410 Forum — Sports
A Day In Winter Park
By Paige Mackenzie
Before the lifts start running, Winter Park is a quiet and serene place. The hanging chairs swing silently back and forth in the wind, untouched snow sparkling on the ground below as the morning sun breaks through the clouds. The lifts, lodges and slopes will soon be busy with people, but for now the empty mountain waits.
A day at Winter Park Ski Resort in Colorado is full of adventure, beauty and interesting people.
Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009
The day is off to a late start for a bus full of skiers and snowboarders parked in the Winter Park overflow lot. Traffic up to the mountains was even more backed up than usual today, and the riders on the bus seem restless. The driver is young and pretty, but she has a wild, fiercely independent look in her eye. She wears a camouflage trucker hat with her short brown hair in a ponytail sticking out the back. She has no problem driving a school bus full of 50 people down the icy road to the resort, and she sings along with the radio as she shifts. “Good shredding!” she shouts as the last rider hops off the bus.
Today is the 34th annual Wells Fargo Cup at Winter Park. Amateurs of all skiing and snowboarding abilities take the hill in this pro-am style event. Sponsored by big companies like the Denver Post, the Broncos, and Sports Authority, the teams race against each other for kudos and cash prizes in front of a growing crowd of fans. The crowd watches intently as the competitors swerve back and forth through the slalom course and cheer wildly as each passes the finish line.
At this time in the morning it’s still too early for lunch, and only a few people are sitting in the Winter Park Lodge. These people are all the same. They are women in their 40’s/50’s/60’s. They are the mothers/wives of skiers/snowboarders. They all sit by the window with their feet up on chairs. They read books about dog training/self motivation/romance. They work on crossword puzzles/soduku, and they watch out the window for their loved ones to come down the slope. They save chairs around them with jackets/bags/gloves and cast fierce glances at anyone who might attempt to sit in their area. Slowly their husbands/children trickle in for lunch, they close their books and wave wildly across the lodge.
Hippie on the lift
“Winter Park is my home, at least for the rest of this season 'till I move on,” says Bill Wieman, a 21-year-old self declared hippie. He’s riding the Zephyr lift to the top of the mountain, his beat-up board hanging from one foot. Bill wears a neon one-piece snowsuit, unzipped, showing his shirtless chest. His dreadlocked hair peeks out from under a handmade beanie. Bill moved out of his parent’s house when he was 16 and has been traveling the country ever since. He has been living in a shack near Winter Park with his dog, Maybe, for seven months, working at a snowboard repair shop in exchange for free skiing. Once the snow melts, he plans to move farther west, but until then, he’s enjoying all the mountain has to offer.
The peak of the mountain at Winter Park is a beautiful place. High above timberline, it becomes hard to distinguish between clouds and solid ground. Skiers and snowboarders carve fresh tracks in the snow, like marbles rolling down a hill they bounce back and forth, no two paths the same. The sun shines through the clouds, and the wind blows snow into drifts like sand on a beach -- always changing.
The last run
“The last run of the day is always the best,” says Amanda Swanson, a skier spending the weekend at Winter Park with her family. Tired but happy after a long day of skiing, she pushes off with her poles and rockets down the slope to catch up with her parents.
After the lifts stop running, Winter Park is quiet and serene once again. The slopes that were so pristine and untouched this morning have been carved and sliced into a million pieces, ski and snowboard tracks covering every inch of snow. The mountain doesn’t seem to mind though. Shadows dance and grow across its face as the sun sets and clouds move in. Snowflakes begin to float down from the sky and cover the mountain’s wounds, preparing for tomorrow, another day in Winter Park.
A Colorado Tradition
• Winter Park was Colorado’s first ski location, opening in the 1939-1940 season with only three runs.
• In the first official season, 10,692 tickets were sold, costing only a dollar each.
• Today Winter Park features 134 runs and sells more than 100,000 tickets a season.
• WP markets itself as “Colorado’s Favorite” ski resort.
• For more, visit the official Winter Park Web site.