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Non-Ski Family Trip Report

Chicago, Illinois
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177 posts
44 reviews
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Non-Ski Family Trip Report

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!

Nederland, Colorado
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1. Re: Non-Ski Family Trip Report

Excellent trip report! Glad you enjoyed your time in our wonderful state and found lots of fun things to do with your kids.

Yes indeed, the beetle kill is devastating. The forests are being devoured by those nasty critters and there is no way to stop it. We went to Grand County last fall and were very sad to see how it had spread. Now it is heading our way, east of the Divide. :(

Federal and state forestry officials say that at current rates, mountain pine beetles will kill the majority of our lodgepole pine forests within three to five years.

Chicago
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2. Re: Non-Ski Family Trip Report

Great trip report. I am glad Winter Park measured up as all of us in its fan club claim. If a person can reasonably entertain themselves W/P is a good destination.

I am off to Vail next week to ski and hope to ski Winter Park/MJ on the return day to the airport.

How is the development at the base of WP coming along? I am curious to see how the town and the base will grow.

Austin, Texas
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60 posts
4 reviews
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3. Re: Non-Ski Family Trip Report

Really helpful post! I'm going Feb 4-8 with my wife and 2.5yr old. I was wondering if the Fraser Hill would be too much for him, and if there were any alternatives, like the small snow park you talked about. Thanks a bunch!

Brentwood , TN
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82 posts
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4. Re: Non-Ski Family Trip Report

Ditto on the appreciation! We are heading to CO for the first time during Spring Break and only one of the four of us has ever skied before. You really helped us look seriously at Winter Park as opposed to the hype surrounding the Summit Co. resorts.

chicago, il
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196 posts
7 reviews
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5. Re: Non-Ski Family Trip Report

coolrun2: I have not been there before, but we are planning a vacation next year to the YMCA of Rockies - Snow Mountain, which is about 15 miles from Winter Park (and even closer to Fraser, I believe). They have tubing there which I was under the impression was a little tamer than the Fraser Tubing hill. They also have ice skating, cross country skiing and many other winter activities. The website is www.ymcarockies.org (just make sure that you are looking at the Snow Mountain location...as they have another YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park).

I have not been there yet, but have heard good reviews, so I wanted to pass it on as an idea. The prices are good, too. Maybe someone who has actually been there can chime in...

Also want to ditto thanks to luvcitylivin for the great review. We will be trying skiing a few of the days at either Sol Vista or Winter Park...but are definately looking for other activities (due to both budget and unsure of how well everyone will enjoy downhill skiing!)

Kelly

Chicago, Illinois
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177 posts
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6. Re: Non-Ski Family Trip Report

Thanks you guys for the thanks! I had so much fun writing the trip report. Not only is it a fantastic way to document your travels - you get to help other people with their travel plans as well!

I wanted you to see some of the photos I took of the area but uploading them into the correct place has been my biggest challenge to date!

To see them, click on the 'luvcitylivin' link. Go to the tab marked 'contributions' and then click on 'photos'. You can click on the photo links to enlarge. I hope they help!

chicago, il
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196 posts
7 reviews
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7. Re: Non-Ski Family Trip Report

luvcitylivin: The pictures are spectacular! Thanks for posting them.

I do have a question for you. We are planning to fly into Denver and rent a car (4 wheel drive if possible) to drive out to Granby (a little farther past Winter Park/Fraser). How was the driving? I noticed you are from Chicago (we are from the Chicago area), so at least there is a familiarity w/driving in snow. Just wondering what your feelings were..

Kelly

Chicago, Illinois
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177 posts
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8. Re: Non-Ski Family Trip Report

The driving was a lot easier than I expected, mostly because it wasn't currently snowing on either the trip there or the return. We also rented a 4-wheel drive and had no problems at all. It can be slippery though, because sometimes under what appears to be a layer of snow is ice, so just be careful and you should be okay. There are some hairpin turns that are a little scary but again, just take it slow. (It did strike me as odd to see a thick layer of snow on the roads at all times - usually here in Chicago we don't get that much snow so after a day it's off the main roads). Know that people from the area will be flying by to get past you! Oh, and one more thing: be sure to leave yourself lots of extra time to get to the airport on the way back if it's snowing or has recently snowed a lot. We were stopped once for an Avalanche Blast (this sonic boom when they shoot at a shelf of snow to remove it before an avalanche starts!). This only took about 15 minutes but could have taken longer. For me it was fun because it was such a different experience! Try, if you can, to take both trips during the day so you can see the views since they're different coming and going. I posted some more photos of the area which should come up in a day or so...I think...!

Denton, Texas
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9. Re: Non-Ski Family Trip Report

Great review, thanks! I had a question about Grand Adventures snowmobiling. I am from Texas and rarely see snow, just ice. We would like to go on a guided snowmobiling tour, but didn't know if we should go with the one hour or the two hour guided tour. I would hate to take the two hour and not be able to make it! But it sounds like so much fun I would hate to take the one hour and want more. What do you think?

Chicago, Illinois
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10. Re: Non-Ski Family Trip Report

We are not experienced snowmobilers and had a blast on the two-hour trip. I thought the timing was perfect. It felt like a long time but in the sense that it felt like we really got our money's worth - not too long - I wasn't tired out or bored! You also make a couple of stops along the way so the guide can share information about the area, so you do get off your snowmobile for little breaks. If you have any concerns whatsoever, want to take it slow or go particularly fast, simply tell your guide and they'll do the best they can to accomodate you. They really do want you to have fun. Hope that helps! Feel free to email me anytime with any more questions.

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