PLANETSKI VISITS WINTER PARK, COLORADO
1st March 2018 | James Cove, Winter Park, Colorado
Last modified on January 3rd, 2020
It’s the 4th biggest ski area in the state, the nearest to Denver & has an army of fans. We visit for the first time with our eyes wide-open.
I make a point of doing no research whatsoever when I visit a resort for the first time.
I want to see it fresh, make my own mind up and not be swayed by the opinion of others.
Of course I’d heard of the resort of Winter Park, but I knew very, very little about it.
Things got off to a good start as I arrived by train from Denver.
It is quite simply one of the best rail journeys to a ski resort that I know of, except maybe the rail route into Zermatt.
See here for my earlier report:
And then on arrival I tried my hand at a range of other activities from snow mobiling to tubing.
The views from the top of the resort, by the Continental Divide, are breathtaking .
It is over 3,700m high.
But, what of the resort itself?
The first reported skiers in the area were railroad workers back in the 19th century.
They climbed up the slopes to ski down – just for fun.
And today it is one of the premier resorts in the state of Colorado.
It is primarily seen as a family resort with wide-open groomers.
“At only an hour and a half from Denver airport, Winter Park is arguably the easiest of the larger North American resorts to get to after a transatlantic flight,” said Michael Bennett, from the UK operator, Ski Independence.
“It’s perfect for families with great value lodging and lots of terrain perfectly suited to beginner and intermediate skiers.”
But don’t be fooled, there is some testing advanced terrain.
Firstly in the moguls.
And then the expert-only terrain of the Vasquez Cirque.
I tackled them both and wrote about the expert terrain in this earlier story.
It is the closest to the city of Denver, and that has its good and bad points – easier journey time after a long trans-Atlantic flight, but its gets crowded at weekends as the city folk pour in.
The other aspect with good and bad points is the altitude.
It gets some of the best snow of any Colorado resort with an impressive track record and the height brings cold temperatures which keeps the snow in good condition.
But the altitude leaves people feeling out of breath and it can be difficult to sleep for the first few nights.
The local shops have a solution: canned oxygen.
The town itself is the standard North American ski resort architecture, but in Winter Park it feels more genuine than some others I could mention.
Winter Park is not Disneyland on snow.
Winter Park Village, 10 minutes down the road from the resort is well worth a visit.
It is livelier at night with its bar and restaurants, and strangely it is newer than the resort itself.
Many US ski areas have a town first and then a resort springs up in the nearby hills.
In Winter Park it is the other way around as the town sprang up to house the resort workers.
Most of the hotels and apartments offer a free shuttle service to downtown.
The Italian restaurant, Volario,comes recommended by me.
And back in the ski village the Vertical Bistro tops my list with good food and a livelier atmosphere.
It closes around 10PM – late by Winter Park standards.
If you are after après ski that goes into the night then you won’t find it in Winter Park.
Perhaps try Breckenridge instead along the I-70 where I am planning to be next week.
But after skiing in Winter Park there are a range of activities in the village for families and others that are free.
It’s a nice touch to get something for nothing in a ski resort.
And for beginner skiers and snowboarders there is the Discovery Park – a 25-acre area specially for those making their first turns.
Another nice touch.
And then there are the snowparks.
Unlike many US resorts there are also some decent mountain restaurants.
Try the new Lunch Rock or The Lodge at Sunspot.
It really does have something for everyone.
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