Winter Park Resort opens for the season |

Winter Park Resort opens for the season

Erik Becker, left, and Euel Chaote put the finishing touches on a terrain park feature in Sorensen Park at Winter Park Resort on Tuesday, Nov. 12. The resort opens for its 74th season today.
Byron Hetzler/ | Sky-Hi News

With an average or possibly above-average snow year predicted for the upcoming winter months, Winter Park opened for the season Wednesday, Nov. 13. The resort debuted a marketing plan to highlight its seven different territories, and will launch the “Cirque Sled,” giving skiers easier access to the Cirque.

Winter Park opened with three chairlifts, the Arrow, Gemini and Endeavour, and three beginner trails, including Sorensen Park, Parkway and Porcupine, totaling 25 skiable acres for the first day of the season. Skiers and boarders will be riding on top of 18 inches of man-made snow this week.

The rebranding effort is designed to elevate Winter Park’s standing as the fourth largest ski resort in Colorado, with 3,081 skiable acres.

The rebranding will separate each portion of the mountain and will assign a badge to each territory with its own eye-catching artwork and name. The resort plans to have some kind of “bet” or incentive for people to experience each of the seven territories, something it says will get locals out of their favorite spots and out exploring different areas of the resort. Each territory will have badges and other apparel available for people to boast their favorite spot to ski or ride.

The seven territories are: Winter Park, Mary Jane, Vasquez Ridge, Parsenn Bowl, Terrain Park, Eagle Wind and The Cirque.

The rebranding spawns from months of extensive research dating back to June, during which the resort developed a brand to convey Winter Park Resort’s stature as one of the best big mountain experiences not only in Colorado, but also in the United States. The resort is seeking to obliterate the myth the resort consists of two extremes: the family friendly Winter Park and the expert-only Mary Jane.

“A mark of a good brand repositioning is its ability to live as a multi-faceted entity,” said Jodie Silva, vice president of marketing and sales for Winter Park in a news release dated Nov. 4. “This initiative has been a collaborative effort resort-wide. The Seven Territories are an experience and skiers and riders will be immersed in it with products, services, events and promotional offers across the resort. Plus it will evolve and be expanded upon over the years.”

Why hike when you can sled?

The Cirque Sled is one of the more exciting pieces of the resorts rebranding effort. A large sled, capable of seating 48 people towed by a snowcat, will give skiers access to the 1,332 acres of backcountry style skiing in the Cirque, which previously was only accessible by hiking.

The double-black-diamond terrain found in the Cirque is some of the most extreme terrain the resort has to offer.

The Cirque Sled is currently under construction but the resort says it should be operational well before it opens the territory. A $10 fee will get you a ticket for the sled.

Weather forecast

“Normal” amounts of precipitation are forecasted for the upcoming winter months with an equal possibility for Grand County to see above or below normal amounts of precipitation, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures could average a little above normal, according to David Darjenbruch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder, although that seems to be a general trend in recent years.

Snowfall for the Winter Park Resort area averages around 350 inches during the winter months, with last year’s snowfall totaling 284 inches or 87.1 percent of the 10-year average. The 2011-12 snow year swung in very low at 57 percent of the 10-year average or 190 inches.

The resort could potentially see 65 more inches of snow this year if the forecast holds true.

Predictions say the chances of the area regressing into a drought are extremely low. The short-term forecast currently calls for a 40 percent chance of snow starting Wednesday night and continuing through Thursday night.

The snow is expected to ebb off on Friday and Saturday before another chance of snow is predicted for the rest of the weekend and continuing into Monday.

A cold front will drop the temperatures in the area to highs in the 30s with lows in the teens, according to the National Weather Service, which could help keep the snow on the ground during the first month of the ski season.

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