Depending on how you look at things, we either got a lovely extended fall or were robbed of primo skiing due to unseasonably warm weather. If your thinking falls into the latter camp, you'll be glad to know that resorts are finally opening – and offering more than ever this year.
In this year's edition of Edge, our snow-activities guide to resorts in Colorado, we've told you about what’s new at every major ski area in the state, must-do experiences and insider tips. We’ve also done our own tireless research all over the state and reached out to some experts for suggestions on how to make the most of it all, whether you’re looking to drop some coin for something special or just trying to get by as a dirtbag ski bum like the rest of us. We'll roll those out at resorts open, like Winter Park, which opens Wednesday, November 23.
WINTER PARK RESORT
What’s new: Winter Park’s “Seven Territories” started opening on November 23, including Winter Park and its Terrain Park system and famed race and mogul courses. Mary Jane, Vasquez Ridge, Eagle Wind, Parsenn Bowl and, in the resort’s farthest reaches, the double-black-diamond zone known as the Cirque — accessible to hikers and served by a snowcat shuttle service — will all open as conditions allow. The resort is celebrating the return of the Winter Park Express ski train this season after its hiatus, resuming regular weekend round-trip service from Denver’s Union Station to a train platform at the ski area from January 7 through March 27.
Signature experience: “For those who have never experienced the Ski Train, it really is Winter Park’s signature experience,” says Winter Park spokesman Steve Hurlbert. “It winds through the foothills and underneath the Continental Divide via the historic Moffat Tunnel, providing spectacular views. It’s already proving to be extremely popular. Within 24 hours of tickets going on sale, 3,300 were sold.” Adult tickets start at $39 in each direction at amtrak.com/winterparkexpress.
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Insider Info: Visit ncsd.org to volunteer with the National Sports Center for the Disabled at Winter Park, now serving over 3,000 athletes annually and billed as the largest adaptive-sports program in the world. It’ll be one of the most inspiring and empowering experiences of your life. Oh, and regular volunteers can also score free season passes.
Splurge: “Every weekend we offer five-course gourmet meals at the Lodge at Sunspot, perched atop Winter Park mountain,” Hurlbert suggests. “You take a private gondola ride to the cozy lodge, which features amazing views of Parry Peak and the Continental Divide. The meal is entirely Colorado-sourced with entrees ranging from Rocky Mountain trout to bison.” The meals are $80 for adults and $50 for kids twelve and under; make reservations at 970-726-1446.
Ski bum tips: Winter Park has truly embraced its brokest and most hard-core fanatics in recent years, particularly over on the Mary Jane side of the resort. “The C-Lot at Mary Jane has almost become its own separate community,” Hurlbert says. “There are remodeled bathrooms that are open all night, and many people will park campers in the lot in anxious anticipation of a powder day. During the ski day, the lot is alive with grilling, dogs flocking, and plenty of beer flowing. It’s easy to make new friends who are always willing to offer a sandwich and a cold beer.”
Drink local: On-mountain, the best place for drinks is Lunch Rock Restaurant atop Mary Jane, which features a morning happy hour from 9 to 11 a.m. with $6 signature Bloody Marys. Lunch Rock has twelve craft beers on tap, all from Colorado breweries, including New Belgium’s Mary Jane Ale, available exclusively at Winter Park Resort. Back at the base area, try the Derailer Bar, Doc’s Roadhouse or Five Mountain Tavern.