Psst. Here's a little Colorado ski secret: Winter Park has more snow than Steamboat, better bumps than Beaver Creek and significantly sparser crowds than Keystone. "This resort is under-appreciated," one reader rightfully concludes. The oldest continuously operated resort in Colorado, Winter Park has always enjoyed the loyalty of Denver's day skiers, but now is looking to boost its destination business. The foundation is in place: a world-class mountain. Most resorts claim they have "something for everyone." With 3,000 acres across four peaks, Winter Park trumps that with "there's plenty for everyone." Intermediates can find true love on cruisers such as Cramner and Bradley's. Experts beeline to the chutes and cornices of Vasquez Cirque. (New this year: a $5 snowmobile rope-ride to the outer edges of the ridge. Locals call it the "Cirque Jerk.") But it's Mary Jane's we-dare-you bumps (Derailer: 1, You: 0) that sell lift tickets. "The best moguls in Colorado," one fan says. The slam against Winter Park has always been its creaky base village. Help has arrived in the form of the new $70 million Zephyr Mountain Lodge development. Opening fully this season, the lodge will offer restaurants, bars, stores, rooms and, it seems, a bright future. Purists may still opt for the Club Car or the Derailer for a cold one. And for dinner, the Lodge at Sunspot or Fontenot's in town won't disappoint. But Winter Park has always been more about people than places. One reader captures this nicely: "I went here with my parents as a kid, and someday I'll bring my kids, too."
WHAT'S NEW Zephyr Mountain Lodge, including much-needed lodging, restaurants, bars, and shops; $5 snowmobile pull to Cirque; expanded snowshoe and snowmobile tours.
A GOOD DEAL Free 4 All: Buy three nights' lodging and three days' skiing and receive the fourth night and lift ticket free. Purchase by Dec. 15.
MEDALS GOLD Terrain, Challenge, Value, Weather, Family Programs; SILVER Snow, Lifts, Service, On-Mountain Food.
HIGH/LOW RANK Family Programs (14), Weather (16), Value (21); Après-Ski (42), Dining (46), Lodging (47).
DON'T MISS "After Dark at the Park," a snowmobile mountain tour followed by a gourmet dinner at the Lodge at Sunspot. Call (800) 729-5813.
READER REMARKS (+) "My favorite resort in Colorado." "If I only had money to buy a vacation home here seven years ago." (-) "Poor parking." "Few restaurants and comatose nightlife."