Best Bang for Your Buck

Opened to the public in the 1939-40 season, Winter Park has been a major player in the American ski scene for quite some time.

Winter Park was once the City of Denver’s idea for a literal “winter park” for its residents. Though, the Winter Park we know and love today isn’t much of a “park” at all! Nowadays visiting Winter Park means access to thousands of acres of high elevation, lift serviced skiing!

Winter Park is known for having successfully cultivated a down-to-earth and unpretentious culture while also continually modernizing and updating the resort. In fact, Winter Park has been called one of America’s best ski resorts by many!

This is due largely to a combination of the rich history, the terrain, and the fun and family friendly culture of the Ski Area!

Home to beginners and Olympians alike, Winter Park is a great place to cut your teeth on Colorado skiing!

4.3

Things we like:

  • check-mark
    Winter Park is a very family-friendly resort.
  • check-mark
    The beginner terrain is great! Winter Park offers some runs with over 2,000 feet of vertical drop, all on green terrain.
  • check-mark
    Nearby towns of Winter Park and Fraser offer affordable lodging alternatives to staying on-mountain.
  • check-mark
    Relatively large ski area, with over 3,000 acres of terrain.
  • check-mark
    Down-to-earth ski culture at the resort.
  • check-mark
    Ikon Pass access.

Things we don't like:

  • check-markAprés options are limited, Winter Park isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for a party!
  • check-markCrowds flock to Winter Park, given its close proximity to Denver.
  • check-markWinter Park, as with other CO resorts, is extremely expensive at the window.
  • check-markThe Ikon Pass brings the Ikon crowds, unfortunately, this is unavoidable.
  • check-markThose same crowds can cause hotels to fill up quickly.
  • check-markExpert terrain is limited.
  • check-markMary Jane is renowned for being intensely difficult, some will love it, and some will hate it!

Where to Book:

Winter Park Resort For Beginners

Winter Park Resort 2023 Guide

Resort Profile:

  • Lift System: 23 incl. 1 gondola, 9 high-speed chairs, 9 fixed-grip chairs, 3 surface lifts, 1 rope tow.
  • Avg. Snowfall: 370 inches
  • Season: early-Nov to mid-May
  • Runs: 167
  • Beginner: 8%
  • Intermediate: 18%
  • Advanced: 19%
  • Most Difficult: 52%
  • Expert: 3%
  • Vertical: 9,000 - 12,060 ft
  • Kids Ski School: from 4-14 years old.
  • Accommodations: Multiple hotels and rentals located in the towns of Fraser and Winter Park and at the Base Village.
  • Daycare: Onsite
See the complete list of the best Ski Resorts here!

Resort

Winter Park receives an average of 370 inches of snow per year. This is a bit more than the average of many Colorado resorts. The resort sits at a high elevation which keeps the snow cold and low moisture, meaning the powder days are epic.

The terrain is spread out across two major peaks, Winter Park and Mary Jane, and totals at 3081 acres. By any measure, that’s a big ski area! When it comes to terrain, Winter Park is known for being multifaceted.

This is because the mountain is spread out across 2 main peaks, with seven “territories” to ride in, and two separate base areas. You can check out their online quiz to find the best territory for you!

Winter Park Resort

Looking at the two main peaks, we have Winter Park and Mary Jane. The former – Winter Park, is best known for its beginner and intermediate terrain. While the latter – Mary Jane, could aptly be called a soul-crushingly difficult mountain.

The Winter Park side of the mountain is designated at roughly 30% beginner terrain. Riders will be able to find long, wide, and mellow runs they can enjoy. With multiple ways to get down the mountain from almost any point, you never have to worry about getting stuck somewhere that’s too difficult either! You can almost always find an easy way down.

Beginner trails are accessible off of all the Winter Park side lifts, including long greens that take you from the top to the base, like Whistlestop or Village Way! It’s uncommon to find beginner runs from peak areas like this, making Winter Park an attractive option for new riders.

Moving up to the intermediate and advanced terrain is where Winter Park really shines. One thing people love about Winter Park is that the intermediate terrain isn’t just made up for “steeper than the greens” style groomers. Intermediate riders will find highly variable terrain options that range from fast and manicured groomers, to open bowls, and even intermediate glades.

True expert riders will probably be a little let down by the selection of intense terrain at Winter Park. Overall, the mountain caters best to intermediate and advanced riders, with only a small portion of the terrain being truly expert-level riding.

Of course, that’s not to say Winter Park doesn’t have a selection of tough terrain. Have you heard the phrase “No pain, no gain.”? At Winter Park they say “No pain, no Jane.”

Winter Park Resort Mary Jane

This is a reference to the cult-classic moguls in the Mary Jane territory. We’re not talking intermediate bumps – Mary Jane serves up a quad-busting bunch of mogul runs, some of which are said to be filled top-to-bottom with moguls the size of VW Bugs!

If none of that is your jam and you’re looking for a park to show your freestyle skills, Winter Park is a good place to visit! Amongst the seven territories are seven terrain parks. Ranging in size from small to large, and in difficulty from beginner to expert, there’s a terrain park for everyone at Winter Park.

Total beginners can start out at the Bouncer or Starter Parks, while experts can head to the Railyard or Dark Territory Parks. If you think you’ve got what it takes, plan ahead! Dark Territory has features so large and advanced that an additional pass is required to use this park!

Winter Park also has the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD), which has one of the premier accessible skiing programs in the country. They offer programs to assist with accessible alpine skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and more. Essentially all forms of winter sport are made accessible to those with disabilities through the NSCD, which is a benefit not all resorts have! Make sure to book well in advance as the program is popular.

Getting There

Winter Park is located just 66 miles northwest of Denver, off Highway 40. This means your drive is only around an hour and a half from the city if you’re lucky enough not to have traffic! If you’re flying into the Denver International Airport, approximately 90 miles from the resort, the drive is only slightly longer at around 1 hour and 45 minutes.

We all know how much of a hassle renting a car can be, though. If you’d like to avoid the trouble, there is a shuttle service to Winter Park from the airport. There’s also the Winter Park Express Amtrak train that runs from Denver directly to the resort!

Winter Park Resort Gettting There

Accommodations

A nice feature of visiting Winter Park Resort is that you’ve got the nearby towns of Fraser and Winter Park to stay in, not just the Base Village!

The first choice would be to stay in the Base Village of Winter Park. There are four village lodges, all of which provide easy access to the slopes. The Zephyr Mountain Lodge has the best access, being only 110 feet from the gondola! These slope-side options are pretty vogue, so availability is often limited in the winter season, and as you would expect – the price tag matches the location.

For more plentiful choices, you can opt to stay in the town of Winter Park itself. It’s just a few miles away, and shuttles are available to get you to and from the slopes, making this a great option for families.

The last option is the town of Fraser, Colorado. Just a couple more miles past the town of Winter Park, this town has some options for affordable lodging from local and national-chain hotels. As with the town of Winter Park, Fraser is also serviced by a shuttle system that takes you to and from the mountain.

Now for a moment of honesty: While Winter Park does have a fair few options for lodging near the resort, the popularity of the resort given its proximity to Denver means those options fill up fast. As the world of skiing grows in popularity and becomes ever more expensive, cheap options tend to fill up quickly.

Last-minute booking, or simply rolling into town and seeing what you find may leave you with only the most expensive options to choose from.

Winter Park Resort Accommodations

Facilities

Compared to some of the more glamorous resorts in Colorado, the Winter Park base village is humble. That’s not to say that it isn’t nice, it certainly is, and it’s quickly expanding!

Similarly discussed in the Aprés section, a plan to expand Winter Park is in the works. Though this plan remains unapproved, should it go through, expect to see Winter Park expand with new businesses and amenities!

The Base Village has everything you could need. Shopping options include everything from outdoor gear retailers like The North Face and Burton to a mercantile store offering groceries and souvenirs. Though it should be said – shopping options aren’t as numerous (or high-end) as in the villages of Vail and Aspen.

If you’re looking for activities that aren’t skiing, you can try your hand at ice skating, take a snowcat tour, snowshoe under the stars, or take a scenic gondola ride!

winter-park-resort-facilities

Access to amenities like spas is slightly more limited, but you’ll be happy to know that after a long day of skiing, you can relax at one of Winter Park’s highest-rated spas: Alpenglow Massage.

Lodging amenities are largely dependent on where you choose to stay. Base village lodging options all come equipped with complimentary ski storage, hot tubs, and laundry facilities at your disposal!

Families and Kids

Winter Park is a very family-friendly resort!

Winter Park offers a variety of terrain that can satisfy every member of the family! From the experts to the beginners, there’s no shortage of riding options in the seven territories. This is bolstered by Winter Park’s ski school, which offers lessons to kids from the ages of 4 to 14. You can leave your kids with professional instructors to learn the ropes while you get out and get some turns in!

Beyond skiing, there’s a multitude of activities at Winter Park to keep the family occupied. From ice skating and winter tubing to ski bikes and snowcat tours!

If you’re visiting with the family in tow, having Fraser and Winter Park nearby, in addition to the base village, is a big benefit. Skiing with the whole family can be expensive when the only option for lodging is exorbitantly priced slope-side condos. The nearby towns offer a variety of affordable hotel options as well as a wide range of restaurants and activities.

Winter Park is also home to a large YMCA complex that has over 5,000 acres of terrain to explore. This is a great option for families as it provides a large selection of affordable cabins and yurts to stay in, with the benefit of nearby activities like nordic skiing, snowshoe and snowmobile tours, and even skijoring lessons! If you’re visiting with a family whose sole focus isn’t crushing laps at the resort, checking out the YMCA facility in Winter Park is worth your time!

Winter Park Resort Ski Doo

If you’re looking for daycare, Winter Park offers an onsite daycare for children 3 months to 6 years of age at the Winter Park Early Education center. Operating hours are from 8AM to 4PM. Online information seems to be a bit limited for this daycare center, so it’s best to call ahead to confirm availability!

For Beginners

Many Colorado resorts get the reputation of not being good for beginners. This couldn’t be further from the truth at Winter Park!

When looking at the trail map, the Winter Park Peak side of the resort is nearly 30% beginner trails, so you’ll have a lot of options! The base area has a magic carpet and bunny hill, perfect for those who have never skied or snowboarded before. Once you’re ready to tackle something bigger, you can start with the Gemini Express. This will get you to some more green trails that feel more like an actual ski run!

Heading up the Gemini Express will also allow you to access some lifts that will take you even higher up the mountain, but still providing easy access to greens.

Beginners that are truly ready to take on Winter Park can get almost all the way to the top of the mountain via the High Lonesome Express. From here you can take trails like Whistlestop, which offers 2000+ feet of green terrain!

If you’re not ready to venture off on your own yet, fear not, Winter Park has a ski school that offers adult ski lessons! Adult lessons are offered to everyone 15 years of age and older, and can be taken in a group or private lesson setting. You can even opt to save yourself a bit of cash overall and snag a Lesson 5 Pack.

Winter Park Resort For Beginners

For Snowboarders

Snowboarders are allowed and welcome at Winter Park! It’s known for being a great mountain for snowboarders, with a plethora of wide runs that are perfect for carving on a snowboard. Mary Jane offers the option of more difficult riding in powder-filled glades for more experienced snowboarders.

Snowboarders will also enjoy the wide variety of terrain parks available, which includes a half-pipe!

Long story short: don’t let your snowboard stop you from checking out Winter Park!

Winter Park Resort For Snowboarders

Aprés-Ski

If you’re looking for a wild ride, not counting the moguls at Mary Jane, Winter Park probably isn’t your best option. The mountain aprés is good, but not the best in Colorado. Most aprés options are kept pretty tame.

Winter Park puts on a mountaintop aprés at the Sunspot Mountaintop Lodge every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night from 4-7PM with live music! The whole family can join in on this one, as it’s free to take the gondola up to the lodge after 4PM!

Expect to keep your aprés to relaxed nights at some of the great local restaurants and breweries, like Hideaway Brewery or Big Trout Brewing Company.

Times could be changing in Winter Park, though! A recently announced, but not yet approved plan, to expand Winter Park could make it the third-largest ski area in Colorado.

This 10-15 year plan would drastically revamp the mountain town, bringing in new business and aprés options. It’s not out of the question to see Winter Park become one of the most popular spots in Colorado aprés in the future!

Winter Park Resort Apres Ski

The Bottom Line

All things considered, Winter Park is worth the visit. The quality and expansiveness of the terrain and the down-to-earth culture of the resort alone make it worth the trip, though there are some caveats.

The proximity to Denver makes Winter Park a very enticing trip, especially when you consider the benefit of an Amtrak train ride directly to Winter Park. Overall, access to Winter Park is a breeze compared to other Colorado resorts.

At Winter Park, you can find great riding for beginner, intermediate, and advanced riders. The only letdown here is that true experts will probably find the resort a bit tame for their liking. That being said, it’s almost impossible to ski Mary Jane without stopping to catch your breath, so if you’re finding the Winter Park side a bit too mild, give Mary Jane a shot.

On the topic of affordability, the accessibility of nearby towns for lodging, purchasing necessities, and eating out are huge bonuses. Though, as discussed, Winter Park often fills up fast during peak season dates and weekends. While the towns of Fraser and Winter park can offer affordable options, it’s not a guarantee of budget digs by any measure. Be sure to plan ahead, and do so well in advance, if you hope to find affordable options.

We can’t ignore the fact that at-the-window ticket prices are very expensive. This isn’t a detracting factor from Winter Park, however, as wallet-gouging prices seem to be the norm nowadays.

You could save yourself some cash on tickets and score Ikon Passes at early season sale prices, as Winter Park is on the Ikon Pass. If you’re planning a multi-day visit, getting the Ikon Pass is a wise choice financially. The Ikon Pass is a pro and a con when coupled with the proximity of Winter Park to Denver.

While the Ikon Pass does make for savings on ticket prices for longer trips, it also brings the Ikon Pass crowds. Don’t expect to be getting many fresh tracks on powder days. Visitors can also purchase early access to be the first on the mountain, meaning there will be people getting powder laps before you can even get on the lift. It goes without saying you can avoid crowds by planning your visit midweek, and avoiding peak dates like those around Christmas and spring break.

Overall, if you plan smart and plan ahead to avoid crowds and save some money, Winter Park is more than worth your while!

Related Reviews

4.3

Things we like:

  • check-mark
    Winter Park is a very family-friendly resort.
  • check-mark
    The beginner terrain is great! Winter Park offers some runs with over 2,000 feet of vertical drop, all on green terrain.
  • check-mark
    Nearby towns of Winter Park and Fraser offer affordable lodging alternatives to staying on-mountain.
  • check-mark
    Relatively large ski area, with over 3,000 acres of terrain.
  • check-mark
    Down-to-earth ski culture at the resort.
  • check-mark
    Ikon Pass access.

Things we don't like:

  • check-markAprés options are limited, Winter Park isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for a party!
  • check-markCrowds flock to Winter Park, given its close proximity to Denver.
  • check-markWinter Park, as with other CO resorts, is extremely expensive at the window.
  • check-markThe Ikon Pass brings the Ikon crowds, unfortunately, this is unavoidable.
  • check-markThose same crowds can cause hotels to fill up quickly.
  • check-markExpert terrain is limited.
  • check-markMary Jane is renowned for being intensely difficult, some will love it, and some will hate it!

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