Winter Park's vast terrain is spread over five summits-Winter Park, Mary Jane, Parsenn Bowl, Vasquez Cirque and Vasquez Ridge-and the new Rail Yard Terrain Park. Winter Park Mountain is the largest and most versatile hub, offering well-manicured terrain for beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers from its summit, Sunspot, at 10,700 feet (3,261 m) down to its base at 9,000 feet (2,743 m). On its slopes you'll find Discovery Park, an award-winning enclosed learning area open to all sliders with its own lifts and gentle slopes. More experienced skiers head for the wilder Mary Jane Mountain, at 11,200 feet (3,414 m), rising behind Winter Park summit and named after a legendary local prostitute who laid claim to the land.
The above-treeline Parsenn Bowl is the highest point on the mountain at 12,060 feet (3,675 m), offering a maximum vertical descent of 3,060 ft (933 m) and fabulous views of the Rockies: you're actually looking down onto the Continental Divide and the famous Moffat Tunnel which takes trains under it . Here you will find ungroomed trails with moguls and extensive off-piste and gladed terrain of varying density, and an untouched blanket of irresistible powder. The wide-sweeping Vasquez Ridge is the westernmost part of the resort with wide-open cruisers, exciting bump trails, plenty of fresh snow and afternoon sun, while Vasquez Cirque at 11,900 feet (3,627 m) is for black and double-black diamond experts seeking steep cornices and 687 acres (278 ha) of extreme backcountry terrain.
The resort also receives an average of 359 inches (912 cm) snowfall a year, more than any other major Colorado resort, but Winter Park is best known for its mogul skiing. Mary Jane is internationally famous for its bumps and "Don't Groom the Jane" is the locals' rallying cry.
Lines may be an issue in holiday periods and on Saturday mornings. Most lines are less than 20 minutes, even at Christmas, and they are at the main base lift. The best way to avoid lines is to spread out over the mountain and use mid-mountain lifts where the wait is even less, usually five minutes. Weekdays waits are never a problem at Winter Park. Lifts are open 8:30 am weekends, 9:00 am weekdays until 4:00 pm.
It is served by three chairlifts-a double, triple and quad-to help novices learn lift riding skills on different configurations. There are wide-open meadows for learning to turn and several fun trails through the adjacent wooded areas. These trails feature small bumps to allow novices to practice balancing and weight shift skills. The area also has its own restroom facilities, sparing beginners the inconvenience of having to return to the base or a lodge when nature calls.
Winter Park mountain offers many green trails for beginners. Some of the best green trails-found at the top of the High Lonesome Express at an 11,220-foot elevation (3,420 m)-gently wind back down to the bottom through tree-lined trails and more open gentle runs.
Mary Jane is long with several steep areas. Take the Zephyr Express to the top of Winter Park mountain, take Cranmer (blue) down to the Eskimo Express. At the top, follow blue square trail signs to Jabberwocky. Take the Olympia Express up to the Mary Jane trail. At the base of Mary Jane, take Super Gauge Express back up to the top, and then follow Edelweiss to the new 6 pack Panoramic Express chair to ski anything in the more exposed Parsenn Bowl. This bowl offers several blue and blue-black trails, some of which are gladed for a new experience. The longest trail down from the summit is Parry's Peak which skirts the ski area boundary, off which are six newly cut blue, and blue/black glades.
Many know Winter Park by its famous bumper stickers which proclaim "NO PAIN - NO JANE." If you're looking to tackle Winter Park's legendary moguls, try Trestle and Golden Spike; for trees and steeps, Johnstone Junction; for couloirs try Hole-in-the-Wall or Baldy's Chute on Mary Jane or head higher up to Vasquez Cirque, Winter Park's most extreme terrain. The South Headwall and the Alphabet Chutes offer several extreme routes down the mountain. Aside from vertigo-causing steeps, Vasquez Cirque and anywhere in the trees on the Jane is best for powder. Vasquez Cirque is undoubtedly very steep, ungroomed, and is a terrific example of extreme backcountry terrain. Little wonder expert skiers flock to Winter Park because of this.
An ideal ski day would be to start at the base of Mary Jane by heading up the Super Gauge Express (formerly the Summit Express chair). Warm up on Sleeper, then take the Challenger lift up to Derailer. Ride the Challenger to access additional black mogul trails including Boiler, Runaway, Cannonball, and Brakeman. Head up to the Parsenn Bowl for trees on the right. Ride the Panoramic Express back up to access Vasquez Cirque, via Parsenn Bowl and head for the South or West Headwall. These lead into Upper Express from where the new Eagle Wind triple chair will take you back to the top of the black glades, Medicine Man, Little Raven, Black Coal, Left Hand and Thunderbird.
No skier may enter onto a trail that is marked "closed." In-bounds closures may occur on any trail at any time for myriad reasons. In addition, a significant amount of the boundary is closed by the U.S. Forest Service because of hazard immediately outside the boundary. If you should choose to leave the ski area at a point not marked as "closed," you may do so, but the ski area no longer has responsibility. Rescue, if available, may turn out to be a prolonged and expensive business, and is the responsibility of the Sheriff's Office.
These are both relatively flat trails with long runouts and snowboarders should avoid them or get up some speed going before moving onto these trails.
Winter park has three terrain parks for differing abilities. If you're only just starting out try the Discovery Park for rollers and smaller jumps, then you can progress to the Jack Kendrick Park to practise new tricks. For advanced riders there is the Rail Yard Terrain Park, the masterpiece and handywork of top local riders and freeskiers.
The best places to eat are at The Lodge at Sunspot, the Dining Room and the Provisioner. The Dining room offers a casual lunch menu whilst the Provisioner has a more refined and extensive range. During the day the Lodge has breathtaking views of the Continental Divide and the surrounding mountains. A close second is the Club Car located at the Mary Jane Center. The Club Car also offers sit-down dining with a wide variety of home made seafood chowder, soup-with-sandwiches, salads, and daily specials. The mud pie dessert (mocha ice cream, chocolate cookie crust, fudge topping) is not to be missed.
For more of a pit stop, fuel-filler, the lower level at Snoasis has Mamma Mia's Pizzerias and other food court options, while West Portal Station's food court has something for every taste. Boxcar Deli offers cafeteria-style breakfasts and lunches. Pepperoni's and the food court at the Mary Jane base and Lunch Rock Café at its summit are all good lunchtime venues.
Additionally, many of the restaurants in the village, like the Cheeky Monk, Lime and the Back Bowl Soup Company are open for lunch.
The world famous Moffat Tunnel (the longest railroad tunnel in the world at the time of its construction) is located less than 100 yards from the chairlifts. Trains can be seen and heard chugging in and out of the tunnel frequently throughout the day.
Stretching from the top of the cabriolet to the Zephyr Express, the village is comprised of roughly a dozen buildings containing retail shops, restaurants, and lodging properties. The village is modest in size and still something of a work in progress, but has enough to keep most people occupied for the entirety of their stay. Apart from all the restaurants and hotels, the village is home to the Mountain Adventure Center. Be sure to stop in and demo the latest equipment from top ski manufacturers like Salomon and Völkl.
The Cheeky Monk is an outstanding Belgian restaurant in the heart of the pedestrian village. The restaurant specializes in European and American fare from fondue to "Monk and Cheese." We highly recommend trying one of the over a dozen varieties of Belgian beer and a basket of the Cheeky Monk's gourmet French fries (slathered in a tasty Belgian Waffle-esque batter). Open for lunch and dinner, the Cheeky Monk is a must for anyone who visits Winter Park.
Doc's Roadhouse, at the north end of the Zephyr Mountain Lodge, features casual dining and pub grub in a relaxed atmosphere. Be sure to try Doc's tasty Armadillo Eggs (a.k.a. jalapeno poppers).
The Five Mountain Tavern is located in the Vintage Hotel near the bottom of the cabriolet and entrance to the resort. The tavern's famous hamburgers are widely regarded as the best burger in town, but the real draw is not the beef, but the bar. Grab a seat at the "Churchill Bar" to see where Winston Churchill allegedly put out his cigar.
Lime is a tex-mex cantina specializing in tacos and margaritas. Happy Hour drink specials are popular for après-ski and live entertainment keeps things lively on weekend nights.
Located near the top of the cabriolet (and the bottom of the village), The Back Bowl Soup Company offers warm and hearty fare at reasonable prices. Soups and Sandwiches highlight a menu which includes an extensive selection of wines and beers.
A short five minute drive from the Winter Park Resort base village leads to the town of Winter Park. A hopping ski town with a youthful vibe, Winter Park has long been a favorite amongst college students, but a wide variety of restaurants and bars are available to suit all budgets and tastes.
We recommend hitting up Hernando's Pizza and Pasta Pub. Locals will tell you, there's no better place to grab a slice and unwind with friends. Lines can be lengthy mid-winter, so calling ahead is recommended. Oh…and be sure to leave a signed dollar bill on the wall on your way out. While only the owner knows for sure how many George Washingtons line the walls, ceilings and tables, Ultimate-Ski's highy scientific study (asking 8 locals and averaging their answers) led us to believe the amount to be over $15,000!
Nightlife is informal and friendly. For apres ski, the Derailer Bar at the base of Winter Park has a sun deck, and The Kickapoo Tavern located in the adjacent Zephyr Mountain Lodge offers two levels of outdoor decks for après ski.
Downtown Winter Park (a 5 min. drive from the resort) is home to over 50 restaurants and bars to choose from and there is even an après-ski trail taking in 19 of the 50 or so bars, kicking off at the The Club Car and ending at The Crooked Creek Saloon in nearby Fraser. Wildcreek Restaurant offers live music and is popular on weekends with both locals and visitors or check out Hernandos with its dollar-covered walls, or the Crooked Creek Saloon, but it's very difficult to find a place to dance. So, if you're seeking more hustle and bustle with funky live music in authentic Western bars, head for nearby Fraser.
On the legal side, you must be 21 years old to drink alcohol, and you cannot walk the street with an open container of alcohol. Children can accompany their parents in restaurants but not in bars or clubs which, by the way, shut at 2:00 am.
The Tour Center offers guided backcountry snowshoeing and snowcat tours. You can also take a snowcat up to The Lodge at Sunspot or Snoasis for lunch. Snowcat tours are one of the most popular options for non-skiers. A few stores are located at the base of the resort but a wider selection of options is available in town, including jewelry, sporting goods, gifts, and art.
Nonskiers will enjoy a trip to the nearby Devil's Thumb Ranch (http://www.devilsthumbranch.com). The ultra high-end resort offers cross-country skiing, a wide array of spa treatments, snowshoeing, skjoring (cross country skiing, but with a dog pulling you), horseback riding, sleigh rides and ice skating.