If I look back on where it all started for us…this crazy love of skiing and winter, this is where. Let me tell you about a couple of Midwestern kids that went to college in Colorado and hardly ever skied. When they moved to DC to build their lives together, they voyaged west for annual friend ski trips. A decade later, they returned to Colorado for good, bought a Rocky Mountain Super Pass, took Bob’s Bump Camp at Winter Park/Mary Jane and the rest is history!
Winter Park Resort, celebrating 80 years in operation, is located just 60 miles from Denver – a quick hour and 15 minutes with no traffic. It sits just west of the continental divide and looks north into the beautiful Fraser Valley. One of Winter Park’s best features is the terrain. I think it has some of the most varied offerings for everyone from beginners to those who love the groomers, moguls, glades and terrain parks and everything in between. They have split the mountain into seven territories that span 3,081 acres. Our two personal favorites are Mary Jane (because bumps, duh) and Eagle Wind for it’s glades and back country like feel. New to the mountain? A guided mountain tour will give you a great feel for the layout. I also love a lesson for this.
Have non-skiers venturing up with you? Winter Park offers tubing, snow shoeing, snow cat tours, ice skating or ride the new Gondola to the top and enjoy the views from the Sunspot lodge. Downtown Winter Park (remember, a short bus ride away) offers some cute boutique, yummy food, brewery, distillery and more. Head on to Fraser to their massive tubing hill if you have older kids.
And finally, a Snow Happy Family favorite…the Fraser Valley Recreation Center. It is an amazing facility with a pool and other great activities. It is so great that we plan Friday evenings up there because they offer a kids night out! Four hours of child care, swimming, pizza and a movie. Our kids BEG to go to this. And while the kids are away? We head with our friends to Idilwild Spirits and Distillery for their apps and craft cocktails, then onto Pepe Osaka’s for sushi fish tacos and margs (we may have even been known to just drive up here for a fish taco and bevvie).
Ok, lets talk lodging…I got a little distracted thinking about Mexican-Asian Fusion food and tequila (ok, still distracted and now craving). The resort itself offers a lot of amenities, including lodging from hotel style to condos, restaurants and shopping. The town of Winter Park is about 3 miles further down the road and there is a wide-range of affordable lodging options (we always have great luck with VRBO) with free bus service to the mountain. While parking here is pretty painless, the bus is a breeze, especially with kids. Fraser is also a great place to stay if you’re up here for the weekend and looking for something quiet away from the mountain, but close enough to ski for the day, and also on the bus line.
Now, how do you do this best with kids, whether you are hanging for the day or staying up for the weekend? We have been skiing here with our kiddos since they could walk (or ride in a backpack). If you are up here for the weekend, bus. I can’t stress this enough. Take. The. Bus. It is the best way to limit walking kids and gear any further than you have to. There are wagons to haul tired kids and stuff, but the bus is your shortest line between arrival and skiing and getting outta dodge when the kids are done. You can even hop on the Willie Bus (the ski school bus) to get from the main base of the resort to the buses that head to town. Once you are here, stash your back pack (we love the Deuter Freeride Pro 28L) and brown bag in the Balcony House. Or, wear a backpack with lunch and eat at Snoasis. If you don’t brown bag, or are up here with some friends, treat yourself to Lunch Rock.
If you are driving up for the day, and you can get here early-bird (dawn patrol…so bring breakfast and coffee), park in the Mary Jane lots. The lodge at the base is close and a really chill fun place to hang out. That’s where you can usually find us. But wait, you say, I thought Mary Jane was all about the bumps??? It is, however, you can take the Super Gauge up to Greens and Blues or take a cat track to the Winter Park Base. You’re gonna have to trust me on this one!!
The other really fun thing, especially around the holidays are some of the events, like tree lightings, parades and fireworks. In fact, if you make it up here next week during the Thanksgiving holiday, there is a holiday market and tree lighting. For a full listing of events, click here.
The snow is falling, friends and it’s time to start planning your winter! We really hope we’ll see you up at Winter Park this season…it would make us Snow Happy!!!