Inside Line: Winter Park

Inside Line
Intrawest Pass


12,060 feet

Vertical Drop:

3,060 feet


359 inches



Getting There:

From Denver, head west on I-70 to High-way 40 west.




Splayed across five mountains (Winter Park, Mary Jane, Vasquez Cirque, Vasquez Ridge, and Parsenn Bowl) and connected by a web of steeps that funnel into two base areas, 66-year-old Winter Park flaunts more diamonds than Paris Hilton's lockbox: Over half the chutes, glades, and zipper lines rank advanced or expert. And though Winter Park's trails are lousy with straight-lining flatlanders, groups like the mostly Front Range "Jane Gang have crushed cartilage and partied at the Mary Jane's Utah Junction Parking Lot since the worm-turn was hot. With Intrawest at the helm, expect expansions and resort-styled amenities. But plan on leaving respectably battered: This is a mogul skier's resort, and judging from bumper stickers created in 2002—Save Our Bumps—a prime piece of mogul ground it will remain.

Powder Day
From the Challenger double, race to cliff-littered Hole-in-the-Wall, where 10- to 15-foot drops line up three to a tier. Then funnel onto Trestle, a roller coaster of bumps, jumps, and boulder fields lined by sneak-away trees that harbor protected powder.

3 Days Later
Drop under the Timberline Lift at the top of Parsenn Bowl and traverse left to the Backside Parsenn gate for semisecret access to several unnamed tree runs. Boulder-pop the lower glades to the Vasquez valley floor.

The Riding
Boarders love to rip the widely spaced glades on Willett's Way and Johnstone Junction in lower Parsenn Bowl.

Proving Grounds
Marquee Route: Flaunt your bumps finesse on Outhouse, a 2,660-foot-long test piece for ski patrol candidates (who must ski it nonstop, top to bottom). Last year—in a move that incited rebellion among bump skiers—the resort began split-grooming this main artery between Winter Park and Mary Jane. Off Broadway: Hug the treed edges of north-facing Gambler and Aces and Eights on Vasquez Ridge for soft, fall-line moguls long after the holiday revelers head home.

Backcountry Access
Exit the first gate on the Vasquez Cirque cat track and skirt south of Twin Cones toward the Zero Creek head-wall. Though avalanche-prone and blocked by a cornice with few access points, snow loads in several south- and east-facing chutes, ranging from 30 to 50 degrees, that dump into a boulder-strewn talus field. Hitch home on Highway 40.

Storms tracking out of the south often unload east of the Continental Divide. Head to Winter Park in February and March, when northerly systems catch in the upper Fraser Valley basin and recirculate for days.

At the sound of the three o'clock steam whistle (followed by Ozzy's pre—reality TV classic, "Crazy Train), head to the Derailer Bar for a Mary Jane Ale.

In town, try Basecamp Bakery, where every beignet and bagel is made from scratch pre-dawn. Come lunchtime, go for on-mountain aesthetics and a $12 burger in the Club Car at the Mary Jane base. For dinner, try Hernandos' whole-wheat pizza and micros, Untamed Steakhouse for meat, or Fontenots for spicy Cajun (all three are in Winter Park).

Up All Night
Every three weeks the Grand County Blues Society hosts legends like James Cotton and Tab Benoit at Smokin' Moe's Ribhouse and Saloon in Winter Park.

Slope-side two-bedroom condos at Zephyr Lodge (zephyr run $500 per night. The Olympia Motor Lodge (olympia in downtown Winter Park, has doubles for $120.

Essential Gear
Protect and stabilize your knee joints with anatomically engineered Pro Conditioning Tights from CW-X. ($80;


Contrary to popular belief, even on a completely bluebird day in January atop the highest lift in Vail, you’re not getting vitamin D from the sun. Vail, or any other ski hill in North America for that matter, is too far above the equator to receive the type of direct sunlight needed to create vitamin D during the winter months. Which is a bummer because this recently popular “sunshine vitamin” plays a key role in boosting the immune system. In particular, it triggers and arms the body's T cells, the cells in the body that seek out and destroy any invading bacteria and viruses. Last year, scientists at the University of Copenhagen discovered that Vitamin D is crucial to activating our immune defenses, and that without sufficient intake of the vitamin, the killer cells of the immune system will not be able to react to and fight off serious infections in the body. Vitamin D can be obtained through the diet, though very few foods naturally contain it. The foods that do include fatty fish, fish liver oil, and eggs. Smaller amounts are found in meat and cheese. A person’s vitamin D status is determined by measuring the level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in blood serum.  Current lab ranges are 30-80 ng/mL, though most functional healthcare practitioners recommend levels be at least 50 ng/mL - even higher in some cases. Though the RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU/day of vitamin D, most health experts are suggesting closer to 5,000 IU/day for optimal immune function. So to up your chances of not getting sidelined by a cold or flu this ski season, be sure to follow these three guidelines. That way you can spend your “sick days” skiing.  

Inside Line: Mary Jane & Winter Park

Mary Jane—named for a mining-era lady of the night—and its sister area, Winter Park, offer plenty of prospects for good skiing, including bumps and powder-filled bowls. Forming one of the closest major resorts to Denver, the two areas spread across five mountains and 3,078 acres. Add 3,060 feet of vertical, 30 feet of snowfall, and a direct train from Denver and it’s no wonder why the Front Range packs the place on Saturdays.