuring moguls the size of small cars, plus some steep, long groomers and a few nicely gladed tree runs, Mary Jane is where to go when you want to exhaust yourself! Fortunately it also has the new Lunch Rock Restaurant to revive and relax the legs before moving on. Further afield are the Parsenn Bowl glades (for strong intermediates and advanced) with stunning views of the mountains and The Cirque, which has Winter Park’s only real extreme terrain. The resort operates a sled there (just $20 for a season pass) that accesses chutes and runs off the headwall. On the looker’s right of the mountain is Vasquez Ridge with long groomers for intermediates and beginners and above it is Eagle Wind with some decent gladed black diamond runs – perfect on a powder day. Generally, the further away from the base area, the less crowded it is.
The area extending up from the village area is called Winter Park Territory, which has something for everyone, including the resort’s Terrain Park. With an 18-foot (5.5m) super pipe and a ton of other features, it’s good for all standards. Most of the features are accessed with an express quad chair.
To fully explore Winter Park and each of its territories you’ll need a good couple of days, and even then you’ll still have more runs to discover.
Winter Park is part of the Rocky Mountain Super Pass which, depending on the type of pass you buy, grants you access to other great mountains such as Steamboat, Crested Butte, Alyeska and even Cardrona in New Zealand and Tomamu in Japan (among others). Day or multi-day Winter Park lift tickets bought ahead of time or as part of a Winter Park Ski Package via Scout will be better value than purchasing at the ticket window.
Parents will appreciate Winter Park’s compact and convenient base area, condo accommodation options, and overall good value. The ski school starts kids lessons from the age of three, and the meeting point is conveniently located at the main base area, where Mum and Dad will also start and end their day. Lessons can be booked as part of a Winter Park Ski Package through Scout. Half-day or full-day childcare is available for kids aged two months to six years. Scout also loves the carts provided for lugging equipment (and kids) around the village! There are several other activities to keep the kids entertained off the slopes (see below). Within the village there are a couple of family-friendly restaurants (and yes a pizza shop selling slices or full pies).
Winter Park accommodation options range from decent condos throughout the main village within walking distance (or ski-in ski-out) to the lifts, to the budget style Vintage Hotel (accessed via the Cabriolet lift). Downtown is a mix of chain motels and old school ski-lodges mixed in with vacation home rentals and condos. For convenience sake, staying up in the village is definitely easier. However, staying downtown means more restaurants and bars nearby. With either choice, you’re connected via a free and regular shuttle bus.Search Hotels and Deals Get your
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There are not a huge amount of après activities at Winter Park and one certainly wouldn’t come here for retail therapy. Indeed, non-skiers may find there’s little to do other than wait for their friends or loved ones. It’s possible for non-skiers to buy a “foot-pass” ticket to go up the Zephyr Express to The Lodge at Sunspot dining room. One of the main non-skiing highlights at Winter Park is the tubing hill over by the Vintage Hotel (accessed via the Cabriolet lift). With some banked curves it can be great fun for kids and kids-at-heart. There, there’s also a Hill House warming lodge with hot chocolate. Winter Park Village has a small ice-skating rink on the village pond that’s free if you have your own skates (or skates can be rented). Ski bikes, dog sledding, sledding and sleigh rides are some of the other activities offered in the area.
There are several options in the region for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and cat skiing is also offered.
The Winter Park Scout Field Guide, free with any booking made via Scout, has more details for other activities in and around Winter Park.
Winter Park is about an hour and 45 minutes’ drive from Denver International Airport, depending on the traffic on the i70 and the weather on Berthoud Pass. There are a variety of private and shared shuttle options with services from the airport, which start about $70 one way for an adult. Transfers can be booked as part of a Winter Park Package Deal via Scout.
A great, and quirky, way to get to Winter Park is by train. They claim Winter Park is the only place in North America where it’s possible to take a train all the way to the ski resort (albeit to the downtown area, a 10-minute drive from the resort). The Amtrak service is on the California Zephyr that runs daily services between Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, Sacramento and San Francisco. It features sleeping cars with private rooms available, and coach seats. There’s talk of reviving a daily train from Denver’s Union Station for the 16/17 season, for the first time since 1940. This would allow visitors that arrive via plane to catch the train the whole way, via the new East Rail Line that will connect the airport to Union Station. The journey will take about three hours… watch this space.
Getting around the village area is mostly on foot, since it’s so compact. To get to and from downtown Winter Park a free shuttle runs every half hour until 11pm. So there’s no need to have a car in Winter Park, but it would provide added freedom and convenience to not have to rely on the shuttle, which can get crowded at peak times.
Scout’s Winter Park Field Guide details more about getting there and around. It’s yours for free when you book Winter Park accommodation or a Winter Park Ski Package Deal.
Winter Park Ski Resort operates from mid-November until late April. The hours of operation are from 9am–4pm on weekdays and 8.30am–4pm on weekends.
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