Have you been considering a trip to a winter destination this year? Look no further, Winter Park is the place to go! If you follow along on our adventures, you might already know that Colorado is one of our favorite places to visit, regardless of the season. What you might not know is that we’ve been to Colorado more times in the winter than we have in any other season! We are a family that loves to snowboard, but there are so many other things that you can do if skiing or snowboarding isn’t something that you want to try.
What to Pack
First things first, what should you pack for a winter trip to Colorado? I get asked this question all the time and my first response is everything waterproof, especially if you have kiddos. There is nothing worse than kids that have wet feet and hands that are also cold. So, be sure to pack waterproof gloves, thick socks, and waterproof or snow boots. My second reply is always layers and more layers. I usually wear 2 layers under my ski gear and I even layer my gloves with a thin glove worn under my waterproof gloves. Here is a short list of things that I always bring on our trips:
- Waterproof pants and jacket (search ski gear)
- Waterproof gloves
- Snow boots or waterproof hiking boots
- Thick socks
- Long johns or long underwear
- Sweatpants and sweatshirts
- Hats, scarves, neck warmers
I have been successful in ordering all of these items on Amazon. This year, all of my kiddos boarding gear, from head to toe, was ordered off of Amazon!
In regards to skiing or snowboarding, you can rent boots, helmets, and skis or snowboards from the mountain base area and usually there are several rental places in town. I would recommend checking online and reserving your gear early, especially if you will be visiting during a holiday, like Christmas or Spring break.
Obviously, we are a road tripping family, so we like to drive to Colorado. I have also flown, but I prefer to drive so that I can bring all the things. We have our own snowboards and usually pack several suitcases because winter gear and sweaters take up so much room. I also like to bring a cooler with food so that we can cook in the condo or cabin we are staying in. For us in Texas, the drive is about 12-13 hours. No matter what mountain we are visiting, we always make the drive to Trinidad, CO and stop for the night. There are several hotels to choose from right off highway 25 and that puts us about 9 hours from home. So the drive the following day is only about 4 hours. Plus, we love to eat at the Mexican restaurant, Tequilas, and this has become a little tradition for our family.
We also like this routine because it allows us a little time to do something fun in Colorado Springs before we can check in to our lodging. This is one of our favorite places to stop along the route. We’ve stopped at Garden of the Gods several times and this year we visited the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. CO Springs is about 2 hours or so from Trinidad, so it’s the perfect place to stop for an activity and grab lunch before the next 2 hours of driving.
Where to Stay
This year we decided to stay in Winter Park. We were so excited to get back to the mountain again. Jereme and I haven’t missed a ski trip since our first year of marriage 17 years ago, until covid hit. It’s been two long years since we’ve snowboarded, so we were all anxious to head back to the mountain and do what we love! Every time we’ve visited Winter Park, we’ve stayed at Frasier Crossing Founders Pointe. From this condo, we can walk right to base of the mountain and onto the lifts. We love this location because it’s quiet, great for families, doesn’t break the budget, has heated indoor parking, and its location to the base is amazing.
The whole reason we visit Colorado in the winter is to snowboard! This year we even got our youngest to the top of the mountain with us. Jereme and I taught ourselves how to board when we were in our early 20s. I would recommend taking lessons if you’ve never been before. We did put our boys in ski school when they were four and five, but then we taught them how to snowboard ourselves. For me, snowboarding is easier than skiing because ski boots seriously hurt my legs and knees. I consider us to be in decent shape, but a day on the mountain feels like a full body workout! We like to board for 2-3 days, but definitely need to take a break in between to rest and regroup. If you’ve never been, you can rent gear and sign up for skiing or snowboarding lessons right at the base of the mountain. In Winter Park, they have people stationed all around to offer assistance and point you in the right direction for all of your needs!
The Town of Winter Park
The base of the mountain has several places to eat, shop, get groceries, and rent gear. So, once you arrive, there really is no reason to leave. But don’t let that stop you from visiting the town of Winter Park, because it’s really neat, too! We love to eat at Hernando’s Pizza Pub and we found a fun hiking trail this year and enjoyed exploring out in the snow away from the crowds on the mountain. Make dining reservations if you can or opt for take-out like we did this year. Please note that some of the restaurants in town do not offer take-out dining during the peak seasons (winter break over Christmas/New Year’s weekend).
I also found this website for a list of fun activities and dining options in town!
We were even able to squeeze in family photos this year. Be sure to check out Lisa M. Hall Photography if you’re in the area.
What if You Don’t Ski or Snowboard?
We really had a wonderful time in the mountains this year. It’s so fun to ring in the New Year doing something that you love with your family. If you are not into skiing or snowboarding, don’t let that deter you from visiting the mountains in the winter! There are other activities that anyone can enjoy. My Dad often joins us on our trip and he doesn’t ski or snowboard, but he still loves to spend time with us in a cozy cabin or condo and watch the snow fall! Most places have hot tubs and there is nothing more relaxing than looking at the snowy mountains from the warmth of one. Winter Park offers snowmobiling, snowshoeing, dog sledding, sleigh rides, and tubing. Just be sure to pick your activity and book early. This website includes all of the winter activities that are offered in Winter Park! We wanted to tube on our visit, but when I went online to make reservations, there were none left for the entire month. If you are not visiting during a holiday, you will likely have an easier time with reservations.
Helpful Driving Tips
My husband said that I should include this information in our blog, probably because he is the one that does most of the driving on our winter travels. Be sure to look ahead at travel conditions and make arrangements if winter advisories are in place. Besides having a car accident, I cannot think of anything worse than being stranded on the highway for hours due to winter weather. We were lucky that we didn’t encounter much snow on our drive to Winter Park, but there were several snowstorms that occurred while we were there and the Denver area received their first snow of the winter during our stay. Our drive home looked a lot different than our drive in.
It’s also important to make sure that you have windshield wiper fluid, the roads are super nasty with sand and salt treatments and at one time our windshield fluid froze up on the drive and the windshield was covered in dirt and Jereme had a small, fist sized spot to look out of until we were able to pull over and clean the whole windshield off. Be sure to have blankets, water, and food as a precaution for any winter weather delays.
As always, I hope this information is helpful for all of your winter travel planning! I am available to help with any questions you may have and have tons of recommendations for amazing locations around Colorado. We’ve visited several mountain towns and have loved them all! Winter Park is becoming one of our favorites, closely behind Crested Butte!
Be sure to follow me on Instagram at road_trip_queen to see more photos and videos! And stay tuned, we have a lot of awesome travel plans for 2022 which include Ruidoso, NM later this month, Redwood National Park in the spring, and Yellowstone & Grand Tetons National Parks this summer!
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