Skiing & Other Winter Activites
Winter Park Resort is one of those rare resorts that seems to have something for everyone. Experts rave about the chutes and steep mogul runs on Mary Jane Mountain and the extreme skiing in the Vasquez Cirque, but intermediates and beginners are well served on other slopes. Moreover, Winter Park is noted for wide-ranging programs for children and those with disabilities.
The resort includes three interconnected mountain areas totaling 141 designated trails on 3,060 acres of skiable terrain. There are 25 lifts, including two high-speed six-passenger chairlifts, seven high-speed express quads, four triples, six double chairs, three surface lifts, and three Magic Carpets. In 2008, the resort opened a new open-air gondola connecting parking lots with the village. The resort rates its trails as 8% beginner, 17% intermediate, 19% advanced, 53% most difficult, and 3% expert only.
Winter Park Resort comprises several distinct areas. Winter Park Mountain has mostly beginner and intermediate terrain. Discovery Park encompasses more than 25 acres of prime beginner terrain. Mary Jane Mountain mainly offers intermediate, most difficult, and expert terrain, best known for its numerous mogul runs. Vasquez Ridge, the resort's third mountain area, has primarily intermediate and most difficult terrain. Fans of tree-line skiing will like Parsenn Bowl, more than 200 acres of open-bowl and gladed-tree skiing that fan out from the summit at North Cone and merge with Mary Jane's Backside. Vasquez Cirque is no place for beginners. It contains steep chutes and gladed pockets for advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders. The five terrain parks at Winter Park are cutting edge, and there is one for every skill level. Rail Yard, consisting of advanced terrain, is considered one of the nation's best.
Annual snowfall at Winter Park averages over 350 inches; this is one of the most consistently snowy resorts in the Rockies. The vertical drop is 3,060 feet, from the 12,060-foot summit off North Cone of Parsenn Bowl. There are about a dozen restaurants and several bars, including a mountaintop restaurant.
Winter Park's impressive Kid's Adventure Junction includes a play area, rental shop, restrooms, and a children's instruction hill. The National Sports Center for the Disabled, founded in 1970, is one of the largest programs of its kind in the world.
Daily lift tickets (2013-14 regular season prices) cost $104 for adults ages 13 to 64, $62 for children 6 to 12, $94 for seniors 65 to 69. Kids under 5 ski free. Full rental packages are available, as are lessons and snowshoe tours.
Winter Park is usually open for skiing from mid-November to mid-April. It's open for summer operations daily from early June until early September. For more information, contact Winter Park Resort, P.O. Box 36, Winter Park, CO 80482 (tel. 970/726-5514, or 303/316-1564; www.skiwinterpark.com). For daily ski reports, call tel. 970/726-7669 or 303/572-7669.
Other Skiing Nearby
Just 78 miles from Denver, SolVista Basin at Granby Ranch, 1000 Village Rd. (P.O. Box 1110), Granby, CO 80446 (tel. 888/850-4615 or 970/887-3384; www.solvista.com), has long been a favorite with parents and kids for its easy access, affordable prices, and family-friendly atmosphere.
The ski area comprises two separate but interconnected mountains. The resort contains 400 acres of skiable terrain, with 38 trails rated 30% beginner, 50% intermediate, and 20% advanced. The longest run is 1 1/2 miles and the vertical drop is 1,000 feet from the top elevation of 9,202 feet. It's served by one high-speed quad, one fixed-grip quad, one triple, one double, and a surface lift. Average annual snowfall is 220 inches, and 60% of the terrain has snow-making, with top-to-bottom coverage on both mountains. Full-day lift tickets (2013–14 prices) cost $59 for adults, $39 for children 6 to 12, $44 for seniors 61 to 69, $10 for those over 69, and are free for kids under 6. A $20 ticket is good only on the beginner lifts.
Totally Tubular -- The Fraser Snow Tubing Hill (behind Kentucky Fried Chicken; tel. 970/726-5954) offers a return to childhood for many adults, as well as a lot of fun for kids (who must be 7 or older to ride alone). A lift pulls you and your big inner tube to the top of a steep hill, and then you slide down, sometimes reaching speeds of 45 mph. Hours Friday through Sunday are from 10am to 10pm, with slightly shorter hours Monday through Thursday, and the tubing hill is open November to April, snow permitting. Rides run about $15 to $20 an hour.
Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing
The outstanding cross-country skiing in the Winter Park area is highlighted by one of the best Nordic resorts in the West. The Devil’s Thumb Nordic Country Center at Devil’s Thumb Ranch ([tel] 970/726-8231 or 970/726-7010 for a trail report; www.devilsthumbranch.com) has more than 62 miles of groomed trails. Full rentals and instruction are available. Day passes are $20 adults, $8 for those 65 and over or 11 and under, and free for guests.
Snow Mountain Ranch–YMCA Nordic Center, on U.S. 40 between Winter Park and Grand Lake ([tel] 888/573-9622; www.ymcarockies.org), has more than 60 miles of groomed trails for all abilities on 5,200 acres. Trail passes cost $15 for adults, and overnight guests and children 5 and under ski free.
All of the above provide snowshoeing opportunities, with rental equipment and guided tours. You can also rent snowshoes and get tips on where to go at Winter Park Sports Shop in Kings Crossing Shopping Center, at the intersection of Winter Park Drive and Kings Crossing Road (tel. 970/726-5554).
Warm-Weather & Year-Round Activities
There are plenty of recreational opportunities in the Arapaho National Forest and Arapaho National Recreation Area. Maps and brochures on hiking, mountain biking, and other activities are available at the Sulphur Ranger District office, P.O. Box 10, 9 Ten Mile Dr., off U.S. 40 about half a mile south of Granby, CO 80446 (tel. 970/887-4100; www.fs.fed.us/r2). The Devil's Thumb Ranch is famous for its numerous recreation packages, including rafting, hiking, and fly-fishing.
Colorado’s longest alpine slide, at 3,030 feet long and with 26 turns, cools summer visitors. Rates Friday through Sunday are $15 for ages 6 and older and $6 for kids 5 and under. For information, contact the Winter Park Resort ([tel] 970/726-1564; www.winterparkresort.com). There is also a climbing wall, scenic chairlift, human maze, zipline, and other diversions for $6 to $15 per ticket. An “Adventure Pass” that runs $49 for all day ($15 for children 5 and under) includes the alpine slide and other activities.
Fraser Valley and surrounding Grand County are renowned among anglers. Head to Williams Fork Reservoir and the Three Lakes District for kokanee salmon, lake trout, brookies, and browns. Fishing ponds stocked with various species are in Fraser, across from the Fraser Valley Center on U.S. 40. The upper pond is reserved for children and people in wheelchairs; the lower pond is open to everyone. Ponds are generally open and stocked by mid-May.
The fly shop at Devil's Thumb Ranch offers guided fly-fishing trips with rates of $375 for two people for a full day.
Local courses include the 27-hole Pole Creek Golf Club, 10 miles northwest of Winter Park on U.S. 40 (tel. 970/887-9195; www.polecreekgolf.com), one of the top mountain courses in the state, with greens fees of $48 to $99 for 18 holes; and Headwaters Golf Course ([tel] 888/850-4615; www.granbyranch.com), with fees of $75 to $90 for 18 holes, or $25 for golfers 17 and under.
Hiking & Backpacking
The nearby Arapaho National Forest and Arapaho National Recreation Area (tel. 970/887-4100) offer miles of hiking trails and plenty of backpacking opportunities. Beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park is less than an hour’s drive north.
Winter Park and the Fraser Valley have won national recognition for their expansive trail system and established race program. Many off-road bike trails connect to the more than 600 miles of backcountry roads and trails in the adjacent national forest. The King of the Rockies Off-Road Stage Race and Festival, held each year in August, is one of the top professional mountain-bike races in America; part of it is run on the 30-mile Tipperary Creek Trail, one of Colorado’s best mountain-bike trails. The Fat Tire Classic in late June is another big mountain-biking event and a big fundraiser for the American Red Cross. Entrants are recommended to be intermediate or advanced bikers or hikers.
Utilizing the Zephyr Express and Olympia Express chairs to access the trails, the Trestle Bike Parkat the Winter Park Resort (tel. 970/726-1564; www.winterparkresort.com) is open daily late June to early August, with adult lift passes running $39 for a full day or $34 for a half-day. Rentals are available, as are combo packages that include a rental and a lift pass.