“Winter Park” and its very steep slopes

Not for the faint of heart: Colorado’s extremely steep slopes (Photo: dpa)“Mary Jane” looks seductive, her curves sparkling like snow in the sun. Only here and there are they faintly veiled in pine green. Every skier dreams of curves like this. But beginners should be wary of flirting, because this “lady” doesn’t exactly make it easy for him. Along with Winter Park Mountain, Vasquez Cirque and Vasquez Ridge, Mary Jane is one of the four peaks that make up the Winter Park ski area. It is an hour and a half drive west of Denver, Colorado and offers a network of 25 elevators and 142 runs. There is no ski circuit like in the Alps, but there are connecting routes from mountain to mountain. There are insights into our series of photos.

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Each mountain has its own character

“Wagon Train is a lame track,” says Jim Ellis with a wink. “Take Tin Horn instead, you can slide all the way to Vasquez Ridge.” The elder with laughter is one of 150 volunteer “hosts” in “Winter Park”. Easily recognized by their yellow and black anoraks, the “hosts” provide information, point the way or, like Jim Ellis, lead free ski tours. Each mountain has its own character, says Jim. Winter Park Mountain, for example, has 50% easy runs. From each mountain station, mostly easy green and difficult black slopes lead to the same valley station, so that beginners and professionals can use the same lift.

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A hidden and uncrowded winter area

“Winter Park” is in its 70th ski season. It is the longest-running resort in Colorado and the fourth by area after Vail, Keystone and Snowmass. However, the place is little known beyond the country’s borders. Perhaps it’s because the 717-strong nest, surrounded by four thousand, isn’t located directly on Interstate Highway 70, but is tucked away beyond Berthoud Pass in broad Fraser Valley. Winter Park’s brief history officially began as a camp for loggers, miners, and railroad builders who drilled the Moffat Tunnel through the rocky flanks of James Peak from 1925 onwards. The people here are proud of the past as a labor camp, which still has an impact today: “Winter Park” is intended to be a normal city, neither pretentious nor glitzy and without a false facade, but with a reasonable quality-price ratio.

Ideal for families

Movie stars like in the elegant Aspen don’t meet one here. Instead, families come. “Nobody here is interested in knowing if I have new skis or if my hat matches the color of my anorak,” says Jonelle Sandel, who comes here from Denver with her husband and two daughters as often as possible. On peak season weekends from January to late March, the “ski train” leaves Denver Union Station early in the morning at 7:15 am, stops at the base station and then returns to the city after closing time: very comfortable for the day – tripers. Among the locals, “Winter Park” is considered Denver’s “home mountain”. But the US ski team has also discovered the terrain for themselves and often trains here.

The best tracks in America

Until a few years ago there were relatively few accommodations in “Winter Park”. In the “Village”, on the other hand, multi-storey loggias with pointed gabled roofs and balconies are being built, which will increase the number of accommodations near the slopes to about 1,200. As long as the developers add a fast six-seater chairlift like the “Panoramic Express,” at 3676 meters the tallest of its kind in North America, even the most avid fans agree with the innovations. But alas, someone is only walking one of the “Mary Jane” tycoon leads. Then there are strong reprimands and protest stickers on the bumpers are taken for a walk. Unspoiled, notoriously steep and voted annually by trade magazines as one of the best on the continent – this is how extreme slopes should remain.

“Mary Jane” – the famous namesake

“Mary Jane was real,” says Jim Ellis. She was once a “lady of pleasure” who took advantage of the local male surplus and was paid for her services in the land, the land where the “Mary Jane” race is now located. With her curvy curves, she now enjoys the same reputation as her legendary namesake.

Further information: Colorado Tourism Office, Neumarkt 33, 50667 Cologne (Tel .: 0221/233 64 07, e-mail: colorado@getitacross.de); Web: www.colorado.com, www.winterparkresort.com

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