OverviewDenver has many world class resorts on its doorstep and none closer than Winter Park, but on a weekend it can take you hours to negotiate the often rammed Interstate 70, rather than the 1½ hours it should take.
Traffic aside, Winter Park is a top intermediate resort, with a large modern and capable lift system along with a lot of varied intermediate terrain. It’s very family-friendly here, with the resort supplying small hand-pulled wheeled carts to load all your skis/snowboards (and even small children) into, making it very easy to get from the car park to the snow.
The slopes are very family friendly too, with most of the skiing within the trees that cover most of the mountain. The on-mountain town is pleasant enough, if a little sprawling, with lots of accommodation on offer from condos to 5 star hotels. The whole operation is owned and managed by Intrawest, who also own other resorts, including Steamboat.
Most of the pistes here are well groomed and roll their way through the forest - so much so, that when looking at a map, the pistes spread out across the mountain as if they were streams of lava cutting tracks through the forest.
As such, many of the pistes have a similar feel, unless you head for the black diamond areas of Mary Jane and Vasquez Cirque - which are the spots for the more advanced skier/snowboarder looking for steep and deep.
The resort is marketed as having ‘Seven Territories’, making it possible to head for a specific area of the mountain, safe in the knowledge of what it will throw at you. Realistically, Winter Park is a great place for intermediate skiers and snowboarders who love to fly at speed down steadily pitched pistes, but not so great for the very advanced skier or rider.
Freestylers are very well catered for with the six terrain parks and super pipe, all of which are well maintained and planned. There is a very natural progression to all the terrain parks, enabling all abilities to be challenged, whilst knowing they’ve not bitten off too much.
The aptly named ‘Dark Territory’ park is the most advanced area, and to enter for the first time, a safety film and waiver must be watched and signed. You will also need a separate lift pass for the Dark Territory, which costs $20 for the first season and $10 for each additional season.
There are many places to eat and drink, both on the mountain and at the base station. The top budget option for a wicked breakfast burrito or a filling lunchtime soup is the Back Bowl Soup Company.
Off the slopes and apres ski
For those wanting a beer then the Cheeky Monk, a Belgian beer café, has over 30 Belgian beers, many on tap.
While there is a lot on offer, it’s best to leave resort and head down to town of Fraser, a ten minute drive or free shuttle bus ride for a bit more of a real town vibe. The Crooked Creek Saloon and Creekside Eatery has a good atmosphere, while Sharky’s Eatery gets the thumbs up from the locals.
With regards to sleeping, you can get some good deals this season (2013/14) - $199 for a four day lift pass - if you book a room through central reservations: options range from lodges to hotels both on mountain to down town. The Rocky Mountain Chalet Hostel is a reasonable option.
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Bars and clubs
Crooked Creek Saloon
Crooked Creek Saloon
The Back Bowl Soup Company