winterpark iceskating2Winter is finally in full swing in Colorado and the powder is calling. But, with so many resorts to choose from – 26 in total – which one will give you maximum fun for the whole family without all the hassle? Winter Park Resort, Colorado’s Favorite, is where it’s at.

For starters, Winter Park is the closest major destination resort to Denver International Airport – just 67 miles northwest of Denver. It took my family a little less than two hours to drive there from the East side of Denver. We arrived at The Vintage Hotel just before 8am and even though check-in wasn’t until that afternoon, the front desk showed us to the locker rooms in the hotel where we could change into our gear and head out onto the mountain. The Vintage is just one of three premier properties available for lodging at the resort, and the most economical for those on a budget. However, there is no skimping on quality. The Vintage just outfitted all 118 rooms with brand new high quality mattresses, pillows, linens and towels this month. After a long day on the mountain, the importance of a comfortable night’s sleep can’t
be overstated.

Winter Park gondolaFrom the Vintage, a complimentary gondola ride takes you to the base of The Village at Winter Park. Our five-year-old daughter, Reagan loves the gondola ride and the little red wagons found at the entrance to The Village and at specially designated wagon drop-off stations throughout for hauling your gear… and your kids. In addition to lots of great shops, cafes and restaurants, there are play areas for the kids and metal xylophone-like instruments/sculptures everywhere in The Village to keep them entertained.

By 9am we were signing Reagan up for her very first ski lesson at the Kid’s Ski & Ride School. The super-friendly staff and organization of check-in made the experience much less daunting than it could’ve been. Part of it is the all new system of kid’s ski rentals by Head, called BYS, designed to get them (and you) on the slopes faster, that the resort has just invested in. It was the most painless rental experience we’ve ever had.

After seeing Reagan safely off to ski school, Danny and I met with a mountain guide for a free tour of the mountain – a great way to familiarize yourself with the terrain. We learned a lot about what makes Winter Park such a popular destination, including the fact that it is home to the National Sports Center for the Disabled, and where many winter Olympians choose to train.

What a treat we were in for at the end of our tour when we caught Reagan and the rest of her ski school buddies being carted up the mountain in a wagon, pulled by a snowmobile. No more magic carpet, they were on their way to their first green run! The wagon transport versus ski lift is just one of the unique ways Winter Park’s ski school caters to new skiers not quite ready for the often tricky process of de-boarding a lift their first time up the mountain.

After lunch in the village at the popular Doc’s Roadhouse Bar and Grille, we picked up Reagan and received a glowing report on her first day. It wouldn’t be long before I wouldn’t be able to keep up with her.

Winter Park dining at Sunspot LodgeThat evening, Danny and I enjoyed a romantic, five-course, gourmet meal two miles high at The Lodge at Sunspot. The Zephyr chairlift is converted into a gondola to carry diners to the top of the mountain where they will have a unique dining experience of authentic and award-winning Colorado cuisine.

We ended our weekend with a fun-filled, family afternoon of tubing at Colorado Adventure Park and then the hot tub, water slide and lazy river at the Grand Park Community Recreation Center. Had we had one more night, we definitely would’ve make the short, 15 minute drive to Devil’s Thumb Ranch for their sleigh ride and dinner at either Heck’s Tavern or The Ranch House Restaurant. Ski Magazine listed Devil’s Thumb Ranch as one of their top 5 Favorite Sleigh Rides.

Next time.

Chris is a designer, WAHM and pilot’s wife living in Colorado. She writes as Standby Traveling Mom as well as at Follow her on Twitter as @BirdBanter.

Disclosure: Winter Park Resort hosted us for the purposes of writing this review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are my own and without influence by Winter Park Resort.