Author Linda Hayes Photography Joshua Paul
DAY THREE / Rise and shine before the sun is up (a cappuccino from the nifty Nespresso machine in your room will help). Don your ski clothes and have the bellman call a taxi for the short ride to Union Station.
The Ski Train departs from track No. 2. You already have a reservation, so just climb aboard. If you’re hungry, you can grab a hot chocolate and a croissant from the dining car. America’s largest scheduled passenger train has been shuttling riders back and forth to Winter Park Resort since 1940. The 56-mile route is an eye-opener. You’ll climb along rivers and narrow canyon ledges and pass through 28 tunnels, including the final, 6.2 mile–long Moffat Tunnel, which bores through the Continental Divide and reaches 9,239 feet at its apex. You purchase your ski ticket onboard, so once the train stops at the slopes, make tracks for the West Portal Station to rent ski gear at West Portal Rentals and grab a trail map. Lessons are available.
It’s time to hit the slopes, but nonskiers have options, too. No longer a day-use ski area, Winter Park has morphed into a destination ski resort. This season, the Village at Winter Park debuts, where you can wander through new shops and enjoy new restaurants and an ice-skating rink. Or book a snowshoe tour or heated snowcat tour at Guest Services in the Balcony House.
Either way, you’ll see the mountain and get a history of the area to boot.
A dramatically expanding network of lifts and trails connects Winter Park Resort’s 3,060 acres on four mountains—Winter Park, Mary Jane, Vasquez Cirque, and Vasquez Ridge. The new Panoramic Express, North America’s highest six-person chairlift, has opened up glades and trails in Parsenn Bowl.
The views at the top of the Panoramic Express will make your whole trip worthwhile. Turn right off the lift and pick a line down the bowl on Larkspur or Juniper. Pop out onto Eidelweiss, cruise to the Sunnyside lift, and, eight minutes later, you’re back at the top of Mary Jane and just a Whistlestop cruise away from lunch at The Lodge at Sunspot. Warm up by the fire; then settle windowside for buffalo chili or elk brats.
After lunch, take Jabberwocky to the Olympia Express to the Pioneer Express. Spend some time on the intermediate runs under the lift, and then make your way back to the base, arriving just as the 3 p.m. steam whistle blows—a reminder that the train will be ready to board at 4:15 for the trip back to Denver. Before you go, cram into The Derailer Bar at West Portal Station for a locally brewed Mary Jane Ale and the house special: batter-fried “frickles” with garlic dipping sauce.
Back at the hotel, hit the spa for a scheduled Hops ’n’ Honey Pedicure; your treatment includes a sampling of three local microbrews or herbal teas.
For dinner, take the Rolls to Fruition, a charming, country-style bistro in the Sixth Avenue neighborhood. Sip a glass of sparkling rosé while you mull over the menu. Potato-wrapped oysters Rockefeller are a specialty, as is the Maple Leaf Farms duck breast. Finish with double-chocolate pudding with Chantilly cream.
Savor the last minutes of your trip with a final toast at Elway’s bar at The Ritz. Perfect.
Linda Hayes is a resident of Colorado ski country and a longtime contributor to HEMISPHERES
December in Denver brings anything from raging snowstorms to sunshine and 70 degrees. But November and April average more snowfall. Highs typically reach the 40s, and lows drop into the teens. The region experiences a pleasant climate the rest of the year, with plenty of sunshine, moderate temperatures, and low humidity. Late spring and summer feature isolated thunderstorms in the late afternoon.
Weather information is provided by The Weather Channel. For more Denver climatological details, visit weather.com.
Denver is an easy walking city. Its newly expanded light rail system offers a good transportation option. Taxis are more easily called than hailed, and phone numbers, such as 303-777-7777 for Yellow Cab Company, are easy to remember. Denver International Airport is 23 miles from downtown, and a taxi ride costs $43. Other options include shuttles, such as SuperShuttle Denver. You can rent a car, but it will most likely sit in the hotel garage, and parking isn’t cheap.
A The Children’s Museum of Denver Tel: 303-455-1187 or cmdenver.org
B Elitch Gardens Theme Park Includes water park in summer; Tel: 303-595-4386 or elitchgardens.com
C Downtown Aquarium Tel: 303-561-4450 or downtownaquarium.com
D Denver Museum of Nature & Science Tel: 303-322-7009 or dmns.org
E Denver Zoo Tel: 303-376-4800 or denverzoo.org