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Your Local Experts for Vacation Rentals in the Winter Park area
Why we think Winter Park Resort is the Best Ski Resort in Colorado
7 REASONS WINTER PARK RESORT IS THE BEST SKI RESORT IN COLORADO
The Winter Park Express continued service to during the 2016/17 Ski Season, to the Winter Park Resort. The ski train runs weekends and holidays from Union Station Downtown Denver to the Winter Park Resort. This alone makes Winter Park Ski Resort the best ski resort in Colorado. Where else can you take a train to a ski base in Colorado?
Amtrak manages the Ski Train transportation service. The Ski Train departs Denver’s Union Station at 7:00 am and arrives at Winter Park Resort at approximately 9:00 am. The return trip leaves the Winter Park Resort at 4:30 pm and arrives back in Denver at Union Station at approximately 6:40 pm.
I’ve used this analogy before. Mary Jane is the Wicked Step Sister of the Winter Park Resort; you’ll find this side of Winter Park Resort loaded with bumps, trees, diamonds and at the end of the day you’ll be sore and glad you picked us as the best ski resort in Colorado.
Look for stickers around town declaring the wickedness that is Mary Jane.
“No Pain, No Jane!”
“Don’t groom the Jane. – God”
The National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD)
Based out of Winter Park Resort and Sports Authority Field in Denver, The National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) helps thousands of disabled children and adults get on the snow and learn more about themselves and sports each year.
Since 1970 the NSCD has provided ski lessons to those in need.
The NSCD mission statement “We enable the human spirit through therapeutic sports and recreation.”.
This makes Winter Park Resort the Best Ski Resort in Colorado. Choose Winter Park Resort and indirectly help the NSCD.
If you’ve ever been skiing in Colorado, you’ll know about the parking lot they call I70 West of Denver.
Skip this scene and take exit 232 to Winter Park, Colorado. You’ll be skiing while your friends are sitting on I70 on their way to other resorts.
Winter Park and The Seven Terrain Parks!
Yup! Seven Terrain Parks! Think Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, only more fun.
- Ash Cat
- Rail Yard
- Dark Territory
To continue with Winter Park Resort’s theme of seven
The Seven Territories of Winter Park Resort ™ Seven is better than one territory!
- Winter Park Territory ™
- Parsenn Bowl Territory ™
- Mary Jane Territory ™
- Vasquez Ridge Territory ™
- The Cirque Territory ™
- Terrain Park Territory ™
- Eagle Wind Territory ™
Cheaper than those Hoity Toity Colorado ski resorts.
You won’t see many if any expensive fur coats in Winter Park. You can still book Winter Park, Colorado lodging for less than $99 a night, and a day lift ticket will set you back less than $140. Purchase your lift ticket at the Winter Park Resort.
The money you save on lift tickets and lodging can go towards your apres ski day!
As I was researching top things to do in Winter Park, Colorado this morning for visitors, I started typing in the Google search bar “Things to do in Winter Park CO” the auto-fills second choice was.. besides ski.
From a local perception, I would have guessed that most if not all visitors to our beautiful area during the winter would involve some form of skiing. So here I am writing this blog about my top five things to do in Winter Park Colorado Besides ski. In fact, I’m going to skip all outdoor activity and focus on how to take a break from skiing and maybe even pamper yourself some.
A massage at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa:
If you’re with your significant other, we suggest a massage for two The Bonnie and Clyde, or the Bonnie and Bonnie or the Clyde and Clyde. “Team up for the perfect couple’s treat. You’ll make a clean getaway after a dual rubdown in our relaxing couple’s suite.” Followed by dinner for two at the Ranch House Restaurant & Saloon.
Visit: Devil’s Thumb Ranch
Bowling and a movie at The Foundry Cinema & Bowl:
You can’t go wrong with a night of bowling and a movie! And guess what? You can bring your adult beverage into the movie theater for the movie. Try one of their signature wood-fired pizzas! My personal favorite is, “The Wise Guy” which is topped with imported smoked mozzarella, caramelized onion, and sweet fennel sausage.
Visit: The Foundry Cinema & Bowl
Swimming at the Grand Park Recreation Center:
This one doesn’t need much explanation, they also have a sauna, steam room, hot tub, lazy river, waterslide, and the whole family will enjoy a day in the water!
Visit: Grand Park Recreation Center
Catch a live band at one of the local bars:
Here’s the shortlist:
- Ullr’s Tavern
- Tin Cup Tavern
- Fishers Bar
- The Pub
Craft day at the YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch:
Fun day at the YMCA for the family, you’ll need to have your own transportation for this as the local buses don’t run to the YMCA. The craft shop has lots to for the kids including: glass fusion, copper enamel, jewelry making, make your own tie-dye shirt and more!
Visit: YMCA at Snow Mountain Ranch
I hope you enjoy a few of my top things to do Winter Park Colorado besides ski.
Three reasons to book a nightly rental is another good read for visitors! Click here to read
Visit Winter Park Lodging
Christmas time in the Rockies is one of the best ways to spend with Family and Friends (including your furry family members.) Some of us who live in the Fraser Valley could tell you it didn’t feel like the Holidays until just right up to Christmas Eve. Christmas at Winter Park Resort was not only a magical this year but filled with adventures (and not just skiing and snowboarding).
Towards closing time, as you walk through the Village at Winter Park Resort you got a sense of the Christmas spirit-Families exchanging their day’s adventures but the fire circles, children, and adults ice skating on the frozen pond and traditional stories from Santa Claus himself. Christmas carolers also stay warm by the fire while spreading Christmas cheer and Yuletide Greetings!
As the evening went on and it began to get dark, the Village at Winter Park Resort lit up with dazzling lights getting everyone excited for what comes next – The Torchlight Parade! Torchlight Parade is everyone’s favorite and filled with Christmas spirit.
A succession of torch-bearing skiers and riders got to zig-zag down Lower Hughes illuminating a beautiful red spiral followed by our honorable snowcats that were lit up with multi-color lights creating the effect of a visual Christmas tree pursued by Santa Claus and his merry helpers.
The spectral firework display also complemented this traditional event as everyone cheered and gazed while Christmas Eve finally arrived.
Locals and Visitors make this event a part of their family traditions. If you have never experienced this event, we highly recommend it for next year!
Besides the Festivities, the best Christmas gift of all?
This year we all got the best Christmas gift of all, lots of Snow! Visitors and locals alike enjoyed the new snow that started the evening of the 23rd.
This best Christmas gift allowed new runs to open like-Balch, Bradley’s Bash, Gambler, and Races & Eights! A number of trails in Mary Jane and Vasquez Territories opened as well. Christmas Day brought us 9″ in 24hrs and 18″ in the last 48hrs. If you were lucky enough to receive this gift from mother nature, we would love to hear about your experience!
Drop In and Huck Yourself HUGE!
In just the past 30 years, terrain parks have grown to keep up with the sport of snowboarding, and Winter Park has been on that cutting edge. When snowboarding first came onto the resort scene in the 1980s, terrain parks were non-existent, and even small lips and bumps were “safely” mowed down by patrol to keep anyone from attempting a jump.
Then came the freestyle revolution of the 90s, fueled by the X Games and major-media coverage. Larger resorts began to compete with each over who had the biggest kickers, the gnarliest rails, and the best halfpipe; their view of freestyle features began to change from liabilities to cash cow$. Terrain park specialists emerged from within the snowboard ranks to become the mad scientists of a whole new profession: creating features and courses that were huge and exciting, but relatively safe. These experts were eventually paid handsomely to design the finest parks, pipes, and Olympic freestyle venues. Snow-cat and grooming also helped parks explode in popularity by creating stunning 80-foot jumps and 22-foot “Superpipes.”
Avoiding the Overhype
Winter Park Resort began emerging as a freestyle powerhouse about 13 years ago, coming out of nowhere to ranking in the top ten for parks in the U.S. But the competition has changed somewhat since then.
Sure, there are still the Super-Mega-Parks – the Vails, the Brecks, the Park Cities – and then there are the parks that are just plain fun, where the features rarely have lines and the atmosphere is chill and unintimidating. Winter Park’s terrain parks are designed to take you step-by-step from Goob Stage to Dark Territory, if your knees are solid and you want it bad enough. Or they can take you to whatever level electrifies you as you sail downhill.“We take a different approach to creating our parks,” explains Bob Holme. “We’re designing parks with flow and fun instead of focusing entirely on gnarly.”
Holme manages the resort’s seven winter terrain parks; the summer Trestle Bike Park; the strategic alliances and corporate sponsorships; and the Colorado Freeride Festival (the nation’s largest freeride mountain bike festival that has put Winter Park on the map for freestyle mountain biking).
A Colorado native, he’s been instrumental in taking the resort’s freestyle program – summer and winter – to a whole new level. Holme combined his athletic background with marketing and finance degrees plus 27 years of snowboarding into a unique job. A former Nordic Olympic ski jumper and stuntman, he took on leadership of the resorts’ parks with a vision of offering not only the biggest and the baddest, but also providing innovative pathways for progressing to that level.
Patience, Grasshoppah …
If there is one complaint at the Mega-Parks, it’s the crowds – buttloads of them! There are entire ski schools of 6-year-olds trying their first jumps and rails, die-hard park rats flying down, and photographers all getting in your line or stopping in the most idiotic places!
You will see this circus in full-force on weekends in Ash Cat, Winter Park’s beginner/intermediate park off of Prospector Lift. If you’re a novice in the terrain park, wait, and pay your dues. While you’re waiting in line, watch other riders and notice their speed as they approach and the distance they cover on the landing. Smile, and don’t be in a hurry (i.e. don’t be a jerk).
Sure, you’ll have to wait in line as a dozen rugrats try their first rail … but then, think of the entertainment value! Warren Miller never had it so good! (And somehow these ankle-biters keep getting up with a smile on their face like one of those blowup clowns.) In Ash Cat, you’ll find rails that progress from wide, run-on boxes to flat-downs; and rollers that lead to jumps that lead to small kickers. When you’ve mastered Ash Cat, you’re ready to move up to Rerailer, located between Discovery Lift and Snoasis.
Rerailer has good size booters with gaps that need to be cleared to land safely. If you don’t go fast enough on the take-off, this will cause problems. You could land on the flat gap, which will jar your teeth and joints, but won’t kill you. Or you could land on the “knuckle,” which, speaking as someone who has done this and torn a rotator cuff, should be avoided. If you’re going to do it, go for it! The consequences of not going for it are much worse! The rails in Rerailer are a blast – everything from ride-ons to s-curves to jump-ons – there’s a rail for every level in your group here.
Steppin’ It Up
Which brings us to Rail Yard – Winter Park’s premier advanced park. The Rail Yard is actually four parks in one: Upper Rail Yard (mostly advanced rails and cannons); the halfpipe; lower Rail Yard (more creative hits and rails including a looooong flat-down-flat-down-flat-down-etc.); and Dark Territory (the BIG 40-to-60-foot booters). Rail Yard is designed to allow the advanced rider a smooth descent of Winter Park Mountain through a well-planned and maintained park with surprising features like mushroom or turtle “jibbables.”
Rail Yard provides the advanced rider, who has exceptional skills and coaching, a park that will help him/her transition into a pro. The Winter Park Ski and Snowboard Teams have also helped out in that regard, churning out local stars like Birk Irving and Lydia Silber, who are shooting for the Olympics.
Laying out and taking care of terrain parks may not seem like rocket science, but … it’s even more advanced than that! You have to understand physics to get the right steepness and trajectory on take-offs, and plan the perfect, steep landing that allows for enough run-out after the jump. It takes imagination and a connection to today’s youth to keep a park fresh with new, fun features like A Horse Named Kid; it takes long hours of hard work from the resort’s terrain park crew to keep each take-off and landing “dialed” while maintaining the mellow vibe. The Park Side’s terrain-park-goers are (usually) polite and respectful. They cheer on little dudes, and (usually) don’t snake the line.
But that kind of self-policing didn’t happen by accident. In keeping with the railroad theme of Winter Park’s terrain parks, Dark Territory requires that a skier/rider understand the basic terrain park code of respect – basic freestyle park manners, if you will. (A Dark Territory was an area along the railroad system ruled by strict guidelines of conduct, etiquette, and honor. When the rules were not followed, derailments and head-on collisions happened.) The Dark Territory pass can be acquired for free in the pass office simply by watching a short video and signing a waiver. (Under 18 must have a parent on-site to sign.)
The safest way to enjoy the freestyle action in Dark Territory is from the deck of Snoasis with a beer in your hand. You can always progress a little each time you hit the hill, but, let’s be honest, only a few of us were meant for 60-foot booters. And that’s what DT is – built for the blessed few who are at that level; and visible for all to see what the top up-and-coming skiers and riders are pulling off these days.
If you venture into the parks, Don’t Be That Guy That:
- Stands on/near the landing, taking pictures – totally unaware of the uphill traffic.
- Wrecks on a jump or rail, and lies there spouting drama instead of getting out of the way. Unless you’re unconscious or seriously injured, crawl (with all your gear) to safety or get someone to flag the uphill jumpers.
- Takes little kids in the big parks. Sure, it’s fun for kids to see it all up close, but it’s just not that safe (unless that little puke happens to be a Certified Freestyle Badass, where, in that case, the grommet is welcome.)
- Does jumps off the sides of take-offs. Those take-offs are built to perfection, and if they keep getting clipped from the side, they require more maintenance.
- Tries to get up-close shots with a pocket camera. Stand a good distance away and use a telephoto. Or better yet, put a GoPro on your helmet and do it yourself.
- Stops in the middle of the halfpipe to readjust a mitten or check a phone. Get in, get out, Bro. Don’t mess up the rhythm of the people behind you.
- Loudly drops the F Bomb in the park and the lift line. Come on, dude. There’s little kids everywhere! Buy a Thesaurus and learn some new words.
- Has a bad case of “Plumber’s Crack” every time he/she goes for a grab. Have a little class out there, ok?
Cindy is a writer and photographer who has lived at the top of the Rockies for over three decades. She was the USASA Overall National Snowboarding Champion for many consecutive years with gold medals in Boardercross, Slopestyle, Superpipe, Giant Slalom and Slalom.
Updated The Winter Park Express Ski Train came back into operation in 2017 but due to the Covid 19 pandemic the Winter Park ski train suspended service for the 2020/21 season.
While the Winter Park Ski Train is not currently operating (at least not when this article was posted, December 2015) it has transported many happy skiers and snowboarders. If you ever wanted to know more about the historic Ski Train, this article is a must-read!
Starting in 1940, the Ski Train carried skiers from Union Station in Denver to the base of Winter Park Resort. The Ski Train gained 4,000 feet in elevation over the course of its 2 hour 15 minute trek. This gave passengers the opportunity to converse, sight-see and relax while avoiding the hazards and weekend traffic of I-70. The Ski Train also made one stop at Rocky Flats to pick up/drop off more passengers.
The Ski Train was capable of carrying 750 people in 14 cars: 8 Coach cars, 1 Retreat class car, 3 Club Class cars and 2 Cafe Lounge cars, with 3 locomotives. En route, the Ski Train went through 30 tunnels including the Moffat Tunnel, which is over 6 miles long and the highest railroad tunnel in the U.S.!
During the 1950s and 1960s, the Ski Train often carried members of the Eskimo Ski Club on its 56 mile voyage. The Eskimo Club is a historic program for kids ages 9-17 who are interested in learning how to ski and ride at Winter Park Resort. Click here for more info.
Sadly, the Ski Train ceased operation in 2009, after over 20 years of economic loss and amid the recession. There was a brief revival of the ski train for 2 days in March, 2015, as part of Winter Park Resort’s 75th anniversary celebration. These 450+ capacity trains sold out in a matter of hours, bringing about renewed interest in the future of the Ski Train!
Over the past few months, Winter Park Resort, Amtrak and the Union Pacific Railroad have been meeting about the future of the ski train, and word is services MIGHT resume sometime in 2016. Here’s to hoping!