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Winter Park, Colorado

Winter Park is Denver’s local ski area. The mountain has a bit of everything and the town is small, but the big time is coming.

Winter Park Ski Resort, ColoradoIn the early 1900s, when the Moffat Tunnel through the Rockies was completed, Denverites began to ride the train here. The shacks first built for the tunnel construction crews made perfect warming huts for hardy skiers who climbed the mountains and schussed down on 7-foot-long boards. The ski area now is part of the Denver public parks system (owned by the city and county of Denver), which explains its name. Today, Winter Park ranks as one of the largest ski areas in Colorado.

This is a great mountain with a wonderfully easy-going atmosphere. The ski area and most of the lodging are tucked into the woods off the main highway, which retains this town’s rural feel. Winter Park also has several traditional mountain inns—the kind with large common rooms where people can read, talk or play board games. They are tough to find these days. We like them, and you’ll find descriptions in the Lodging section.

But, the times are changing. The Eagle Wind triple chair runs up the backside of Parsenn Bowl to 11,486 feet. Winter Park Resort has begun construction of a high speed six-pack, the Panoramic Express, on Parsenn Bowl which will take skiers to 12,060 feet making it the highest six-pack chairlift in North America.The Zephyr Mountain Lodge, with shops and a restaurant on the ground floor and condos above, has brought upscale slopeside lodging to Winter Park. And there’s more to come. In May 2006 the resort began construction on condos, a shopping area and a parking garage. For now, Winter Park is still charmingly funky, affordable and low-key, with lodging designed with families in mind, plus one of Colorado’s most respected ski schools. The children’s and disabled-skier programs are among the biggest, most advanced and most respected in the nation.

Although Winter Park maintains a great family reputation, it is a surprisingly good destination for singles. The town benefits from having only a few, but good, nightlife centers. Meaning that you get to meet most of the other skiers in town if that’s what you want; and the mountain inn lodging gives singles a great opportunity to meet other vacationers over dinner and drinks, or while enjoying the hot tubs. If you’re looking for a solid good time without the fanfare, Winter Park presents you with one of the best opportunities.