Family travel: Winter Park in the Summertime
posted by: Mile High Mamas
Each year, we dutifully purchase our annual ski passes like good Front Range, Colorado residents. We moved to Colorado three years ago and we are just now getting to the point where we don’t say, “well, we just moved here” when we meet someone new. My husband had skied and snowboarded for years but the rest of the family had only spent time in the snow white sands of Pensacola Beach, Florida where we lived for fifteen years before moving here. We all learned how to ski in our first winter here and fell in love with it. Though we return to the mountains most weekend days during the winter, we didn’t realize that there really is something to the saying about people coming to the mountains for the winters but staying for the summers.
Summer at Winter Park
We chose to visit Winter Park Resort for several reasons. The first was that this is where we ski in the wintertime and we wanted to see what it looks like in the summer. The second reason was that we got a hot deal on the Vintage Hotel during their end of the ski season sale. Lastly, it only takes us a little over an hour to get from our house to Winter Park (barring the traffic that often turns I-70 into a parking lot). It makes for a great day trip if you don’t want to spend the weekend.
The Activities that Cost
My kids decided that our first stop should be the Alpine Slide. Winter Park Resort boasts Colorado’s longest alpine slide and it does not disappoint. The ride begins with a six minute chair lift to the top where you will wait in line, listen to the directions, and begin your ride on the slide that is over 3000 feet long. My 8 and 10 year old decided to ride by themselves at the last minute. My 10-year-old cautiously navigated the turns while my wild 8-year-old daughter whipped around corners as fast as she could. After our ride down the mountain, we made our way to the Putting Course.
This 18-hole Putting Course had our competitive sides showing. The course doesn’t look as difficult as it actually is but when you start playing, you realize that you need to pay attention to all of the slopes and hills that you encounter. Mom won. I tried not to gloat too much. Who am I kidding? I totally celebrated.
Even though we had ridden the Arrow chairlift up to the top of the Alpine Slide, we still wanted to take the scenic Zephyr chairlift to take in the views. Riding a chairlift in the summer is much different than riding it in the winter. I think the pillow of snow beneath the lift in the winter gives the illusion of not being far from the ground. Once I got over my initial fears, I was able to enjoy the ride up with my family and even snap a few pictures. At the top, you can wander around, watch the mountain bikers take off, and enjoy the views.
Back down in the village, my kids panned for gold at the Mary Jane Mineral Panning. They didn’t find gold (not even a piece of pyrite) but they did find some great minerals like rose quartz. My husband and I grabbed a cold drink and a bench while our kids tried to conquer the Human Maze. After a while, we climbed the stairs to the view station so that we could help them out. They both finished in under 25 minutes.
The one thing that we did not try out was the downhill mountain biking. We watched people push their bikes onto a converted chairlift and ride down the trails that we ski down in the winter. It looked like a lot of fun but we will need to make time for a lesson before we attempt that!
Each individual activity has a cost attached to it and it can add up quickly. Do your research ahead of time so you know what you will want to participate in and how much it will cost. Winter Park offers day passes and the 2015 Coca Cola Adventure 4Pack that includes a hotdog lunch. This might be your best bet if the whole family wants to participate. My husband and I probably could have gotten away with one alpine slide ticket, one scenic chairlift ticket, and the Putting Course; however, by the time I added those activities up it makes more sense to just buy a half day ticket.
Not everything has a cost associated with it though. We watched a movie out on the lawn just on the other side of the Zephyr chairlift next to the Private Lesson Center. Seats were limited but you could bring a blanket and grab a piece of lawn. Movies are shown on Friday nights and the schedule is on the Winter Park website.. From 4-6 p.m. on Fridays, listen to a band in the Village gazebo. On Wednesday afternoons, you can take a geocaching class to learn how to find those hidden treasures. Take the kids to the Gazebo Plaza on Wednesday afternoons from 4-5 p.m. for free popsicles by the campfire. Popsicles are first come first served.
As we made our way through the village, our kids couldn’t get enough of the gigantic games strategically placed throughout. There are several games of giant Jenga, a giant Scrabble board with bean bag letters, Connect Four, Checkers and Chess.
Would we go back?
Overall, we had a great time exploring Winter Park’s summer offerings. We will definitely be returning but I think this time I will bring my book and a cold drink. I will find a bench in the shade and purchase my children each a pass so they can run around and have a great time. It will be a win win for both of us! Of course, they will probably want a putt putt rematch.
Jennifer Close is a teacher librarian and travel blogger. In 2012, her family left the beaches of Pensacola, Florida for the mountains of Denver, Colorado. She likes to read, craft and look for adventures with her children and you can find her at Two Kids and a Map. Thank you to Winter Park Resort for providing the Adventure Pass to facilitate this review; all opinions and adventures are her own.