Let’s face it: Colorado is full of fantastic ski resorts. Each one has a personality – some are full of glitterati, some cater to the hard-core snowboarder, and some boast adventure trails that will get an average skier’s heart racing. Then there are the true family resorts, the kinds of places where your kids return year after year and know the lifts and the trails like the back of their hands.
Are you planning a family ski trip, but not sure where to go? Here are the top ten reasons why Winter Park Resort should top your list.
10. Free stuff!
Stroll through the wonderland known as Winter Park Resort. (Photo: Winter Park Resort)
Many of the activities in the charming, central village are geared toward families and are absolutely free. Every Wednesday there’s a cowboy sing-a-long from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. with free hot cider instructors offer free ice skating lessons on the Village Pond every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and there’s broomball every Tuesday and Thursday. If you’re super daring, there’s a Mini Rail Jam every Friday where kids can test their skills in Bouncer, the in-Village Terrain Park.
9. Date nights
Every Thursday, the resort hosts a Kids’ Night Out from 5:30-8:30 p.m., where parents can drop off their kids for dinner, a movie, crafts, and activities. Best of all? It’s completely free to parents, as long as they spend $30 in the Village during the hours the kids are in the program (think romantic dinner!).
8. Kid-friendly transport
It might sound like a minor detail, but the resort offers free red wagons in lots of convenient locations for families to tote gear (and kids). No more forcing Mom to play pack mule or coaxing grumpy, tired kids to carry their skis after a long day at ski school.
7. Multi-generational activities
Whether you snowboard, ski, or snowshoe, there is something for everyone. (Photo: Winter Park Resort)
In addition to the activities for kids in the village, the resort offers scenic snowcat and snowshoe tours, snow tubing, and a spa — so there’s plenty for guests who aren’t up for the adventure of skiing or snowboarding. Bringing the grandparents along? They can meet the rest of the family for lunch at the Lodge at Sunspot by taking the scenic snowcat up the mountain — the perfect way for everyone to share in a unique experience.
6. Access for all
Winter Park is home to the National Sports Center for the Disabled, the largest adaptive sports program in the world. In fact, more than 3,000 children and adults with disabilities participate each year! Every February, Winter Park hosts the Wells Fargo Ski Cup, one of the largest and most prestigious paralympic events in the U.S. outside the Paralympics.
5. Easy on the wallet
A ski vacation is never cheap, but Winter Park lift tickets are typically cheaper than those found at some of the neighboring resorts, and lodging is across-the-board cheaper than at others in the area. Want to catch the best deals? Sign up for email alerts (trust me, they work).
4. Way-cool ski school
Tiny skiers learning the ropes. (Photo: Winter Park Resort)
Winter Park is home to the state’s oldest ski school, which many consider to be the best. In addition to quality instructors, the Ski + Ride School offers a number of unique programs designed to accommodate any budget and skill level. Lessons are even offered to children as young as three, so it’s possible to expose kids to the fun of skiing at a very early age. For younger kids, on-site child care is offered.
3. Convenient location
Winter Park is strategically located in the Fraser Valley with easy and convenient access to other activities like dog sled rides, Nordic skiing, sleigh rides, snowcat skiing, and snowmobiling. Flying into Denver? You can get to the resort in under two hours by car, or book a van service to go door-to-door without having to clutch the wheel over the mountain pass.
Winter Park Resort sits about three miles south of the town of Winter Park, and a convenient and free shuttles takes visitors from the resort to additional dining and shopping options in town.
Related: The Ultimate Guide for Winter Gear
2. Tons of trails
Despite its cozy, laid-back feel, Winter Park is the fourth-largest ski area in Colorado, with 3,081 acres to explore. So, whether a family stays for a few days or two weeks, there’s still plenty of terrain to experience and not get bored. My family has visited at least 20 times, and we’re still discovering new favorite slopes.
1. Traditions that will keep you coming back
A cold, but happy, participant in the Spring Splash. (Photo: Winter Park Resort)
Want to make family memories and start a tradition? Winter Park’s the place.
Every Christmas Eve, the resort hosts a torchlight ski-down, where about 100 skiers/snowboarders traverse down the main run into the base brandishing torches. The parade is followed by a visit from Santa and fireworks.
Every spring, Winter Park hosts the oldest pond-skimming contest in Colorado — the annual Spring Splash. Participants must navigate through an obstacle course before skimming over an icy pond in front of a large crowd of cheering onlookers. Both events, as well as many of the resort’s other celebrations (like Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day), are free.