It's time for Winter Park to lie down on an analyst's couch. The largest city-owned ski resort in North America, Denver's "winter park" has been embraced for more than 60 years by day skiers who drive 67 miles from the city. Now, with the first phase of a new base village completed, the resort hopes to crank up its destination business. But Denver's mayor has said he can't afford to fund further improvements, nor will he sell the resort so others can. So where does this schizophrenia leave Winter Park? With some of Colorado's best skiing sprawled across nearly 3,000 acres and a decidedly retro feel-which some readers believe is the perfect mix. "You don't have to keep up with the Joneses. It's skiing the way it used to be," a reader applauds. Others see any base-village progress as poison: "Winter Park is selling out! Leave our mountain alone!" This fierce loyalty is bred in the snow-packed steeps and chutes of the Vasquez Cirque, the near-perfect glades off Parsenn Bowl and especially in the cathedral of bumps (all kneel) that is Mary Jane. Let the other resorts have their escalators and sushi lunches. "This is where the skiers ski," a reader concludes. Just two miles from the snow, the town of Winter Park is undervalued. For après, there's old-school Dino's and new-school Higher Ground; for dinner try The Shed or Fontenot's. At some point in the near future, Winter Park will be sold and the remainder of the base village will be built. Then Winter Park will face a problem that even the richest of new owners can't easily solve: How to live with success.
WHAT'S NEW The Kickapoo Tavern, in the Zephyr Mountain Lodge; 3,000 square feet of conference space in the Winter Park Mountain Lodge.
A GOOD DEAL Free 4 All: Book four days lodging and skiing, and only pay for three. Reservations must be made by Dec. 15; 800-729-5813.
MEDALS GOLD Snow, Terrain, Challenge, Value, Lifts, Weather, Family Programs; SILVER Grooming, Service, On-Mountain Food, Scenery.
HIGH/LOW RANK Family (12), Value (14), Weather (14); Off-Hill Activities (37), Après-Ski (40), Dining (46).
DON'T MISS For a romantic evening, take the gondola up to the Lodge at Sunspot for a gourmet dinner.
READER REMARKS (+) "An out-of-the-way place that's happy to be out-of-the-way." "The best moguls on the planet."
(-) "Lifts are aging. More needs to be spent to modernize the facilities." "Not a lot of dancing options."