A no-frills town, Winter Park Colorado sits high in the Rockies at just over 9,000 feet above sea level. Located at the southern end of the rolling Fraser Valley, the town hosts the closest major ski resort to Denver, at less than a two hour drive. What started as two villages housing railroad builders constructing the eight-mile long Moffat Tunnel in 1927, was incorporated as a ski town in 1978. Now, just as a ‘park’ is a paradise to a fun loving child, Winter Park is a paradise base camp for any snow sport enthusiast.
The town is very small with just 600 year-round residents, and its shops and restaurants somewhat scattered along U.S. 40 just north of Winter Park Resort. Some say it lacks an abundance of accommodations, which probably lends to the short lift lines, wallet-friendly prices and lodging availability. Most weekend warriors and families tend to stay at the resort and not travel far from its base village. Repeat visitors argue that Winter Park is one of the few ski towns where families can still afford a full-service ski vacation.
Why Winter Park Colorado is Different
Winter Park is different for its sheer simplicity. It’s easy to find places to stay, eat, cross country ski and simply relax. With a small footprint, laid back locals and easy access to the challenging and yet also beginner-accommodating ski mountain, it is and has been home to Olympic, US and World ski champions.
Winter Park offers a variety of affordable to upscale lodging. For a luxury experience, consider the Zephyr Mountain Lodge, the Devils Thumb Ranch, or the Iron Horse Resort. Comfortable, yet affordable lodging is found at the Inn at Silver Creek, the Beaver Village Lodge or the Winter Park Mountain Lodge.
Use the “Explore Winter Park’s Best Lodging Deals” box above and right to find the town’s best Lodging choices and deals.
Winter Park is a sleepy town, so come dusk, the main drag goes quiet. If you’re looking for nightlife or after-hours excitement, your best bet is to take the free town shuttle to the resort village. Here, the bars and restaurants tend to stay open later to cater to village guests and groups celebrating a great day on the hill. If a hearty nightlife scene is essential to your vacation, you may want to look elsewhere.
When driving in from the front range or leaving town, make a point to check COtrip.org for road conditions on Berthoud Pass. This windy and sometimes snow-covered pass is the main artery to and from Winter Park. If conditions look sketchy consider spending the night in town and waiting out the storm.
For a small town, Winter Park has a healthy variety of dining. Winter Park’s best pizza slice is at De Antonio’s, which also offers a wide selection of Italian Food. If you’re in a hurry, De Antonio’s makes it easy to grab a quick a slice, sandwich or an order to-go. Best for contemporary cuisine, brews or to catch a sports game visit Randi’s Grill and Pub. For Mexican eats and tasty margaritas visit Casa Mexico. Those seeking fine dining should visit the local favorite, Fontenot’s Fresh Seafood & Grill. Fontenot’s has been noted as the standard of fine dining in Winter Park since 1990.
For quick après skiing beers or a relaxing glass of wine, the best options include Club Car at the base of Mary Jane Mountain, the Crooked Creek Saloon at the base of Winter Park and the Five Mountain Tavern. With vintage decor, the Five Mountain Tavern has visitors feeling like they’re starring in a vintage western film.
Winter Park is home to two microbreweries, the Moffat Station Restaurant and Brewery and the Wildcreek Brewery. Both serve a variety of locally crafted beer and a full restaurant menu in a friendly setting. Find an intimate atmosphere and excellent wine at La Collina Kitchen + Wine Bar.
Winter Park Colorado Lodging
Use the “Explore Winter Park’s Best Ski Lodging Deals” box above and right to find Winter Park’s best Lodging choices and deals.
In addition to the resort’s traditional holiday celebrations, Winter Park hosts a handful of festivals, ski competitions and weekly events. Considered a local favorite, February’s Winter Carnival, a week packed full of on and off-mountain events including live music, snowshoe races, skill camps, freestyle events and various parties.
To close out the season, the resort hosts the now 46-year-old tradition Coca-Cola® Spring Splash. Here, competitors race through an on-mountain obstacle course and attempt to skim across an icy pond to reach the finish line and post a fast time. The event is highly entertaining for spectators and includes free live music sets. Click here for a full Calendar of Winter Park Events.
Off Mountain Activities
Rolling hillsides and a network of creeks allow Winter Park to host many activities other mountain towns can’t match. Easy access to snowmobiling, dog sledding, sleigh rides, nordic skiing, fishing, and ice-skating are all within arm’s reach. A visitor favorite, hot-air balloon rides are available throughout the year and offer stunning views of the Continental Divide, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Indian Peaks Wilderness. Local outfitter Grand Balloon Adventures starts launching balloons at dawn for a colorful start to the day.
Winter Park and the Fraser Valley has repeatedly been named one of the best places to fish in Colorado. Year-round fishing is accessible at several creeks, ponds and rivers for dedicated anglers. For more information on fishing, rentals and guide services visit Grand Fly Fishing.
Located 11 miles north of town, Devils Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa is second only to the ski resort as a tourist destination. The ranch offers an upscale, rustic experience with a full-service spa, yoga classes and fine dining, as well as sleigh rides, horseback riding and miles of groomed nordic trails.
Anyone interested in the area’s history can visit the Cozens Ranch Museum for an interactive look at the events that shaped modern-day Winter Park, Fraser, and Grand Valley.
By Patrick Shehan