Each Colorado ski town has its own unique feel, and Winter Park feels comfortable. For many Coloradans, it’s comfy because they’ve been skiing there since childhood, but even for the Winter Park newbie, the town has a relaxed vibe. Maybe it’s a Grand County thing. Winter Park, Granby, and Grand Lake are towns that make visitors feel welcome. No need for fancy clothes, the most recent ski gear, or a brand new car, just come as you are and have fun.
We recently spent a weekend in Winter Park. I was covering Grand Park Dog Days of winter, a sanctioned sled dog race, and you can see all the photos here.
Pizza, pizza, extraordinary pie
Winter Park is a ski town, no doubt. It’s been a tourist destination since the 1930s when it was called Hideaway Park. In 1978, when the Winter Park Ski Area was being developed by the City of Denver, the town was renamed, Winter Park.
Many Coloradans grew up skiing Winter Park, in fact, many of my husband’s earliest ski memories took place there. Folks are nostalgic about places like Hernando’s Pizza Pub, a joint that’s been serving up popular pies since the sixties.
We stopped in at Hernando’s on Friday night and the wait was 70 minutes – this place is busy year round, but the pizza is worth the wait. Pizza places are dime a dozen in ski towns, and Winter Park is no exception, but the pizza at Hernando’s is exceptional, plus, the 20,000+ dollar bills plastering the walls give it an ambiance all its own.
Earlier in the day I had fulfilled a childhood dream of dog sledding at Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park. This amazing experience merited a full blog post of its own, and you can read it here.
The school bus shuffle
The free bus system in Winter Park is a great option, but navigating it can be a bit of a challenge. We stayed at Iron Horse Resort, a sweet ski-in ski-out property at Winter Park Resort. Unfortunately, in an attempt to go downtown, we got on the wrong school bus and proceeded to take a tour of the resort, eventually ending up back at Iron Horse.
After a quick discussion with the front desk, we discovered that during the day, you must take the bus to the ski village and then transfer to a bus that goes downtown. Starting at 5:30 p.m. there are buses that run from Iron Horse Resort to town every half hour or so.
We eventually made it downtown and enjoyed our pizza and our awesome waitress, Jill at Hernando’s. We managed to catch a bus back to Iron Horse, but got a quite a tour of Winter Park before getting back to our condo.
My tip for riding the Winter Park bus system is to always tell your driver your final destination, and don’t be in a big hurry to get there. Remember, it’s free, and if you are planning on having a drink or three with your pizza, it’s far better to ride the bus than to drive drunk.
The Iron Horse rocks & so does Ski Depot
We had a studio apartment at the Iron Horse, complete with bathroom, full kitchen and the most comfortable Murphy bed I’ve ever slept in. Our room was light, bright and comfortable. The property also has pool/hot tub facilities. What sells most people on Iron Horse is that it is a ski-out, ski-out property. You literally walk out, put your skis on and ski down the hill to the resort.
Most conveniently, Breeze at Ski Depot has a store downstairs at the Iron Horse Resort. This is where we got our ski rentals and the staff couldn’t be nicer – even on a crazy, busy Presidents Day weekend, they were friendly and fun. I even got advice on how to get off a ski lift without falling on my face.
My husband skied two days, ripping it up on Mary Jane and having a hell of a good time doing it. The resort was busy and there were some lines on day two, when the top of the mountain closed due to high winds, but it was a beautiful ski weekend. As a below average skier, I didn’t spend long on the mountain, but had a great time watching GoPro Racing from the deck of the Derailer Bar, and drinking a bloody Mary complete with bacon garnish. Yes, bacon.
So why Winter Park? With everything the town and resort has to offer, plus outstanding opportunities for more winter adventures within easy driving distance, such as snowmobiling in Grand Lake, cross-country skiing at Devil’s Thumb Ranch or tubing at CO Adventure Park in Fraser, Winter Park makes an ideal location for a winter getaway.
This trip sponsored in part by Winter Park & Fraser Chamber.