Winter Park Resort celebrates diamond anniversary
A Winter Park timeline
1940: New $40,000 ski tow opens at Winter Park ski area, Ski Train begins service to Winter Park from Denver
1950: Denver creates Winter Park Recreational Association to manage Winter Park ski area
1961: Winter Park adds Hughes, its first chairlift
1965: Winter Park adds Looking Glass lift
1975: Mary Jane is born
1986: Vasquez Ridge opens, Winter Park adds Pioneer Express lift
1990: Winter park adds Zephyr Express lift
1992: Sunspot opens, Timberline lift provides access to Parsenn Bowl
1997: Backcountry terrain in Vasquez Cirque opens
2002: Intrawest purchases right to operate Winter Park ski area from the city and county of Denver
2009: Ski Train ends service to Winter Park from Denver
The year was 1940.
The Cincinnati Reds won the World Series, Hitler invaded Denmark and a new ski tow was dedicated in Winter Park.
“With more than five thousand in attendance, the new $40,000 ski tow was officially dedicated on Sunday [Jan. 28],” reads an article from a February 1940 edition of the Middle Park Times. “The dedication services, which took place at 11:15 in the morning, were attended by state and federal officials, as well as those from Denver.”
The article is diminutive, only a third of a column in length, but to skiers and snowboarders —and many businesses — in Grand County, the content is prophetic.
That moment marked the humble birth of what is now one of Colorado’s premier ski resorts.
On Saturday, Nov. 15, the throngs will once again descend upon Winter Park Resort’s trails for its 75th season.
For many, opening day will be the first fling in a lifelong relationship. For others, it will be a long awaited waltz with an old paramour.
The friendly resort
Bob Singley is one of the latter. He first skied Winter Park as a child in the 1950s.
At that time, there were around six ski areas in Grand County, of which only Winter Park remains.
“It was a time that we called ‘BC’,” Singley said. “Before chairlifts and before a lot of other things. Before condominiums, before computers, before cellphones, before cops.”
Singley first came to the resort as a youngster, but the community drew him back as an adult. He would go on to work in a number of roles in the ski industry, including as a ski patroller at Winter Park.
“It was and still is just a really friendly, welcoming, unpretentious kind of a place,” Singley said. “There’s no substitute for the elevation, the snow conditions are very consistently good, and I just liked the openness and welcoming feel of the very small core of people that lived up here.”
In his time, Singley has seen the birth of Mary Jane, the death of the Ski Train, and all of the incremental events in between that have sculpted Winter Park Resort as we all know it.
But despite the growth and development, the resort has managed preserve the amiable atmosphere that first captivated Singley.
“I don’t know what it is, but it’s always been like that since I’ve been here,” Singley said. “That’s one of the big draws that a lot of people notice when they come here — how friendly and open it is here.”
Though Singley conceded that some things have changed – the nightlife, for instance.
“There used to be a lot more freedom back in the early days,” Singley said. “The limitations as far as the partying and everything, there weren’t as many limits as there are now.”
Singley recalled purple garter races, night ski competitions and late nights at Adolf’s.
“People said, ‘you guys spend more energy on organizing parties than you do at your jobs and work,’” Singley said. “Well yea, there was a lot of that. Everybody was here to have a good time. And I know a lot of good times were had.”
Though the powder hounds in Winter Park may have calmed down a bit since years past, there’s still plenty to get excited about.
The resort’s new 16,000 square-foot structure on Lunch Rock will open for the first time this season. The new facility will offer food, a heated deck and panoramic views.
Add that to the resort’s more than 3,000 skiable acres and a snowy forecast, and it looks like this year will be a good one.
Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.
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When the Braidwood Condominiums in Winter Park were built in the 1980s, the building lacked hallways wide enough for wheelchairs, walls between units were slim and the fire suppression system couldn’t compare to modern requirements.