- Overall Rating 3
- Family Friendly 5
- All Mtn. Terrain 4
- Terrain Park 4
- Nightlife 3
Pros: A little bit of everything
Cons: Not enough of everything
Recommended For: Single/Newlyweds, Family Friendly, Empty Nesters
Date Visited: Jan 1, 2011
Winter Park / Mary Jane is "the other direction" before the hillclimb to Eisenhower Tunnel. At exit 232 at Empire, then North. Like Breckenridge, Winter Park greets you with a white and red open Gondola (Village Cabriolet) of sorts (more of what you might see in an actual amusement park) taking you from parking lot (free) to village, just before the ski lifts. The Gondola is cute, somewhat enchanting, but also somewhat juvinile and lacks the upscale glitz of Keystone and Breckenridge's Gondolas. This funnels nearly everyone into the Zephyr Express, or beginners go over to Gemini Express. Like Copper Mountain's Green Acres, the Discovery area is a nice place for Class 2-4 Beginning skiers to hone their skills in an unintimidating environment.
While not set up nearly as wild and bizarre as Vail, Winter Park/Mary Jane is a bit all over the map, and not as composed as Copper Mountain, with lifts and ski runs going every which direction. Blue runs serviced by the Pioneer Express lift is a haven for intermediate skiers, but still pales in comparison to Breckenridge's Peak 7, and this lift gets very crowded too. Skiing down and catching closer Olympia Express gets you out of the black hole of being stuck in the Pioneer Express lift lines.
The transition between Winter Park and Mary Jane is a weird one. Unlike the clear-cut transition between Keystone and North Peak, WP/MJ act more like neighboring states with a dividing line that meanders all over the map, and much less like switching continents like the transition between Keystone and North Peak. You do not always know if you are skiing in Winter Park or Mary Jane. At the base of Mary Jane is a regular cafeteria, but also next door a very nice upscale restaurant. Also great food at the top where Zephyr and Eskimo lifts converge.
At the top of the peak, at mid mountain where Zephyr and Eskimo lifts converge, there is a hidden hill behind the tiny peak with a rope lift (Lariat) which is a strange (but effective) solution to strange terrain. The only main way to get from the mid mountain Zephyr/Eskimo lift area to Mary Jane is either skiing the treacherous Outhouse ski run, or take Whistlestop to High Lonesome Express lift. At the very top of Mary Jane, it is very confusing about which direction takes you to which place, and despite having looked at ski area trail maps my entire life, I easily got turned around. Mary Jane has some nice blue-black runs for advanced intermediates, especially Sleeper. Black runs left of Sleeper are heavily moguled out.
One of the gems of Winter Park is for intermediates to advanced skiers to take Panoramic Express to the top. While Parsenn bowl is short and cannot compare to more robust bowls, it is still a fun bowl to ski. Perry's Peek is a very beautiful ski run that is not heavily treed (no dodging required) but is still nicely decorated with trees to ski around (not necessarily through). At ridgeline, this is a nice fun run with great views.
For those with a need for speed, then you will end up wearing out the Zephyr lift. Huges and Little Pierre are steep, packed, have few moguls and can be taken with great speed and intensity. Beautiful glades at the top right side, like Waterfall, which dumps you down into Lower Egress.
Winter Park / Mary Jane is a bit scatterbrain. You can avoid the morning traffic jam a Zephyr by parking at Mary Jane instead. WP/MJ is a different experience, you feel like you are skiing in a different state. It is a great mountain to branch out to if you want variety from what you have been skiing. However a bit dated like Copper Mountain, it lacks the feel of being cutting edge and could use some upgrades. But it is a fun place to go and try, definitely worth the drive.