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Wondering why Colorado’s longest operating ski resort is a perennial top pick as North America’s #1? We share all the reasons why this ski resort appeals to families and what you should plan to see and do during your visit.
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Colorado’s Winter Park Resort: A Family-Friendly Place to Ski and Play
Every year families travel to Winter Park in Colorado. It’s a short two-hour drive from Denver international airport and is known as one of the top Colorado ski resorts. In fact, USA Today readers have named Winter Park Resort the best ski resort in North America for the second year in a row!
Each winter, our family takes a vacation someplace where we can all play in the snow. Being from Texas, we have to travel to see snowfall. This year, we were invited by reps of Winter Park to come and experience their ski season and all that this resort has to offer families. We accepted the invite – and we’re so glad we did! This is a review of our experience and a guide to help you plan your vacation to Winter Park.
TravelingMom Tip: Check out the Amtrack Winter Park Express, which is a great way to get from the Denver Union Station to the base of Winter Park Resort without having to rent a car and driver to Winter Park. Plus it’s a fun experience for the kids. Be sure to check the schedule ahead of time, because they only run for a couple of months during the winter.
Where to Stay at Winter Park
Choosing where to stay is half the battle when planning a vacation with a family. Our two main concerns when booking our accommodations are location and space, especially on a family ski trip. I’ve learned the hard way that walking for long distances with kids and all their ski gear is not for the faint of heart! So finding someplace near the slopes and lifts is very important to us.
Have you seen how much stuff you need to take a family on a ski vacation? We try to find places to stay that have enough room to accommodate our family of five and all of our winter gear. Here are two rooming options near the Winter Park ski area. For other lodging options visit here.
Read more: The Ultimate Family Ski Trip Packing List
Zephyr Mountain Lodge
Winter Parks Resort base lodging – if you’re looking to stay right near the slopes then this is where you’ll want to book! We stayed at the Zephyr Moutain Lodge during our visit. The size of the rooms and the location made this our first choice for lodging for families.
Pros: Closest accommodations to the slopes and it’s within walking distance to all the shops and restaurants in the resort village area.
Cons: You have to pay per night for parking. The hot tubs were filled every night with adults, making it not very family-friendly.
Winter Park Vintage Hotel
The Vintage Hotel is one of the lodging options near the slopes. However, it’s not attached to the Winter Park village area and is further away from the Ski School than Zepher Lodge.
Pros: Multiple room types – standard hotel rooms or studio rooms (which include a kitchen area). FREE parking. Great reviews.
Cons: The hotel does not offer ski-in/out. Not as close to the lifts as the Zephyr Moutain Lodge.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Many skiers and snowboarders come to experience Mary Jane mountain, which is Winter Park Resort’s famed terrain. It’s known for its bumps and spectacular tree skiing. If you have experienced skiers in your group, they’ll really love skiing in this area of Winter Park.
Another reason skiers love Winter Park is the Parsenn Bowl, home to “North America’s highest six-passenger chairlift ascending to breathtaking 360-degree vistas.” You’ll also want to visit the Terrain Parks, great for beginners or experts.
TravelingMom Tip: Always buy your lift tickets ahead of time. They’re more expensive if you buy them when you arrive.
Whether you’re visiting Winter Park as first-time skiers or your kids have skied before, I also recommend at least a day of ski school. For first-timers, ski school is the way to go. Learning the basics of skiing or snowboarding will set you up for success on the slopes. And even for kids who have skied/snowboarded before, a refresher lesson is going to help as they get back into the swing of things.
Each year, we schedule for our two younger kids (ages 8 and 6) to attend ski school on their first day back on the mountain. Not only does this help them to recall what they’ve previously learned on other ski trips, but it gives mom and dad (and any older kids) a day on the mountain without watching little ones. Our kids loved attending ski school at Winter Park. Their instructors were great and we felt that our kids were in good hands. Our 6-year-old got to a level 3 on her first day of ski school!
TravelingMom Tip: Don’t wait until you arrive at schedule your kids for ski school. These classes fill up fast, so be sure to book well in advance.
Where to Eat
We love playing in the snow together, but at the end of a long day on the slopes, we’re all excited to find a place where we can sit and eat a delicious meal. Here is a list of places to eat in Winter Park, and we’ll share with you our personal favorites.
- Sunspot Mountain Top Lodge – you must ride the gondola to eat at the Sunsport which is located 10,700 feet up the mountain. This is one restaurant you won’t want to miss out on when visiting Winter Park. They make a delicious Margarita!
- Doc’s Roadhouse – this restaurant is located closest to the gondola.
- Derailer Bar – This was a popular place to refuel during the day. They serve burgers, sandwiches, and salads and was a fun place to watch the skiers coming down off the hill.
- Lime – If you’re headed off the mountain and are in the mood for Mexican food and margaritas, this is your spot!
- Vertical Bistro & Tap – American bistro style menu items.
- Lunch Rock – Dining at over 11,000 ft, the lunch rock has several wonderful lunch menu options.
More Personal Favorites
- Pizza Pedal’r – We ordered pizza from here twice during our visit because it was so delicious. We called our order in ahead of time and took the pizza back to our room. I highly recommend a relaxing pizza night during your visit.
- Bon Appetit – If you’re looking for some healthy lunch options, you can find them at this fresh deli.
- Waffle Cabin – Our family ate breakfast at our room each morning but after stopping into the Waffle Cabin to check it out I was sad that we missed eating here. This would be a great place to have breakfast with the family.
- Goody’s – You’ll find some classic breakfast items here but my kids were really excited about their crepes and ice cream.
- City Pop – We took the kids here to get a bag of gourmet popcorn for our car ride back to the airport and they loved it! They also sell chocolates and other fun treats.
TravelingMom Tip: There are places in the village to buy a few grocery items and alcohol. However, Fraser is about a 20-minute drive from the resort and there you’ll find a Safeway which is a great place to stock up on groceries and any personal items you might need.
Apres Ski Activities for the Family
Riding the Gondola
Get ready for a breathtaking view! Riding the gondola to the top of the mountain was one of the highlights of our trip. The kids could not contain their excitement as we rode higher and higher. From the gondola, you can watch the skiers and snowboarders as they shred their way down the mountain. No matter what age you are, from babies to grandparents, this is an experience everyone in the family should do!
TravelingMom Tip: Riding the gondola is free for foot passengers after 4 pm Thursdays – Saturdays.
Get ready to scream and laugh a lot! Snow tubing is one of my all-time favorite activities when taking a winter vacation. Honestly, I have just as much fun as the kids do. This is another great activity that the family can enjoy together.
For families with kids 8+, you can take a fun 2-hour snowshoe tour. It is a great way to explore the ski areas, the lifts, and even the forest! They have a “nature walk” and “summit show” tour that happens daily and a “moonlit” snowshoe tour on the weekends. For the best deal book this tour at least 7 days in advance.
You do not have to ski to have an awesome winter vacation at a ski resort, and this activity is one of the reasons why. You can explore the mountains by taking a 90-minute snowcat tour. The tour can hold 13 guests at a time and kids 2 and under are free as long as they sit in a parent’s lap. It’s strongly recommended to book this tour in advance since it’s a popular family-friendly activity.
TravelingMom Tip: Book the Vasquez Ride S’Mores Snowcat Tour to enjoy exploring the mountain at night. After the tour, your family will enjoy s’mores and beverages under the stars.
Ski Bike Tours
You no longer have to wait for summer to go biking on the mountain! You can book a Ski Bike Tour during your visit to Winter Park. This activity requires kids to be 14 years or older.
Being from Texas, my family does not get the opportunity to ice skate very often. You can only imagine how excited my family was to see that the Winter Park resort village had an ice rink. We spent a fun hour together on the ice laughing and falling a lot. They do have ice skating trainers that the kids can push around to help them learn how to skate. By the end of the night, I was the only one left using a trainer!
This may not be an activity that the whole family can enjoy but if you have older children or you can sneak away for a while and let grandparents watch the kiddos, this is such a fun experience!
The Village Playground
Don’t forget to check out the playground area if you’re visiting Winter Park with little ones. I spent a morning at the playground with my 6 and 8-year-old while my oldest daughter and her dad hit the slopes.
After you see this list of summer activities you’ll be planning a visit to Winter Park after the snow melts!
- Alpine Slide (longest alpine slide in Colorado)
- Rocky Mountain National Park guided hikes
- Mountain Biking
- Outdoor Wall Climbing
- Kids Rope Courses
- Putting Courses
- Disc Golf
- White Water Rafting
- ATV tours
- Zip Lining
Kids’ Night Out
Planning a date night while on vacation with the kids can be near impossible; however, it’s totally possible at the Winter Park Resort. Check out the Camp Idlewild Kids’ Night Out, where kids between the ages of 6-12 can enjoy a night away from their parents. A night full of crafts, movies and pizza will entertain them while mom and dad sneak off for a date night. Our kids did not experience Camp Idlewild, but I would love for them to on our next visit so my husband and I could have dinner at the Sunspot.
Why It Works for Families
Skiing is an awesome experience, but it’s not always a sport that everyone enjoys. Or perhaps you’re a family with little ones under the age of 2, so you’ll be spending more time off the mountain. Don’t worry! One of the reasons we love Winter Park is because you can enjoy vacationing here even if you don’t ski during your visit. In fact, we really took the time to enjoy ourselves both on and off the mountain because even though my family loves to ski, our vacations are centered around enjoying our time with one another.
We would start and end our day gathered together playing games in front of the fireplace, laughing and watching it snow. During the day we would enjoy skiing, eating and explore the resort village area. So even if you’re not planning to ski, I’d still encourage you to visit Winter Park with the family.
TravelingMom Tip: Our favorite souvenir is having professional family photos taken on our vacations. Check out Flytographer.