Winter Park is where tens of thousands of Coloradans have learned to ski, and the resort has made ski teaching in to a fine art form. Beginners will most likely learn to ski or snowboard on the 25 acre Groswold's Discovery Park which is conveniently located and has its own quad chairlift. The area is fenced off from the rest of the ski area allowing lessons to take place without the distraction of experienced skiers whizzing past. There are more than 30 easy runs up to 7km long to progress on to once you’ve mastered the basics.
There’s lots of variety for regular skiers here with all kinds of descents from fast cruisers to winding technical trails and gladed ski runs. Winter Park has also introduced bowl skiing – usually a preserve of advanced skiers – for intermediates in Parsenn Bowl where there’s a mix of blue (Intermediate) and black graded pisted and unpisted terrain. There is also a NASTAR self-timed race course to test your speed on.
Winter Park has built an increasingly strong reputation for its advanced level terrain which it has expanded over the past ten years. There are around 60 black and double black diamond runs plus 1,332 acres of off-piste terrain.
The resort’s Mary Jane mountain has some of the steepest runs (some mogulled) and chutes in the US, particularly on its (her?) backside. There’s also very steep terrain on the more recently opened Vasquez Cirque. In addition a company called Powder Addiction (+1 (970) 726 9247) offers guided backcountry skiing with a snow cat to get you and up to 11 other people per day back up the mountain. Two guides lead groups through the fresh powder on Jones Pass.
Snowboard / Freestyle Skiing
Winter Park really take their terrain parks seriously with no less than six different parks spread around the ski area, each designed to suit a different taste or ability level.
First timers are likely to ride their first rails and table tops in the suitably titled Starter Park, located just below Snoasis. This has small boxes, rising just a few inches off of the ground and great for those first attempts at riding rails. Next up is Bouncer Park at the base of Winter Park which offers slightly more difficult rails. Ash Cat is the place to go when you want to get your first big airs with mini-jumps and other small to medium sized features. Getting bigger now, Re-railer, is an intermediate park situated east of the Eskimo Express chairlift. It has larger, but not that large, rails and jumps and other features. Winter Park's advanced terrain park is called the Rail Yard. It has a bigger jumps, various rail combinations, jibs and a full scale super pipe. You can go one further still in to Dark Territory, a controlled access area of the Rail Yard, which contains features designed to stretch the most proficient riders.
Cross country skiing is quite big in the area with four different cross country centres offering 220km of trails between them, the largest single area having about 11km. However these are all a short drive from Winter Park Resort itself, where there’s no cross country skiing at nearby centres.
Solvista Basin (+1 (970) 887 2709) has 100km of cross country trails while The Grand Lake Touring Center (+1 (970) 627 8008) has 25km of well-groomed tracked and skating trails with a view of the Never Summer Range for beginner to expert level.
Snow Mountain Ranch/YMCA of the Rockies (+1 (970) 887 2152) and Devil's Thumb Ranch Adventure Center (3530 County Rd 83; +1 (970) 726 8231) are the other two options.
Average Snow And Weather Conditions
Being one of the world’s highest ski areas, Winter Park Resort is a relatively safe bet for snow cover all season long. In fact there’s usually around 30 feet (10 metres) or more of the wonderful light, fluffy powder for which the region is famous. In addition the resort has snowmaking covering 27 key trails and an area of over 300 acres (120 hectares).