Denver’s ski town celebrates 75 years
Get out your woolly party hats and mittens. Winter Park, Denver’s personal-winter playground, is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Mary Jane is adding a new slope-side restaurant; Winter Park has a new hotel and restaurant; and celebrations in Winter Park and Fraser will kick off in December and continue through 2015.
In 1940, the city of Denver opened Winter Park with one ski tow rope and one sole purpose – to be a perpetual haven of winter and summer sports for Denverites. Those first three ski runs have multiplied into 143 designated trails, 25 ski lifts and 3,081 acres of skiable terrain. Winter Park is the fourth largest resort in Colorado and the sixth largest in the country. That means there is a lot to celebrate.
The ski resort and town have a few new places to show off. The old chili shack on Mary Jane is now a new full-service restaurant called Lunch Rock, scheduled to open in December 2014 as of press time. Colorado cuisine is on the menu and craft beers will be on tap. If you need a long ski break to rest your quads, there is sit-down service. For ski-eat-and-run types, Lunch Rock has a cafeteria-style menu and a 150-person deck to get a ski tan while you snack.
Tubing is becoming as popular as skiing and boarding in Winter Park. Snow Mountain Ranch and Winter Park have family-friendly tubing hills on each end of the valley. Both have conveyor lifts to get you back up the hill quickly. Snow Mountain Ranch’s tubing hill is well-lit so snow fun doesn’t have to end when the sun goes down. Winter Park has a new season pass at the Coca-Cola Tubing Hill; the $49 pass gives you one hour of tubing access per day for the four-laned, banked curve hill. Both hills have warming huts for hot chocolate and snacks.
Vasquez Creek Inn
A new après ski restaurant for drinks and dinner is Volario’s, which is inside the newly opened Vasquez Creek Inn (owned by Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort). The intimate hotel is reminiscent of a slope-side chalet in the Alps with down bedding, bright rooms and enough space to stow your gear. The inviting bar and lounge hosts an impressive wine list, Colorado craft beers on tap and a well-thought-out cocktail menu that is constantly evolving.
For an après ski activity, the heated patio with fireplace is spacious enough to bring a group of ski buddies. The authentic Italian menu won’t stay under the radar for long. It’s Italian, yes, but it’s a far cry from the pizzerias that dot the food map in Winter Park and Fraser. The seasonal menu is inspired by Chef Andrew Aghajanian’s culinary exploratory trips to Italy. The seasonal Pizzettas are tender crusted and heaped high with toppings such as artichokes, fennel sausage, speck, red onions and peppers in the Vesuvio. Adaptations of northern Italian pastas include Parpedelle ribbons with wild mushrooms and Barolo butter and soft Gnocchi with spaghetti squash and smoked chicken. Entrees include freshly delivered prawns and seafood as well as stuffed porchetta (the chef’s favorite).
Throughout the winter, Winter Park will be in full party and celebration mode (see sidebar: Winter Weekends), as will its neighbor Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado’s grandest of all parks is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2015. So from winter 2014 through winter 2015, there is plenty to put on your calendar.
Winter Park Resort
Snow Mountain Ranch
Vasquez Creek Inn & Volarios
Winter Weekends at Winter Park
The tradition of cutting one’s own live Christmas tree is alive and well in Grand County. Choose from the staffed Elk Creek area from December 7-15 (accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles only). For $10, the Forest Service will issue a permit for up to five trees per person for cutting in the Sulphur Range District from November 6 – January 6. The roads are closed; snowmobile and ski access only. fs.usda.gov/main/arp/passes-permits/forestproducts
Snow Mountain Ranch is hosting Winter Fest Weekends (December 5-7 & 12-14) to kick off the season. Family-friendly activities include guided snowshoe hikes, Nordic skiing, winter outdoor nature skills classes, campfires and more. Activities included for lodging guests; day passes are available for those staying elsewhere. snowmountainranch.org
Devil’s Thumb Ranch resort is celebrating Tommelfest on December 12-14. In true Nordic fashion, the weekend includes Viking hat competitions, keg tossing, horse tubing and sleigh rides, a laser-biathlon relay, Nordic ski classes, ice skating, a holiday gift market and a brew master dinner by Chef Evan Treadwell. devilsthumbranch.com
For a trip down memory lane, buy tickets to the annual Melodrama at the Grand Lake Community House. The theater production, held December 26-31, has special meaning this year and will take guests back to the founding days of Rocky Mountain National Park. Cap it off with New Year’s Eve fireworks. grandartscouncil.com
Winter Park will host a Gala 75th birthday celebration on January 24, 2015 at Sunspot Resort. Get out your cowboy cocktail attire for a bash including a gourmet dinner and silent auction. Proceeds benefit the National Sports Center for the Disabled. winterparkresort.com
The town of Winter Park and Winter Park Resort are combining efforts for the Winter Carnival from February 7-15. It’s a winter wonderland birthday party with live music, snow sculptures and ski races. winterparkresort.com