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Keystone or Winter Park as a weekend trip?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Yes, this is my first post as I just joined to ask a question or two about a special birthday celebration weekend for my spouse. She's hitting the big Five-0 in 2 weekends and this will be a surprise for her.

I booked our flight to Denver, reserved a rental car and now I need some advice/tips/help from those of you who may know the Colorado ski areas to suggest where to go. There are places available at Winter Park and Keystone according to the online booking.

Arriving late on a Thursday night, plan to ski on Friday/Saturday and part of Sunday if possible. Flight home from Denver is Sunday night at 7pm, so wherever we go needs to be within reasonable driving time/distance. That's why I was thinking Winter Park of Keystone as they are both listed being 1 1/2 - 2 hours from the airport.

I skied Winter Park many, many moons ago (1980 and 1981) on college spring break trips. I haven't been back since, but I loved it then for the skiing. Of course, we were a group of 8 in a condo and doing our own cooking, so I have no idea about the food and WP area. The wife and I have skied for years in Austria (where we were living for a decade), skied last year at Squaw Valley and have been to Taos and used to enjoy Tahoe.

So - if you were driving in late on a Thursday night from the Denver airport and heading back on Sunday afternoon to catch a 7 pm flight, what would you recommend? Keystone looks nice and seems to be close to Denver, but I've never skied there.

Any guidance or suggestions would be much appreciated.

BP
post #2 of 17
I would go to Winter Park given your circumstances and the drive back to DIA on Sunday "should" be a little easier with less traffic.

Winter Park should also have a little less skier traffic on the weekend than Keystone gets.
post #3 of 17
Driving east on I-70 on sunday afternoon can be very slow.
I would be very carefull to allow myself plenty of time to be back at the airport.
Also keystone is on the other side of the tunnel, something else you might want to factor in.
You may want to ski something closer to denver such as Loveland on Sunday just to be safe.
Im not sure I would feel safe even leaving there at noon in time to be at DEN 2 hours before a 7 PM flight
Im sure some of the locals can give you some better advice on driving times
post #4 of 17

i vote keystone

Ok i know i am biased but here are some reasons for Keystone.

1. best in class restaurants for your special occasion
2. still very easy ride - you hope over the pass and skip the tunnel
3. It takes exactly 90 minutes with no traffic to drive from Keystone to DIA rental return (include gas-fillup). If you just ski the morning - you should be fine easily. Add 15 minutes to get to the security line using rental-car shuttle.
4. Your keystone pass is good at A-Basin (4 miles up the road) and Breckenridge.

Guy
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by easy rider View Post
Driving east on I-70 on sunday afternoon can be very slow.
I would be very carefull to allow myself plenty of time to be back at the airport.
Also keystone is on the other side of the tunnel, something else you might want to factor in.
You may want to ski something closer to denver such as Loveland on Sunday just to be safe.
Im not sure I would feel safe even leaving there at noon in time to be at DEN 2 hours before a 7 PM flight
Im sure some of the locals can give you some better advice on driving times
Thanks for all the responses.

I remember driving back from Vail on a summer Sunday afternoon in 2000 after a family reunion trying to deliver my sister to the Denver airport for a 7 pm flight. Dang, I think it took 4 or 4 1/2 hours at least due to the heavy traffic and bumper to bumper nature of it. We hadn't planned on that, but luckily she did the OJ Simpson run through the airport and caught her flight.

Is the traffic in the winter as heavy on a Sunday afternoon as it is in the summer coming out of the mountains? Any best guesses on how long it would take to drive from Keystone and Winter Park to the airport if we hit the "heavy traffic"?

I guess I hadn't thought about it, but would it be feasible to ski Keystone on Friday, another area that is close by on Saturday (say Breckinridge or some other like A-Basin) and then a 1/2 day on Sunday at yet another? I guess we could always skip skiing on Sunday, and maybe do some ice skating, shopping, eating and or sight seeing.

I'll ski in any kind of condition, so I am not worried about me, but the wife likes atmosphere, good food, drink and the "experience". It sounds like Keystone might be leaning in the direction of my wife's tastes. I know the skiing can be great at Winter Park, but does Keystone stack up skiing wise?

Thanks to all for helping me narrow it down. I'm excited and my wife has no idea what is up.

BP
post #6 of 17
Traffic is worse on winter Sundays than it is in the summer. Add in bad weather, and you can see travel times rise from 2.5 hours (about as good as it gets after Xmas) to 4 or even 5 hours. Last Sunday, for example, it took me 5.5 hours from Frisco to Boulder, and we left relatively early (2:30).

The problem is that you just cannot predict whether the travel time will be really bad or not, although if it is snowing, you probably can count on a longer commute.

One alternative would be to ski Sunday at a resort that does not rely on I70. Eldora (above Boulder) does not rely on I-70 at all. You would need to stay in Nederland or Boulder. And the terrain is much more limited than the Summit County resorts.

Mike
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by habacomike View Post
Traffic is worse on winter Sundays than it is in the summer. Add in bad weather, and you can see travel times rise from 2.5 hours (about as good as it gets after Xmas) to 4 or even 5 hours. Last Sunday, for example, it took me 5.5 hours from Frisco to Boulder, and we left relatively early (2:30).

The problem is that you just cannot predict whether the travel time will be really bad or not, although if it is snowing, you probably can count on a longer commute.

One alternative would be to ski Sunday at a resort that does not rely on I70. Eldora (above Boulder) does not rely on I-70 at all. You would need to stay in Nederland or Boulder. And the terrain is much more limited than the Summit County resorts.

Mike
It's starting to sound like skiing on Sunday might not be the best idea at all. Maybe if we skied in the morning and left no later than 1 pm, making the Denver airport for a 7:10 pm flight would still work out without too much stress and hassle.

PB
post #8 of 17
I left WP yesterday around 11am, hit horrible traffic, all the way over Berthoud Pass and I-70, and had to wait for a wreck to clear in Clear Creek Canyon - still took only 3 hours to get to East Boulder. Most weekend days, the traffic is considerably less from WP to Empire (I-70) than it is west of there.
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
I left WP yesterday around 11am, hit horrible traffic, all the way over Berthoud Pass and I-70, and had to wait for a wreck to clear in Clear Creek Canyon - still took only 3 hours to get to East Boulder. Most weekend days, the traffic is considerably less from WP to Empire (I-70) than it is west of there.
Thanks. That sounds like a Sunday morning ski could work out if we were at Winter Park....:
post #10 of 17
We have often skied half day at winter park and still made it home to Santa Fe in time for dinner. You should not have a problem unless it dumps and the pass closes. And who wouldn't want that!!!
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mom View Post
We have often skied half day at winter park and still made it home to Santa Fe in time for dinner. You should not have a problem unless it dumps and the pass closes. And who wouldn't want that!!!
Thanks to all that replied. I booked a cozy/romantic condo at Winter Park and bought discounted lift tickets for WP. After picking up the rental car in Denver, we'll stop in the Denver area and load up with groceries before heading up to Winter Park since we probably won't get up there until 10 pm on a Thursday night the 17th.

I appreciate all the suggestions. Fingers crossed for good snow, safe travel and that my wife is "surprised and happy".

BP
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
I left WP yesterday around 11am, hit horrible traffic, all the way over Berthoud Pass and I-70, and had to wait for a wreck to clear in Clear Creek Canyon - still took only 3 hours to get to East Boulder. Most weekend days, the traffic is considerably less from WP to Empire (I-70) than it is west of there.
One last question. When reserving the Condo, they offered an extra fee that, if I pay it, would offer me a refund in case Berthoud Pass was closed and we couldn't get through coming from Denver. Do those of you who live, ski and drive up to WP think I should spring for the fee or take my chances? I think she said the protection fee was an 8% charge for the entire stay.

BP
post #13 of 17
it's happened once so far this year (for 1½ days, with I-70 from Vail to just west of Denver also closed). Generally, only occurs 2 or 3 times per year.

For instance, WP has gotten around 19" in the last three days; CDOT is doing avi control work on Berthoud, says to expect delays but not closed (but if avi comes across road from blast, expect it to be closed until CDOT clears the debris field).
post #14 of 17
I Berthoud was closed for maybe a full day on that last one. I was up riding on the pass and left around 1pm. It was still open. It closed sometime after that. I believe it opened the next day around 1-2pm. Not 100% sure, as I had planned to go up there, but a household issue kept me in town on the 31st.

Berthoud is rarely closed and when it is it's generally not for long. Of course that can mean a half day. So is it worth the 8%. If you are completely worried about it closing than pay it. Otherwise, the pass does not close very often for long (> 1/2 day) periods of time. Like icansee said, 2-3 times a season.
post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by killclimbz View Post
I Berthoud was closed for maybe a full day on that last one. I was up riding on the pass and left around 1pm. It was still open. It closed sometime after that. I believe it opened the next day around 1-2pm. Not 100% sure, as I had planned to go up there, but a household issue kept me in town on the 31st.

Berthoud is rarely closed and when it is it's generally not for long. Of course that can mean a half day. So is it worth the 8%. If you are completely worried about it closing than pay it. Otherwise, the pass does not close very often for long (> 1/2 day) periods of time. Like icansee said, 2-3 times a season.
Well, we just finished our first day of skiing here at Winter Park. We're about to have some birthday celebration wine, cheese and what not.:

I was most worried about the drive late at night. The good news is that we got a free upgrade to a SUV which came in handy because it was snowing as we went over the Berthoud Pass. Dang, I had a tail of about 11 cars behind me (like on my bumpber) as we started the pigtail climbing. I finally pulled over at the top to let them all pass me because I was "tense" and not enjoying pole position in unfamiliar mountain territory while it was snowing late at night. I didn't even know that was the top of the pass where I pulled over because I thought we had more to climb and I was expecting a big sign. Anyway, we rolled into our rented condo in Winter Park at about midnight.

My wife loves the ski area. Perfect snow and she hasn't been able to ski this much in a day for decades. Not having to worry about our kids being with us and no waiting in any lift line today because it was a cold Friday - all made for multiple runs beyond belief. I think we got a good 6 hours of on the trail time and talk about letting the lactic acid flow.:

I guess the only complaint we have is there seems to be a lot of "flat" areas on the Winter Park side. Flat as in, one has to keep using their poles and doing some hockey skate skiing to go several hundred yards in these very flat transition areas. We went over to the Vasquez Ridge in the snow and enjoyed a couple of runs, but that huge flat spot at the bottom is ridiculous. No wonder there was nobody at the lift on that side. I need wheels on the bottom of my skis for those occasions.

Luckily, we found plenty of good things on the Mary Jane side and up in the Parsenn Bowl at 12,000 feet. Beautiful sunny morning followed by a cold, snowy afternoon (nothing balaclava's, hand warmers and glove liners couldn't handle).

We even loved the Mary Jane beer! We finished the first day with a run down Mulligan's Mile and caught the shuttle bus back to our condo. I would assume we will not be enjoying the no lift lines tomorrow since it will be Saturday, but that's okay. We hit the mountain hard today and really got in a tremendous amount of runs.

Thanks to all again. We're having a blast...

BP
post #16 of 17
Quote:
I was most worried about the drive late at night. The good news is that we got a free upgrade to a SUV which came in handy because it was snowing as we went over the Berthoud Pass. Dang, I had a tail of about 11 cars behind me (like on my bumper) as we started the pigtail climbing. I finally pulled over at the top to let them all pass me because I was "tense" and not enjoying pole position in unfamiliar mountain territory while it was snowing late at night. I didn't even know that was the top of the pass where I pulled over because I thought we had more to climb and I was expecting a big sign. Anyway, we rolled into our rented condo in Winter Park at about midnight.
Glad you made it safely to WP. Alot of us have every curve memorized on that road and some tend to take it fast. You did the smart thing in pulling over and letting them by. They could have passed you on the way up as there are two lanes for climbing and only one on descent.

The sign at the top was taken down last year. I'm assuming they'll eventually put it back up when they finish constructing the new facilities up there.

There will be crowds this weekend as it is MLK weekend. I'll be up there early in the AM tomorrow.

Drink lots of water tonight. Enjoy the Jane!
post #17 of 17
Good on pulling over. In Colorado, the law requires you to pull over if you have a parade of 5 or more cars.

Enjoy your skiing -- hopefully it will warm up!

Mike
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