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Chapter two:
Winter Park & Beyond
Visit Winter Park Lodging

Winter Park & Beyond:

Once you arrive here you’ll be magically transported by the “The Lift” not that Lyft Our Lift, to Winter Park & Beyond! Long before the sharing economy exploded The Lift was our private transportation system operated by Winter Park Ski Resort. If you were here prior to 2016, you’ll remember the old school buses that were painted gray, what the locals affectionately called the “prison Buses”. Not because they transported anyone to the lock up, at least not that I know of.

Where is Beyond?

I believe that “beyond” is a nod to Fraser, Colorado’s Leaving Planet Earth signs. Back in the 70’s someone manufactured a sign and put it up under the Fraser Colorado highway sign. The sign was left up for years until someone complained about it. At which point the sign was taken down. A few years ago an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) festival was held in Fraser and the local government put the sign back up for the event. Seems appropriate that if you are having music festival in the middle of winter in what is arguably the icebox of the nation that you would be leaving planet Earth!

We wanted to find out more about the Winter Park & Beyond Transit system and manager Michael Koch was kind enough to take the time and answer some questions for us! Below you’ll find his interview:

An interview with Winter Park Transit Manager Michael Koch

Tell us about yourself and how you ended up in Winter Park?

I worked as a transit consultant for 4 years before applying for my position with the Town of Winter Park.  When the job opened up with the Town of Winter Park for a Transit Manager I saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!  The Town of Winter Park was a client of ours at the time, so I had a good understanding of how the system had been run in the past and ways which I could help the system run more effectively to serve the community.  

I am a big skier, so the Upper Fraser Valley is a dream location to call home.  I’ve been skiing since I was 5 (I grew up 30 mins from Lake Tahoe), I raced on my high school ski team, and I was a ski instructor at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe in college.  I’m excited to help manage and develop this new system in such a beautiful part of my favorite state.

How is the transportation system funded?

The system is funded through a Transit & Trails Tax passed by the residents of Winter Park and Fraser.  We also receive some funding from CDOT and homeowners associations to help supplement our operational costs.  Winter Park Resort also contributes to the system for capital improvements.

What’s the ridership?

During our first year of operating, we have provided over 500,000 rides.  470,000 of those were during the winter months, with the remaining 30,000 rides occurring in the Spring/Fall and Summer season. 

How many buses are needed to run on a typical weekend day?  

14-18 busses are needed to operate fixed routes during the weekend between 7AM – 6PM.  After 6PM, the system is serviced with 5 buses as part of a fixed-route and call-and-ride system.

Can you please describe the different types of buses The Lift incorporates and their uses?

We have 4 different styles of bus:

1.  40-foot Orion (Standard Public Transit Style Bus) – ADA-accessible and operates on our regularly scheduled routes.

2.  30-foot Gillig (Standard Public Transit-Style Bus) – ADA-accessible and operates on our regularly scheduled routes.

3.  40-foot Eldorado (Standard Public Transit-Style Bus) – ADA-accessible and operates on our regularly scheduled routes.

4.  25-foot Body-on-Chassis Shuttle – these are used specifically for our ADA Paratransit service, so also ADA-accessible.

5.  FUTURE:  35-foot Gillig (Standard Public Transit-Style Bus) – ADA-accessible and operates on our regularly scheduled routes. Scheduled to arrive mid-2018

Why does a bus take 18+ months to build? 

There are so few bus manufacturers and such a high demand for new transit buses.  We are expecting to receive our first 2 brand-new Gillig buses sometime in mid-2018.

Tell me about Ride Hop and how to navigate using this mobile app?

RideHop is really useful in planning your trip to the Resort and around the Fraser and Winter Park area.  You can download the app at the Google Play or Apple Store.  Once the app is downloaded, you input the ride code:  “lift”.  You can go out to your nearest bus stop and the routes that service that stops are listed on the physical sign itself.  You can also visit www.theliftwp.com and view the map of the entire system and find your location on the map from there via the app, you can see the real-time location of buses in the system.

Talk about the marketing efforts behind the new designs? 

The new marketing design was a collaborative effort supported by the Transit Advisory Committee and the Winter Park Town Council.  We contracted with Studio Six Designs to gather stakeholder feedback through a Community Transit Design Committee, which led to the designs we now see throughout the system (buses, signage, website, etc.).  We’re really appreciative of the efforts of the stakeholder group, and we hope that they stay involved in the future.

The four seasons and angles are certainly represented in the design of the bus wraps, quite the departure from the gray prison looking buses. Love them!

Is the system capable of serving more than the Fraser Valley and at what cost? 

The system is scalable; however, service to new areas will require investment from those being served to cover the cost (which at this point cannot be defined, as it would require new rolling stock, drivers, administration, and other costs).  We are focused on fixing the existing system and making it run safely and efficiently in Fraser and Winter Park.

If I wanted to jump on the bus from my rental condo in upper ptarmigan go skiing for the day, stop for a cocktail at the Deno’s after skiing, get groceries for dinner back at my condo and then go out for a movie at the Foundry and get back to my condo after hours and use only the transportation system what would my steps need to be? Would I have to call if its 1:00 in the morning when I decide to come home?

You can absolutely accomplish this schedule with our transit system.  All of the information you need to schedule your trip can be found on our website – www.theliftwp.com.  All of the locations you note are served by public transit, which may be in the form of either fixed-route service or call-and-ride service.  For late night service, call 970.726.4163 to schedule call-and-ride transit in both Fraser and Winter Park. – below are the steps for your itinerary (assuming this is a weekend):

1. Download the app the night before Search for The Lift Rider

2. Wake up and look at The Lift Rider on your phone to view the Purple Line/Fraser Cirque Express for your express bus to the Resort.  Before the bus gets to the top of Wapiti Drive, head to the Fox Run stop.

3. Enjoy your ride on the Purple Line/Fraser Cirque Express route to the Resort

4. After your day of skiing, you can board the Black, Red or Blue line to get to Deno’s – your stop will be “Main at Vasquez”

5. After you leave Deno’s you can walk back to the “Main at Vasquez” bus stop and board the Black Line.  For less waiting time in the cold, watch for the Black Line on your phone via RideHop.  When it looks like it is a few minutes away, head to your stop.   This will line will drop you off right near the entrance to Safeway.

6. While you are shopping at Safeway, you can view the real-time location of the Purple Line/Fraser Cirque, which will be your connection back to your condo in upper Ptarmigan.  

7. To get to the Foundry for your movie, call the Night Lift at 970.726.4163 and request a pick-up at your nearest bus stop (in your case, the Fox Run stop).  

8. Depending on ridership that evening, you may get a direct ride to the nearest stop to the Foundry (Rec Center or Kings Crossing Ctr, your choice), OR the Purple Line/Fraser Cirque may transfer you to the Black Line which can get you to those same stops.

9. After your movie, you can call for your ride home!

Finally, what’s new for this season?

We have extended hours (the bus now runs until 2 AM), the new rider app, a new fleet of safe, comfortable buses that are ADA accessible, improved signage and mapping with more information on them, and much, much more.

Fun Facts:
  1. Census information
    Population: 993 sources: US Census estimate
    Median Household Income: $74,167 American Community Survey 2010-2014
    Median housing value: $376,500 American Community Survey
  2. Who owns Winter Park?
    Winter Park was opened in the 1939/40 season by the City of Denver Colorado. The City of Denver entered a partnership with Intrawest, ULC, a Canadian Corporation in 2002 which operated the Winter Park Ski Resort until this year, Winter Park Resort was purchased by the family that owns Aspen Skiing Co. With Denver’s KSL Capital Partner and the new Ownership, the name is Alterra Mountain Co.
  3. What is the Elevation of Winter Park?
    The town of Winter Park is located at an elevation of 9,100 feet.
    The Winter Park Ski Resort climbs to 10,700 feet and beyond there…
    The top of Panoramic is at an elevation of 12,060 feet

Read Chapter One: Planes, Trains and Automobiles here!

Chapter one:
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
A First Timer’s Guide to Winter Park, Colorado

Updated: Updated article October 2018, First published in 2015
A First Timer’s Guide to Winter Park, Colorado
Getting Here: 

Planes, Trains & Automobiles is one of my favorite movies of all times. Released in 1987 (probably before you were born) this movie stars Steve Martin and John Candy. The storyline revolves around Neal Page (Steve Martin) who only wants to get home in time for Thanksgiving. Neal is thrown into Del Griffith (The late great John Candy) life because of bad weather and worse luck. The two travel from New York to Chicago and as their adventure comes together Neal discovers more about humanity and life from charismatic Del.

From the movie:

State Trooper: What the hell are you driving here?
Del: We had a small fire last night, but we caught it in the nick of time.
State Trooper: Do you have any idea how fast you were going?
Del: Funny enough, I was just talking to my friend about that. Our speedometer has melted, and as a result, it’s very hard to see with any degree of accuracy exactly how fast we were going.

Your adventure to Winter Park should be easier, and we hope you discover a little about humanity & life along with your journey in our First Timer’s Guide to Winter Park, Colorado.

If you’re flying in from out of state and arrive at Denver International Airport you can rent a car and drive up, take local transportation service like Home James or Colorado Tour Transportation, or you can take public transportation from DIA to Union Station in downtown Denver and ride the Amtrak Ski Train (the Winter Park Express) to Winter Park, Colorado.

Winter Park Resort is only 89 miles from Denver International Airport.

 

Like my tie to Planes, Trains & Automobiles there?

Once you get here, public transportation is available. Click here for a map of the Winter Park Bus Schedule.

Fun Facts:
  1. The Town of Winter Park, Colorado is relatively new, having only been incorporated August 1, 1978. Winter Park comes from humble beginnings, the town was originally the village of Hideaway Park. More about Hideaway park below.
  2. Linus Oliver “Doc” Graves family moved to the Fraser Valley in 1922 to open a drugstore in Tabernash, Colorado. Tabernash is located just 12 miles north of Winter Park on Highway 40. When the Moffat tunnel was built in 1928 the road over Rollins Pass was no longer needed. Lumber production came to a screeching halt in the Tabernash area and the Graves Family moved their Drugstore south to the Town of Fraser, Colorado. The Town of Fraser is the Northern boundary of the Town of Winter Park. Some tourists don’t even know they’ve left Winter Park and entered Fraser.
  3. With the expansion of Victory Highway (U.S. Highway 40) which expanded in the town of Fraser, the Graves were uprooted and closed their drugstore. The highway expansion ran right through the middle of their building. The Graves family then purchased a few acres south of Fraser and built cabins that hosted travelers, hunters and early vacationers to the Fraser Valley. They named their lodging community Hideaway Park.
  4. Winter Park, Colorado is the highest incorporated town in the United States: Although the town center is at about 9,000 feet, Winter Park, using administrative boundaries as a measure, became the highest incorporated town in the United States after the July 2006 annexation of 5,214 acres (21.10 km2) of Winter Park Ski Resort to allow new on-mountain improvements. Source: Wikipedia
Where to stay:

So you want to know where to stay on your first trip to Winter Park. There’s just about every option and price range for your next stay in Winter Park. Depending on your budget you can stay on the low by booking a studio condo if the whole family is making the trip you might want to upgrade to an entire house.

There are luxury houses you can book that feature 10 plus bedrooms. We have homes in Rendezvous, and downtown Winter Park that sleeps 10, search our Winter Park Vacation Rentals.

You can save tons of money if you’re on a budget by staying further away from the resort. The town of Fraser features really nice lodging that you can book at a fraction of the cost to be on the mountain.

 

Hideaway Park:

You’ll still see the name Hideaway Park where the Town of Winter Park is located now on older maps.

Hideaway Park downtown Winter Park, Colorado.

Hideaway Park downtown Winter Park, Colorado.

Hideaway Park today is a park located in the downtown area of Winter Park. Hideaway Park is the location of many of the Fraser Valley summer concert series, like Solshine Festival, Blues from the Top, Winter Park Music Festival, Jazz Festival and many more small concerts. In fact, the Town of Winter Park commissioned the building of a permanent stage that will host year-round activities.

Take a hike:

A must in the summer to walk, bike, hike, and skate down the Fraser River Trail, during the winter this same trail is groomed for cross-country skiing. The Fraser River trailhead is located at Winter Park Ski Resort. The trail follows the Fraser River to the Town of Fraser and ends at The Fraser Outdoor Activity Center which houses Headwaters Trails Alliance. You can continue along the trail which is now called the Fraser to Granby Trail but the grooming ends at this area. The trail from the Winter Park Resort to The Fraser Outdoor Activity center is approximately 6 miles and mostly downhill from the resort.

The nom nom’s
  1. Sharky’s Eatery: You’ve got to stop by Sharky’s Eatery in Fraser, a must for the First Timer’s Guide to Winter Park Colorado! We love their Colorado green chili smothered breakfast burritos! Sharky’s is located in Fraser, Colorado at 221 Doc Susie Avenue. If you show up on a weekend you’ll likely be waiting in line, it’s that good!
  2. Elevation Pizza: Got to have pizza when you’re on vacation, my favorite is the SMOP from Elevation Pizza. SMOP is an acronym for sausage, mushroom, onion and pepperoni. Elevation Pizza is locally owned by an awesome family that continually gives back to the community.  So not only do I think they have the best pizza in the area but a portion of your money will likely be given back to the community.  Karma my friends! Also located in Fraser, in the Murdoch’s shopping center, and you can stop by and say hello to us! Our office is located on the second level above Elevation Pizza.
  3. Tabernash Tavern: For dinner, I’m going to take you further north to the Town of Tabernash where you’ll find the Tabernash Tavern. This fine dining establishment offers up an international mix of appetizers, entrees, soups salads, and desserts. All inspired creations from Executive Chef Alberto Sapien.The menu changes seasonally so I’m not going to recommend a specific dish. The Tabernash Tavern is located at 72287 US Highway 40, Tabernash, CO 80478 Phone: 970-726-4430

 

The nightlife:

The Foundry Cinema & Bowl is the only movie theater and bowling alley in the county and is actually located in the Town of Fraser but you’d never know you’ve left Winter Park. The movie theater has two screens and there are eight lanes of bowling. The ladies room is themed in Marilyn Monroe motif with hot pink underlit counters and a large painting of Marilyn.

A must do:

If you do nothing else visit Winter Park Resort, because you’re probably reading this blog to know more about world-class skiing and downhill mountain biking.

Winter Park Resort and downtown

Winter Park Resort and downtown

So let’s talk about it.

Winter Park Ski Resort is a world class resort with more than a million skier visits per year. The Resort features 3,081 skiable acres, 143 designated trails and 1,212 acres of off-site terrain which includes Vasquez Cirque and glade skiing. The Winter Park Ski Resort also features 25 chairlifts and an average yearly snowfall of over 350”. So why wouldn’t you make Winter Park your next ski vacation

So you can see from my post that the First Timer’s Guide to Winter Park, Colorado is more about a community than just one town. That’s what we are here in the Fraser Valley, in my opinion, the Best Community there is.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in this series of a First Timer’s Guide to Winter Park Colorado.

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 crowdsbuttloads 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.)

Deckchair View

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:

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.