Winter Park Transformation

Since its inception 63 years ago, Winter Park Resort has been a place for locals and visitors mostly from Denver to ski, and more recently to snowboard. All of that is about to change. Vancouver, Canada-based Intrawest Corp., purveyor of mountain villages throughout North America, is nearing the completion of a deal to operate and redevelop the resort, which is owned by the city of Denver.

By: Mimi Kmet

Since its inception 63 years ago, Winter Park Resort has been a place for locals and visitors mostly from Denver to ski, and more recently to snowboard. All of that is about to change. Vancouver, Canada-based Intrawest Corp., purveyor of mountain villages throughout North America, is nearing the completion of a deal to operate and redevelop the resort, which is owned by the city of Denver.

“It’s all but a done deal,” said Winter Park spokesperson Joan Christensen, noting that the resort’s board of trustees, as well as the mayor and city council of Denver have approved the deal. “They’re just finalizing the tiny details. I expect we’ll be under Intrawest’s management by late November.”

Intrawest has contractually committed to investing $50 million in on-mountain improvements, such as additional ski lifts and restaurants, over the next 10 years, Christensen added. Visitors will see some of the improvements during the 2003-2004 season.

Meanwhile, Winter Park has spent $2.6 million in improvements for the upcoming season: a new terrain park and half pipe, which will replace existing ones that were spread farther apart; a hand tow; a delicatessen at West Portal Station; a retail shop offering ski accessories and souvenirs; a candy store; and new snow-grooming equipment.

Although Intrawest has not announced plans to do so yet, the company also is expected to develop the base area, pending the finalization of the contract. The company is known for developing pedestrian villages with accommodations, shops, entertainment and dining at ski resorts such as Whistler, British Columbia, Copper, Colo., and Tremblant, Quebec. Christensen said improvements to the base area could start as soon as the 2004-2005 season.

Meanwhile, the beginnings of a village are already in place with the Zephyr Mountain Lodge, Winter Park’s only ski-in, ski-out accommodations. The lodge, which opened in February 2000, offers one-, two- and three-bedroom condominiums on the upper levels and shops, restaurants and pubs on the ground level.

The units are individually owned, but 70% are on a rental program, according to Kelly Mace, the lodge’s director of sales and marketing. Nightly rack rates range from $109 to $850, depending on the type of unit and the season.

The slope side building opens to a large pedestrian plaza, across which are three ski lifts accessing 2,886 acres of terrain.

Inside, the lodge offers a rustic yet contemporary feel, with rich woods, striking upholstery colors in plaids and solids, gas fireplaces and wooden blinds. All units feature full kitchens with stained natural woodwork, dining areas, spacious baths, televisions in living rooms and bedrooms, and videocassette players (movies can be rented at the front desk).

Most of the units, which range in size from 569 to 1,780 square feet, feature outdoor decks. And some of the upper-floor units have vaulted ceilings. In addition, the lodge offers self-serve, lockable ski and snowboard storage, as well as an exercise facility, outdoor whirlpool tubs, heated underground parking and complimentary transfers to the nearby towns of Winter Park and Fraser.

In other Winter Park developments:

" The National Sports Center for the Disabled, the world’s premier training center for adaptive skiing, has launched a program offering family lessons to disabled skiers and snowboarders. The program allows spouses, parents and siblings to learn together and provides skills in assisting the disabled family member on the slopes. Available during holiday periods and spring break, the lessons include other activities, such as showshoeing and sleigh rides.

" A new meeting facility, the Shadow Mountain Ballroom, opened last season at Winter Park Mountain Lodge, accommodating up to 300. The facility features floor-to-ceiling windows, a spacious deck, audio-visual equipment and high-speed Internet access.

" The travel agent-only Web site, www.bookwinter park.com, has been redesigned. Launched in 1999, the site provides sales tools such as customized sell-sheets, last-minute lodging deals and bulk airfare quotes. Agents also can access information on fam trips, entertainment and resort pricing. Call Winter Park central reservations at 800-453-2525.

Web site: www.skiwinter park.com; agents only: www.bookwinterpark.com.

Call Zephyr Mountain Lodge reservations at 877-754-8400. Web site: www.zmlwp. com.

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