Winter Park Resort is well known for Mary Jane’s mountainous moguls and extensive tree skiing, but it’s also starting to get national recognition for its’ big mountain terrain that feels more out of bounds than in bounds. In this article, we’ll take a closer look the extreme side of Winter Park, and share some of our own favorite trails that are guaranteed to get your heart pumping. All of the trails we mention below are considered highly technical, and can have serious consequences for the unprepared; so remember the golden rule, and always ski within your ability level.
The Cirque is Winter Park’s most widely known extreme terrain and offers 1,332 acres of double black diamond terrain. This ungroomed area offers skiers a natural playground of cornices, steep shots, and cliffs in a rugged backcountry-style environment (minus the worry of avalanches thanks to Ski Patrol’s controlled bombing work). All of the Cirque terrain spits you out on to the cat track below Eagle Wind and does require a bit of skate to get back on a chair. One big bonus, and new this year, is The Cirque Sled. You can buy a season’s sled pass for a mere $10 and get dropped off at various drop off points, all season long! This is not only going to help reduce the hiking element of skiing the Cirque, but it will also spread skiers out from one end of the bowl to the other and increase your chance of freshies. You’ll find fun turns just about anywhere on the Cirque, but our personal favorite is to hop into the creamiest looking Alphabet Chute for some technical turns and then open it up through the widely spaced 100’s/Rollover trees.
Belle Fourche – Belle Fourche is most definitely a local favorite, and while not as ‘extreme’ as some of the other runs mentioned in this blog, definitely up there in its back-country feel. Belle Fourche doesn’t see a whole lot of traffic, mainly due to the fact that most people zip right past the entrance as they barrel down the cat track to the main Eagle Wind runs. This is excellent news for the cannier powder hound! Look for the entry gate on your left as you cruise down the Village Way cat track off of the Panoramic Chairlift, you might have to do a little side stepping to get to it. When you get to the top of the run, take a moment to enjoy the views of the Cirque and beyond, and then jump on in for some deliciously powdery tree skiing. Start cutting right about two thirds down the run to traverse a little further toward the Eagle Wind chair.
if you want to read up more on Vasquez Cirque & Eagle Wind, check out this great article with Jamie Wolter, a long time ski patroller at Winter Park Resort.
Hole in the wall – or as some of us call it ‘Worth The Walk’. Hole in the wall is a short, tight chute accessed via the gate at the top of railbender/derailier trails off of the Challenger Chair. To get to the chute, you’ve got to earn it. Sidestepping and some hefty poling are all part of the deal if you opt to keep your skis on your feet, and snowboarders are going to have to pack their boards and start marching. You’ll pass a couple of tempting opt outs (Baldy’s/Awe Chute), but to go for the gold, keep on going until you come to the last drop in point. Hole in the wall is the classic hourglass with a wider entry and exit, and tight, steep crux point in the middle. There’s no mandatory air involved, but this chute gets skied out fast (exposing some grabby rocks and stumps), so the chances of you being able to ‘point ‘em’ through the crux are very slim. Instead, channel your nimbly-pimbly side and try to jump turn your way through the ‘hole in the wall’. The chute will bring you out towards the bottom of Trestle; to make the most of the run, duck into the trees to the right and enjoy a little rock hopping and powdery tree skiing until you hit the cat track.
Trestle Trees – AKA Topher’s – is some of the steepest and rockiest tree sking you’ll find at Winter Park. There are two entry points to the area, but the quickest entry point is a skier’s right traverse into the woods about a third of the way down Trestle. The upper portion of this run is tight and technical terrain, which requires controlled jump turns and quick maneuvering skills to work your way down a rocky cliff band. There are serious consequences to messing up in this terrain, so if you’re not totally confident, don’t push it. Instead, ski Trestle all the way past the cliff section, and then cut into the lower angled trees below and enjoy some creamy turns all the way to the cat track.
Needless to say, there are many more hidden gems out there. If you have a personal favorite join in the conversation below….
Chris January 8th, 2014