Colorado's Winter Park Resort is where many Denver denizens learned to ski, but it's not just a local's hill: It's a full-blown destination resort where the emphasis is squarely on skiing and riding.
There's actually two distinct areas here: Winter Park, with terrific groomers and beginner runs as well as a few more challenging slopes from the higher lifts; and Mary Jane, featuring considerably more advanced terrain as well as some of the best tree skiing in the state. Together they span more than 3,000 skiable acres and 2,610 vertical feet.
Not that there's nothing to do off the hill. There's tubing at the Colorado Adventure Park, and several cross-country areas (including the first-class Devil's Thumb Ranch).
Then there's the snow: Winter Park has been the recipient of more powder than most of its Colorado peers of late, enjoying a state-best 8-inch blizzard last week. And the old reliable La Niña storm track seems to be righting itself after a big pocket of high pressure pushed storms north and south of the central Rockies in December. Now that phenomenon has let up, storms from the Arctic and tropics converged over most of Colorado this week and slammed most of the state's slopes with fresh snow. But where most resorts were getting their first significant snowfall of the new year, Winter Park was getting a nice second helping: another 8 inches.
The locally beloved Ski Train might have stopped running two seasons ago, but Winter Park remains one of the most accessible resorts in Colorado. It's 67 miles from downtown Denver on Amtrak's passenger-rail route, and its location avoids some of the worst ski-traffic bottlenecks on I-70.
What's New at Winter Park Resort
Winter Park reconfigured Village Way for an easier way for beginners to get to the bottom of the mountain. The resort also improved its terrain parks this season, digging in a better and less energy- and water-intensive superpipe. Also new is the "Kids and Adults Max Four PM Lessons," which have a nice late start at 11:45am; and the Burton Experience Snowboard Lounge, where beginners are outfitted with beginner-specific rentals and meet with their instructor to go over the basics before the lesson. Afterwards, they are invited to kick back on the lounge couches to chat about the day.
Best Ski Deals at Winter Park Resort
The resort has picked up the post-Ski Train slack with its Snowball Express packages, starting at about $700 per person for four days of lift tickets, four nights of lodging, and round-trip rail service from stations on Amtrak's California Zephyr route (running from Chicago to California's Bay Area). The resort also has some great "4th Night Free" ski-and-stay deals for as low as $67 per person per night in the base village and $45 per person per night off-resort.
Winter Park Lodging Company is offering a 20% discount for Frommers.com readers until the end of the season; call tel. 888/784-8214 for information or reservations. The company is also offering a "3rd Night Free" deal through Feb. 15 for stays booked by Jan. 31.
The Winter Park Key Card scores you benefits from area merchants with your purchase of lodging.
In conjunction with Steamboat, 100 miles northwest on U.S. 40, Winter Park is selling its 4by40 pass good for two days of lift tickets at each resort for $229 (or $299 with a night of lodging).
Save the Dates
This weekend (Jan. 20-22) is the climax of the Winter Park Winter Carnival. Feb. 11 brings the Hill Climb Classic snowshoe race up the slopes at Winter Park. The tough climb is rewarded with a chili dinner and a party at the Lodge at Sunspot.
The Tabernash Tavern (www.tabernashtavern.com) in Tabernash, about 9 miles north of Winter Park, features a woodsy exterior but a cosmopolitan menu and wine list.