For anyone traveling with young children (ours are 2.5 & 4.5) and/or isn't going to ski, I wanted to post our trip report. We just came back from a 5-day trip to Winter Park January 4th - 8th. We stayed with friends at their home in Fraser, a quick 5 minutes from the resort.
Apart from the "non-skiing" aspect of this post, on a side note, my husband and son (4.5 yr old) did manage to get some unplanned skiing in. I never thought we'd have the time or energy for this, but because we were staying with locals we got some great tips that made it possible: first, the equipment was rented the evening before in one of the local shops, as opposed to the day of at the resort. This seriously cut down on the rental expense and the time spent in line. Second, the folks we were staying with had a free pass (otherwise, be prepared to shell out a hefty $86). So..it was not our intention to ski but it just worked out.
One thing we got to do without the kids which was a bit of a bonus (sorry, I know the post title says "family") was Snowmobiling through Grand Adventures, just across from the resort. Our guide was "Snowmobile Steve" and he was great! It's truly a fantastic journey through the woods up and down the mountain. We went on a seriously snowy day so our distance views were blocked a bit but the trees and just everything around us was covered with snow. All that falling snow...it was beautiful and a blast. We did some serious snowmobiling plus got off a couple of times for some really informative information about the surroundings. It was a two-hour trip for $90 and for another $5 bucks they give you a full snow suit too. (Worth every penny!). I did see plenty of kids in the lobby that went with their parents but I'm not sure of the age limits.
As far as the rest of the trip goes, if you're looking for things to do besides ski and have kids, there are plenty of choices: in Fraser there's a great kids' park with a small sledding hill. They even have a couple of piles of sleds there for anyone to use on the honor system. We went once during the day and once at night. The kids loved it and it was a great warm up for the gigantic Fraser Tubing Hill!
The Tubing Hill is really fun. Well, in truth, I was absolutely scared to death every single time but my kids loved it! It's $17 bucks an hour (and one hour is really all you'll need). Kids under 5 are free and technically they're supposed to be over 3 to go down the hill. They ride with you until they're 7 and then they can have their own tube. A tow-rope takes you back up the hill on your tube - very convenient! We went at night and, like I said, scary for me - great fun for the kids. I would definitely recommend snow pants because getting on and off the tube requires a little rolling around in the snow. Oh - and wear your sunglasses or bring goggles - it really windy going down!
We also did a daytime Sleigh Ride through a company called Dashing Through The Snow. It's located in Fraser. It was simply charming. There are a few types of sleigh rides and different companies to choose from and it's mostly just a matter of what you're up for. Some offer dinner and a whole production which could be lots of fun. The one we went on was delightful: about an hour through the woods in a big Sleigh with blankets to help keep us warm and a stop in front of the Continental Divide for delicious hot chocolate and roasting marshmallows. So cool! It was $20 per person and kids under 5 are free again. Totally worth it.
(Oh, remember to bring a little cash with you: all the guides for everything you do get tipped).
We went mountaintop twice without skiing: once with a Scenic Snowcat Tour, and once on the Zephyr Express Chairlift. The Snowcat Tour (offered through the resort)is $48 per person for a two-hour trip but unless you're really into specific mountain and area stats or have small children, it may be just a tad boring. Not much to see on the way up or down, just at the top. The Zephyr Chairlift ride was cheaper ($30 including a $15 food voucher for The Lodge at Sunspot) and a lot more fun and more scenic all around. The views at the top, no matter how you decide to go up, are absolutely breathtaking. On one side are the towns of Winter Park and Fraser and on the other is the Continental Divide. Truly spectacular. Truly. Two caveats for the chairlift choice: I would absolutely not take small and/or inexperienced chairlift riding children (the chairlift is quite open), nor would I go if I were afraid of heights. (Remember that you also have to ride the chairlift back down and you are seriously looking straight down the mountain from way, way up high!).
I think we went at a little slower time of year, but we waited until the day we arrived to make reservations for everything we did and didn't have a single problem. We found most everyone around town to be accomodating and very friendly.
As far as packing, bring a big, heavy pair of boots, long underwear, gloves, a hat, scarf and snow pants. No need to dress up anywhere in town and most of the time, because of what we were doing, we were walking around in several feet of snow. Bring an extra pair of regular pants as it's quite inevitable the pair you're wearing will be wet and you'll want to change for the evening.
There's a big Safeway grocery store in Fraser too for anything you may need.
The town of Fraser is really quaint and small and everywhere you drive, scenic. Winter Park has a very cute outdoor shopping mall to pick up some great souveniers, local pottery, and it even has a little ice-skating rink!
We didn't eat out but I hear Hernando's is the place to have Pizza.
One thing to add is that the two-hour drive from Denver to Winter Park and back again should be considered as part of the vacation - again, spectacular views and winding cliffs!
On a single sad note, it is a little depressing to see all of the brown/dying trees due to the beetle infestation but in a way, all that snow we got proved lucky in that everything was covered in a blanket of white.
So that was our trip: two days of travel and three full days in town and we had a blast. There's more to do too: snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hot air ballooning, dog sledding, driving the Scenic Byway, visiting the hot springs...oh well, next time!