This blog comes to Colorado Ski Country from Amber Johnson, editor of Mile High Mamas.
Skiing Winter Park has been a long time and coming—10 years to be exact. My husband donned his first set of skis as an 11-year-old at Winter Park’s slopes and since moving to Colorado it has been on my bucket list.
Just 67 miles northwest of Denver, Winter Park is the closest major resort to the metro area, the oldest continually operated resort in Colorado (celebrating 73 years) and I could see why their tagline “Colorado’s Favorite” rings true. Whether you’re a regular or a newbie like me, there’s a lot to love and here are a few of my favorite reasons.
1) The terrain.
I’m a lover of moderation and am often overwhelmed by megaresorts. Winter Park’s 3,081 skiable acres was just about right. Though it consists of four mountains (Winter Park, Mary Jane, Vasquez Ridge and Vasquez Cirque), I felt like I was skiing two different resorts. At The Village at Winter Park, there are restaurants (don’t miss Goodys’ to-die-for crepes), the new Alpenglow Massage, ice skating, an event gazebo and 200 luxurious condominium units in Fraser Crossing.
Whereas the base of Mary Jane is dedicated to the diehards who don’t need all the pomp and circumstance. Sure, there are a few dining options but the important thing is it’s a short walk from your car to the slopes. I even spotted a camper or two in the parking lot.
Gorgeous amenities + staying connected to their roots? I’ve dubbed Winter Park the best of both worlds.
The moment I spotted Winter Park’s complimentary wagon service, I was hooked. About 100 wagons are available at seven drop-off stations around the base area and are used for hauling kids, their gear, or both (we were in the latter category). For any parent who has ever tried to lug a tired, whining child and their gear at the end of a long day, you’ll agree with me that this service is a godsend.
Tip: Be sure to snag a wagon early. Though there were plenty available, if you wait too long you’ll be out of luck.
Ski/Ride School. Ever wondered what the heck your kids do all day? Winter Park has the answer. My kids have been to many a ski school but none have offered all their young students a GPS tracking device. Both of my kids were outfitted with the groundbreaking FLAIK devices, which were strapped around their calves. At the end of their lesson, they were given a progress report and a website that parents can access to see their on-mountain locations, skier stats, and runs skied.
Bonus: If a child gets separated from their ski/ride school group, they can go to a lift operator who can locate their group’s whereabouts. Not that that ever happens. J
3) Off-slope fun.
Skating. I love that winter resorts are offering amenities for non-skiers or those who just want to diversify their experience. If you want to give ice-skating a whirl, there are a few different options that include sliding on the pond at the base of Winter Park, heading into town and cruising to music under a canopy of lights at Cooper Creek Square and there is also at the partially-enclosed “Ice Box” Ice Rink at the Fraser Valley Sports Complex.
Tip: Be sure to get a free skating lesson on Saturdays at 4 p.m. at the pond.
NEW! Coca-Cola Tubing at Winter Park Resort. We were among the first to check out Winter Park’s new tubing hill. There will ultimately be four lanes but two were closed as the resort tries to tweak their velocity and pitch. To compensate, they have reduced the capacity to 50 people per hour, which means you need to reserve early to guarantee your one-hour block. A state-of-the-art warming hut with restrooms and hot chocolate service will open in February.
But even though it is a work-in-progress, the Coca-Cola Tubing was a hit with my family. Unlike most tubing hills where you barrel straight down the mountain, there is a hairpin curve, which augments the thrill factor (read: I freaked out our first round). All tubers must ride solo or in the tandem tubes provided and as a bonus, there’s no hauling it back up the mountain with convenient conveyer lift access that is even partially covered. The cost is $22 per person and there is a 36-inch height requirement.
If you want to venture out from the resort, check-out the Fraser Tubing Hill (http://www.site.thefrasertubinghill.com), which offers a tow-rope experience. Right next door to that is the Colorado Adventure Park with tubing and kid-sized snowmobiles. http://coloradoadventurepark.com
4) Indoor Fun. I’ll admit it: When I saw a visit to the local bowling alley was on our itinerary, I wasn’t too enthused. But the NEW Foundry Cinema & Bowl in Winter Park is no ordinary bowling alley with pinball, foosball, billiards, shuffleboard, ultra-hip Restoration Hardware décor, Old Shell gas pumps, a circuitous train, flat screens and even a pink fluorescent sink in the women’s restroom that has become a destination unto itself.
The Foundry has an on-site restaurant so you can eat while you play or view movies (must-tries include their wood-fired pizza, Kobe Beef Sliders, rosemary-crusted cashews and a full bar and concession stand). It offers 8 certified USBC Spec Brunswick Lanes with cutting-edge technology. We were blown away when it automatically set-up the bumpers whenever my kids got up to bowl and changed back for the adults.
Though my score would have been much higher if they had just stayed in place.
The luxurious movie theatre plays three movies at a time (each has an 80-person capacity) and has become a local favorite for Monday Night Football. A stage is currently being constructed and live bands will soon be in the line-up.
5) Memories. Despite all the great off-mountain amenities, Winter Park’s mountain is where the best memories are made. My kids are finally old and capable enough for my family to ski together for the first time (and by ski, I mean really ski as in not-hunched-over-trying-to-navigate-a-child.).
I was shocked to see my 8-year-old fearlessly attempt the bumps while my 6-year-old’s ski school gave him the courage to do his first intermediate run. I trailed behind them with a permagrin splattered all over my face as I rejoiced, “We have arrived!”
And what a great journey we took at Winter Park.