Award-winning Winter Park
Approximately an hour and a half from the city, Winter Park Resort is the closest major ski resort to Denver International Airport (DEN). And it’s a special one: Winter Park Resort began life nearly 80 years ago and claims the crown of Colorado’s longest continually operated ski resort.
Owned by the city of Denver (but operated by Alterra Mountain Company), Winter Park is one of the few municipality-owned ski resorts in North America. It is also the only ski resort in North America you can take a train straight to. The Winter Park Express operates every Friday-Sunday from January to March, taking passengers from Denver Union Station and dropping them off within steps of the closest chairlift. Combined with the train service from Denver International Airport, visitors to Winter Park can go from plane to slope without ever worrying about renting a car or arranging shuttle service. The service is operated by Amtrak and tickets start a $29 one-way (kids 13 and under are half price) making it as cost effective as it is enjoyable.
Once at the mountain, Winter Park itself is big, with 143 trails over 3,081 acres to suit all skill levels, along with no less than six terrain parks. There’s also a learning zone perfect for beginners called Sorensen Park at the base of the lifts.
While the black diamonds are rarely groomed making them fun for experts ready to tear down moguls, the easier runs at Winter Park are immaculate so beginners won’t find any nasty icy patches or rough spots. Due to its location along the Continental Divide, the resort has one of the best snowfall records in Colorado, with a yearly average of 330 inches. The snow is so light, dry and fluffy, it flatters everyone, and makes for fantastically easy skiing and snowboarding.
The terrain is extensive – with seven distinct territories – and Winter Park Resort offers guided tours for those eager to learn how to navigate their way around and find the best spots – and not only for skiing. It’s particularly good for intermediates, with miles of groomed runs to ski all day long. There are two on-mountain restaurants, Sunspot Lodge, located in the Winter Park Territory, and Lunch Rock, located atop the Mary Jane Territory, that are both ideal spots for skiers of all abilities to meet for lunch. Brilliantly, beginners’ lift passes are included in the price of lessons – and children’s classes have their own dedicated slopes.
Off the mountain, lodgings are available in the nearby towns of Winter Park and Fraser, but one of the most convenient options for families is the car-free Village at Winter Park, at the base of the slopes. The safe, quiet environment is ideal for children, and The Village is home to childcare facilities, which takes babies. If you choose to stay in any of the outlying villages and areas, most hotels and condos have their own shuttles to and from the slopes, and the town of Winter Park operates a free, convenient bus system that can take visitors to dining and shopping options beyond those at the resort.
Winter Park offers a wide range of activities aside from skiing or snowboarding, including tubing, snowshoeing, snowcat tours, snowmobiling and dog-sledding. A range of events are held in the village, many of which are designed speciﬁcally for families and are free, including campﬁre sing-alongs and ice skating. After a full day of exploring, Winter Park also oﬀers a number of on-mountain après-ski options, where visitors can enjoy Colorado-sourced food and drink.
Sunspot Lodge, located on a 10,000 ft perch atop Winter Park Territory, also oﬀers ﬁve-course gourmet dinners each weekend, featuring a spectacular ride in the resort’s new 10-person gondola with wide-ranging views of the Fraser Valley. For maximum value, try a “Winter Park Insider’s Package,” which includes up to 30% discounts on lodging, lift tickets, lessons, and rentals as well as free exclusive experiences like complimentary resort tours and first tracks access.
Winter Park: The lowdown
Resort height: 9,000 ft
Distance from Denver: 90 minutes by train or car (67 miles)
Deals: Winter Park Insider’s Package offers up to 30% off lodging, lifts, lessons, and rentals with complimentary exclusive experiences / Flex Four Lift Ticket-valid four of six days for $349 (includes blackout dates)
Lessons: Ski schools will take children as young as age 3.
Extended childcare: Full- and half-day childcare for kids aged two months to six years is available.