When offered the chance to ski Colorado’s Winter Park I had to give it thoughtful consideration; that must have been the shortest second of my life!
It’s quite a long time since I skied in Colorado and with erratic weather conditions in Europe this was an opportunity that simply couldn’t be turned down. Colorado offers one thing that many US ski destinations lack – direct flights from the UK without silly long transfers at the other end. Quite simply it is one day of travel and if you are mega keen you could grab the last hour of skiing on the same day – I am not that extreme.
My British Airways flight was uneventful other than being offered refreshments at the right time by helpful cabin crew. Being a scheduled flight, it meant I could take a reasonable amount of luggage without being spanked in extra fees, which can be a big plus when packing for a ski trip.
My shuttle bus took me out of a very flat Denver and onto the Rockies, where brown was replaced with white. It’s another of those strange winters where temperature is shifting alarmingly on a day by day basis. But I arrive and the familiarity of Intrawest (the resort owners) is immediately obvious, having skied in Whistler, Panorama, Tremblant, Stratton and Mammoth I know the model well.
Winter Park is rather appealing to me, it has its feet firmly on the ground, it lets the mountains speak for themselves without the need for corporate hype. I am welcomed with a beer, always a good start in my book and with my condo all sorted out I am free to explore the resort at a leisurely pace.
We are talking here of a ski resort and a town and not to take in both means missing a trick. This can be a big plus as the one big letdown of skiing in the USA is the way everything can shut down at 5pm. Having a real town means having normality and not being tied into ‘resort’ life. Being the closest ski area to Denver means it relies mainly on local trade, but there is ample around to offer scope for a very entertaining time here.
The ski terrain is divided into seven areas, the most popular being Mary Jane. But, in truth you don’t really notice it when skiing around, it’s all wonderful white stuff. Whilst a popular family location and one offering scope for progression from the nursery slopes, Winter Park is locally famous for its massive amount of mogul, bumpy areas where the young and fit whoop and squeal with delight. With 3,000 acres of skiable terrain I find plenty to ski without having to face the energy sapping adrenalin sapping mogul runs.
My guide is Bob Barnes, ski director and lover of the aforementioned moguls, he tells me of the delights in skiing like a cork on the water. I take delight in filling my mind with beach scenes and squirrels. If he thinks for one second I am doing the bumps with him he has another think coming!
There is plenty of freshly groomed terrain and even more lightly cut up from a day of two of use to offer variation and in truth there is no need for repetition during a week’s stay here.
My accommodation is within the Zephyr Lodge, which is central and convenient for shopping, eating, drinking and skiing. Typical of the USA, entry to your rooms takes you first into the kitchen, then lounge and finally bedrooms and bathrooms. There is tons of space for everything and the option to self-cater should you wish. For me I prefer someone else to do the cooking and washing up and whilst I can do my laundry, that can wait until I am home as well.
The only slight bottle-neck was, surprisingly, at the rental shop, where despite being super efficient there was a long queue for rentals. The lifts were pretty much queue-less and delays in getting on simply did not exist.
There are places to eat on the mountains, but in fairness most are functional rather than fabulous, but if you simply want food and warmth it does the job. The Americans have yet to get round to the European delights of four hour lunches and dark descents in a sozzled state. I am trying to win them over. But for families there is the opportunity to take your own refreshments with you (in your back pack) and make use of the mountain facilities without having to break the bank on refreshments.
There is a lot more to Winter Park than skiing and the range of daytime and evening activities will give you full scope to try something new.
A week is really the minimum time you want to spend here and if time allows there is always the option of skiing more than one Colorado mountain. Without doubt this is one holiday to fill an album in its own right.
• British Airways fly daily from Heathrow directly into Denver (www.ba.com)
• Denver is seven hours behind London meaning a 12 noon flight lands at 3pm
• Winter Park is about an hour and a half from Denver Airport
• A season ticket for ski lifts can be less expensive than for a week – check on offers in advance (www.winterparkresort.com)
• Always check the dates of US holidays (such as Spring Break) to avoid peak prices
• Be sure to carry adequate medical/health insurance when visiting the USA
• Younger visitors will be asked for ID when buying alcohol
• For resort information go to www.winterparkresort.com
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Click to view pictures of Malcolm's visit to Winters Park!