terrain, mary jane, parsenn bowl, vibe, friendly
runouts, long walk to parking lot
I just finished up 3 days of spring skiing at Winter Park, and it was simply amazing. To be fair, we had great conditions the first couple days, so maybe my opinion is skewed by that.
Parking: There's ample free parking, especially if you get there early enough. I was always able to get a spot and never had to take the shuttle. However, the parking lot was basically one big mud pit (which presumably is only an issue for spring skiing), and the walk to the base was pretty long, especially since it was uphill at the end of the day.
Lifts: I was there on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday and never expereinced a lift line more than maybe 5 people deep. Maybe it was just too late in the season for crowds, but waiting in lift lines was a complete non-issue the entire weekend. There's a mix of high and low capacity and speed. Panoramic and Eagle Wind were only open 1 of the 3 daysI was there due to high winds, which seems like a frequent issue.
Terrain: Incredible. Whatever you're looking for, Winter Park has it, and plenty of it. There's plenty of beginner and intermediate trails for those who need them, but the advanced terrain is what makes Winter Park so special. Almost every run on Mary Jane is ungroomed. For some runs, this just means chop, for others it's serious bumps. There are also some great tree runs. If you're looking at the trail map, the big swath of trees immediately left of the Super Gauge lift is epic. Steep, but wide spacing on the trees. There's kind of a trail through the trees, so if you want to keep it loose you can, and if you want to really challenge yourself, you can head into tigther trees off to the side. If Mary Jane were the entire resort, I would still go there. The Parsenn Bowl is also amazing. If the Panoramic Express is closed, you really can't access much worthwhile terrain from the Sunnyside Lift, but if Panoramic is open, it's fantastic. Huge open snow field at the top, followed by a choice-- keep to skiers right and take the path along the boundary (Parry's Peek) or drop into the trees. I recommend the former, because if you drop into the trees immediately, you're left with so-so blue runs back to the lift once you get out. The upper part of Parry's Peek is an awsesome trail in it's own right, not just for transport. There are tons of trees and jumps to the sides, allowing you to make the trail as easy or difficult as you want. And the drop back down to the lift is fantastic. Again, plenty of options to customize the run to your desired difficulty level. Unfortunately, I only got one run through Vasquez Cirque and one down Eagle Wind. The top of the cirque was amazing, and I only wish it would have been open the other days. The trees in Eagle Wind start out wide, but end up getting pretty tight. It's not too steep, but the trees there are definitely challenging. It's a looooong runout back from Eagle Wind, which wasn't pleasant. Getting back to the Winter Park base can be annoying with a lot of runouts and confusion, so that was kind of annoying. Well worth it for Mary Jane and Parsenn Bowl though.
Terrain Parks: Conditions got a little slushy on Sunday, so we spent the day in the parks. Rail Yard is great, and offers a lot of variety. Re-Railer was a small area, but also had some nice features. The small and medium parks way off to the right on the trails map didn't offer much. Eskimo Express is the best lift for doing laps in the parks, but it's not the greatest setup for laps. Dark Territory requires a speical pass. I'm not sure if you have to pay for it or just prove you're qualified, but there are some HUGE jumps in there.
Lodges/Food: There are lodges all over the place, which is really nice. You're never too far from taking a break if need be. I ate lunch at the Mary Jane base both days. The Club Car had pretty good food, but the cafeteria not so much. The Coffee and Tea Market at the Winter Park base had great European-style breakfasts (ie, pastry smothered with nutella and an espresso). Prices are pretty typical of a ski resort, but not outrageous.
Staff: Unbelievably friendly. Everyone, from the liftees, to the waitresses, to ski patrol. I don't think I got on a single lift without getting a smile from the operators. We took the Eagle Wind chair up just before they were shutting it down due to high winds and my buddy lost his glove. Not only did ski patrol offer to go grab it for him, they had us meet them at the top of Mary Jane, so we could continue to ride in the meantime instead of waiting.
Nightlife: We didn't check out the nightlife at the base, just went into town. We took a shuttle home and a black cab back (just ask the bartender, they should be able to hook you up). It's a pretty chill scene with a lot of locals. I enjoyed it, but if you're out looking to hook up maybe it's not so great.
If you're an avid skier or boarder, get out to Winter Park next season. You won't regret it. I will definitely be back.