Sky-Hi Review: Winter Park Experience Pass helps users enjoy COVID-safe weekends
Without concerts at Hideaway Park or vendors offering a taste of tacos and tequila at downtown festivals this summer, residents and visitors have to do a little bit more work to figure out how to enjoy the weekends without worrying about the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic.
In an effort to help guide people to safe and fun activities, the Winter Park Fraser Chamber of Commerce has created new Experience Passes, an online guide to the various recreation and businesses around the valley.
“The idea behind the pass is to build something that’s not about COVID,” said Catherine Ross, executive director of the chamber. “We’re trying to be really fluid with it.”
There are a few different passes, including one for bikers and a savings pass for shopping. A winter snow pass is also in the works.
On Sunday, I tested the Hungry Hiker Experience Pass to see how well the passes work.
To start, it was easy to access because I didn’t have to download a special app for my phone or keep track of a hardcopy booklet. I simply went to http://www.playwinterpark.com/experience-passes and had the link to the free pass emailed to me.
The pass outlined 25 different hikes around Grand County, varying in distance and skill level, as well as listed businesses in the Fraser Valley that offered discounts for using the pass.
One thing that would have been more helpful, especially had I been a visitor and not a resident, would be to group the businesses and hikes by what’s close together or to provide a map showing all of the locations the pass mentions.
I settled on Columbine Lake for my hike choice because I wanted to try a new trail, take my dog with me and face a moderate challenge. Columbine Lake is around 7.5 miles out and back with an elevation gain of around 1,100 feet in the Arapaho National Recreation Area, according to AllTrails.
Definitely download the trail map before you get on the road, since there is almost no cell service once you get to the trailhead.
Be prepared to traverse several miles of bumpy dirt roads to get to the trailhead, but once there, the pass helped me know what to expect, including the elevation gain and trail elements. It mentions some of the beauty that hikers might see, but I was still consistently awestruck on the trail.
Between the alpine meadows, waterfalls, diverse wildflowers, a gem of a lake and grazing moose, I couldn’t ask for a better hike. It was also challenging enough to feel like I was getting some exercise, but not to the point where it got in the way of enjoying the views.
It took around four hours to complete the hike, though I was rushed by an overcast sky and nearby thunder. If the weather had been better, I would’ve liked to stop more along the way and hang out by the lake.
Following the hike, I was pretty hungry, as the pass predicted, so in order to get the most out of the discounts, I went to Fraser River Beer Co. and 85-Fifty, since they share a lot and both offered deals on the pass.
Fraser River Beer Co. offered $1 off pours while 85-Fifty gave 10% off your order. Neither cashier was exactly sure what I was referencing when I asked for the pass discount, but once I showed them the pass, they were happy to give me the deal.
Had I wanted to continue exploring, the pass also included discounts for bike rentals, Winter Park Adventure Quest, local museums and shopping.
Overall, I think the pass worked well in providing lots of ideas on where to hike and enough information on the hikes that it was easy to pick which one suited my plans. I do think the pass could be better at providing the locations of the places mentioned to help people plan accordingly.
Though the pass doesn’t replace the events typically hosted by the chamber during the summer, I think it would also be a good compliment to those events when they are safe to host again.
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