For years, while tourists invaded Aspen and Vail, locals reveled in Winter Park's anonymity. That, however, has changed, for ... More
For years, while tourists invaded Aspen and Vail, locals reveled in Winter Park's anonymity. That, however, has changed, for word has leaked out that Winter Park, Denver's favorite snow secret, is a great mountain to ski. It 134 trails, with 41 percent of them being black diamond. The Olympia Express area provides designated easy trails for beginners, and snowboarders can revel in two terrain parks which include half-pipes. The new Zephyr Mountain Lodge, at the base of the area, is convenient for après ski. But for true nightlife one must travel two miles into town.
Bottom Line - enjoyable and informative lessons, but bring your own food.
Winter Park Ski School does a package called the "Easy Start" package - basically, it's a 2 1/2 hour lesson, lift ticket to the green runs (valid all day) and rental for $50. Since the lift ticket alone can run this amount, it's a good deal. If you need the rental, then the package can be paid for at the rental shop.
Lessons start at 9:30 and 12:45. The rental lines first thing in the morning are long. I took an afternoon lesson, turned up at 10am, and the rental shop didn't have a line.
Big Problem #1: The boot rental person asked my shoe size and gave me that size boot. Ski boots generally run one size smaller than regular shoes. Since I had never worn ski boots before, I didn't know whether it was a good fit. I asked, and the rental person glanced at my ski boot and said it was ok. It wasn't. A badly fitting boot caused (in my case) blisters on my shins by the end of the day.
Big Problem #2: They require you to carry one of the ski boots to the desk for scanning. If you have ever tried to walk with one ski boot and one normal shoe, you are insane. Don't try it - you'll only hurt yourself.
Obtaining the skis and poles was easy. They ask for your height and weight, get nice shaped skis and adjust the bindings for you, then pass you onto the payment desk. The whole process had taken less than 10 minutes. Lessons take place in a beginner area called Sorenson Park
Sorenson Park is a cordoned off area that has a gentle slope and magic carpets that go to the top.
Jeff, my instructor for the afternoon, was punctual, and lead our merry band of eight students, through our lesson. The lesson was split into several parts:
- putting on the skis
- sliding around the flat ground
- side stepping up the slope
- gliding down a slight slope
- side stepping up the slope again
- stopping with the wedge
- side stepping up the slope again
- controlling speed with the wedge
I think I side-stepped up the slope six or seven times. Once most of us were comfortable with the wedge, we went up the magic carpet to the top of this small slope, and used our new found technique to go down the slope. This area really wasn't difficult or long. During this process, other instructors side-lined the slower members who had not got the technique, allowing the rest of us to go up the mountain.
We then were taught how to get onto and off a lift (in this case, a quad seater that took us up to Discovery Park). Having had the experience of snow-boarding, I found this easy, but others weren't so fortunate. The seats are very low - ideal for young kids, but difficult for adults.
The lesson continued at the top, with the party being shepherded through turning in the wedge and traversing the mountain. We performed two runs - a shorter one (but still respectable run) and a longer one back to where we started. My only complaint is that the beginner lifts around Discovery Park tend to move slowly, mostly due to complete novices getting on/off the lifts. I don't consider that major. At each point, the instructor was there to help with technique, controlling speed, and getting up when falling down. The instructor was clear, helpful and most definately worth the money.
At the end of the lesson, more than half the group opted to go back up the lifts to do another run. There was obviously enthusiasm for the new sport we had entered.
Am I going back? You bet. I've even convinced my wife to give it a go. She will be doing the same lesson as I did this weekend, and then we'll be taking Easy Start 2 (also a $50 price tag for the lesson, lift ticket and rental) in the new year.
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