Growing Pains at Winter Park Resort


Not much of a skier or snowboarder? Head to Winter Park Village for shopping, dining, and ice skating. | Megan McCrea

Road Journals Blog—You could say that Winter Park and I grew up together. I first touched its hallowed snow at age 3; since then, I’ve returned time and again. Winter Park holds countless memories for me: from fledgling attempts on the bunny hill, to magical excursions into Gnome Forest, to the mortifying incident when I skied all the way down Cheshire Cat on my bum. I almost felt like Winter Park watched me grow up, from safety vest-wearing toddler to college ski racer to (full disclosure) resort employee.

And, as I grew, so did the mountain. Winter Park had always been the populist ski area, highly favored among locals, in part due to its unpretentiousness. In fact, Winter Park takes its name from its origin: the resort was founded as a winter sports park for Denverites. In 1938, the city of Denver obtained a special use permit from the US Forest Service, which allowed them to develop the ski area. When Winter Park Resort opened two years later, skiers came in droves, enjoying a day of skiing for the price of a lift ticket—$1. For the next 62 years, Denver operated Winter Park . In 2002, however, the city leased the resort to a private company, Intrawest.


The Coca-Cola polar bear greets families at the ice-skating rink in Winter Park. | Megan McCrea

Then my childhood playmate did some growing up of its own. Given time (six years) and money (an estimated $30 million), Winter Park got a little work done.

While I had visited—and, in fact, worked for—the resort since the change, I had never truly explored Intrawest’s proudest addition: the Village at Winter Park. However, now that we had put in several hours of skiing (and sated our hunger at Rudi’s Deli), I wanted to show my boyfriend—a first-time Winter Park visitor—the highly touted base area. And so, we parked the car and hopped on a shiny red gondola, which ferried us over pine trees and parking lots, into the beating heart of the Village. I marveled. I had been here before, but now, with James, I felt like I was seeing it for the first time. Condos. Shops. Restaurants. Condos. Condos. CONDOS. People bustling to and fro...

James grinned. He pulled me into The Columbia Store, where we learned about the latest innovations in keeping warm (Omni-Heat thermal reflective technology). Then he took me to Shirt Off My Back, where he bought his friend the unbelievable: a souvenir hoodie so fashionable that he might actually wear it. Noticing the giant Coca-Cola bear guarding the skating pond, James ran over for a picture. As I clicked the shutter, I began to wonder if I had been so wrong about “new” Winter Park after all. Maybe the Village—different though it was—actually added something to the resort. After all, I hadn’t avoided racing down Parry’s Peek simply because Intrawest had added the run in 2007.

Walking down the Village “main street,” I saw children skating on a frozen pond, friends laughing over pints at the Cheeky Monk, families cozying up around a fire pit. Was I some kind of Grinch? These people were enjoying themselves. After all, over the years, I had grown and changed. Was Winter Park not allowed to do the same?

This blog post was first published in March 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

Comments

A lot of long-time Winter Park fans have mixed feelings about the new "village" development. It's nice to have more places to eat and drink, yet it feels a little corporate. (i.e., the Coca Cola bear)This author does a great job of capturing those conflicting emotions.

I'd like to set one thing straight--- a cabriolet is not a gondola.

Yes, I actually do wear said hoodie!