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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: Winter Park

Country: USA

Domain: Colorado

Author: Acacia

Date: Jan 10 - Jan 14 2005

Our holiday: This wasn't a "holiday" proper. I stopped off in Colorado for some skiing, en-route to a conference in California. Hell, if you have to go all that way to work, you might as well get a bit of fun in too!

Website : www.skiwinterpark.com

Basics : 67 miles from Denver: about a 2-hour minibus ride from Denver airport. I flew from Manchester via Washington DC and only just scraped through immigration on a 2.5 hour transfer time: be warned!!

Lift system : 24 lifts: 8 express quads, 3 triples, 7 doubles, 6 drags, but you can cover most of the terrain on the quads. Access to the best terrain is via a slow double though (Timberline chair)

The terrain : A good variety of terrain, and generally the trail grading was a very good guide to the degree of difficulty. Generally, the easier trails are on the front side of Winter Park mountain, accessed via the Zephyr Express and Olympia express lifts. The tougher trails are on mary Jane Mountain, accessed from the base area by a successive rides up the Zephyr, Olympia,and High Lonesome Express lifts, if you're cautious, or by taking the Zephyr Express, and ducking down the black diamond bump run "Outhouse" (Prominently marked with signs warning you that this is "for experts only, no way out"), which will take you to the base of the Summit express at the base of Mary Jane. Mary Jane Mountain has a collection of Blue and "Blue-black" runs around its periphery, with a large cluster of black-diamond trails down the centre. These are all steep and mogulled. From the summit of M-J, you can head down to the slow two-man Timberline chair that takes you to the summit of Parsenn bowl. This is an open bowl of comfortable to moderate pitch, above the treeline. Going to the left off the top of the chair takes you into some nice glades. Going to the right, you can hike into the Vasquez Cirque for steep double-diamond chutes (This was closed during my visit: I don't think I'd have tried it even if it had been open.). The whole area is quite big: much larger than the impression you get from looking at the trail map, which is very compressed.

The snow : Terrific: 8 inches of fresh powder on my second day. Bluebird day on my last.

Off-piste : I guess "Off-piste" in the US means something different from it's European connotations. Here, the skiing in the Parsenn Bowl and off the ridge of Vasquez Cirque would be "off-piste" equivalent, although within the patrolled and avy-controlled area. - I understand there are back-country opportunities available.

The resort : Winter Park village is a bus-ride from the base area. I was only staying for 4 days, and was based across the road from the base area, so didn't get into the village. - Ask someone else!

Food : On the hill, the "Sunspot" at the top of the Zephyr lift gets a mention in "Where to Ski and Snowboard" - I was disappointed. The bar in the Mary Jane base lodge was much better: Sierra Nevada ale is a good beer, and they do sushi on Fridays.
Accommodation : Winter Park Mountain Lodge. Just across the highway from the base area. - They gave me a free room upgrade on arrival. The bar has a microbrew and their "Helle's Half Acre" beer was pretty palatable. I met a load of verty friendly locals around the bar, two of whom refused to let me buy them a beer. Great American hospitality. The bar food was also pretty good (I recommend the buffalo rib-eye). The hotel has a pool, a sauna and two hot tubs, but (bizarrely) no showers in the pool/hot tub area.

Costs: I paid US$93 per night for room and breakfast, $120 for 4 days ski rental (demo package), $61 per day lift pass and $44 each way shuttle from the airport ("HomeJames").

Conclusion: I'm definitely going again.

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