April fun in the mountains of Winter Park CO!

Hard to believe, but there is only 1 month left of the Winter Park Ski Resort’s 76th year.  The Winter Park side of the main resort will be closing on 4/24, but Mary Jane will stay open until May 7th.  Make your lodging plans with Staywinterpark and save with one of our great lodging deals for this month.

April 2nd – Winter Park Wipe Out.  Don’t miss the fun of costumes and contest – scavenger hunt, unique challenges and specials for snow tubing and skiing.

April 9th – Free music at the WP Resort for the Coors Light Base Bash with Andy Straus Live.

April 16th – Free music with Kenny Lee Young for the New Belgium Music Series

April 23rd – Springtopia – Afternoon of free music featuring 3 bands at the resort.  The Rick Lewis Project, G.Love & Special Sauce and headliners:  American Authors.

April 24th – closing day!  Noon to 3pm – watch competitors enjoy the obstacle course and skimming or sinking at the pond.

April 30th & May 7th – free live music at Mary Jane.

 

It’s not too early to think about summer once you have enjoyed all the fun in April!  Staywinterpark is offering some early summer specials and the Fraser Valley will be hosting a number of music festivals and events starting at the end of June.  Call us today to book or sign up for our newsletter so you won’t be left out in the cold.

Winter Park Colorado – So much SNOW!

Winter Park has gotten 30.5″ of new snow in the last 7 days and 16″ in the last 48 hours.  If you have missed out, plan your ski weekend with us!  Staywinterpark has some lodging deals that can’t be beat.

Looking forward to April, Winter Park will still be getting snow and enough that Mary Jane will stay open one additional week and close on May 7th.  For April take advantage of the BOGO lodging offer – pay full price for 1 night and get 50% off your second night of lodging.  You can add one of the 3 lift ticket passes offered by Winter Park Resort and you’ll have more money to spend on late season ski gear, dinner, lunch or more ski trips!

More motivation to visit Winter Park?  Check out the links below for our recent press coverage:

Shape: Healthy Travel Guide – more ways to enjoy the outdoors besides skiing.

Yahoo Style – 10 reasons why – Tips for what makes Winter Park great for all ages.

TripAdvisor – Affordable western winter escapes

mtbr – amazing places for fat bikes

Flipkey – west coast affordable ski destinations

Winter Park Resort will be closing in 30 days (April 24th) and with the majority of spring break times being over, this means more open space, less crowds, more sunshine and fewer days to enjoy the powder!

Call us at 1-800-215-6535 or book online at one of our magnificent vacation rentals.

The new Lunch Rock restaurant at the Winter Park Resort is the newest exciting addition to the resort.
This brand new 16,000 square foot restaurant is atop the Mary Jane area and offers a state-of-the-art building with much to offer for the 75th anniversary of the Winter Park Resort.

For generations the area known as Lunch Rocky at the top of Mary Jane has been a place for gathering, respite and unparalleled beauty. Beginning for the 2014-2015 ski season it will also be home to one of the newest on-mountain amenities in the country, the Lunch Rock restaurant, where historic legacy and the promise of a spectacular future meet under the watchful eye of the Continental Divide.

Lunch Rock restaurant is a 16,000 square foot marvel of architecture at over 11,000 feet in elevation that embraces its past. An expansive 150-seat deck is perfect for the sun worshippers who have flocked to Lunch Rock for years, while a new state-of-the-art 250-seat indoor restaurant and 28-seat bar brings comfort and convenience. The building offers great amenities that include spacious restrooms, retail area for stocking up on provisions and hydration stations. The biggest attraction – breath-taking views of iconic Parry Peak, James Peak, Parsenn Bowl, the Fraser Valley and the Continental Divide.

Guests can utilize five different lifts to reach this gem. Constructed with a combination of steel, wood and stone, the feel of a cozy mountain lodge is apparent. Environmentally friendly construction included repurposed wood, pine beetle kill and energy and water conservation techniques adhere to the strict eco-friendliness that Winter Park Resort has always held paramount to any on-mountain construction project.

The project began on April 21, before the Winter Park 2013-2014 ski season even ended, with the demolitions of the previous Lunch Rock building, which had stood for more than 25 years. The new facility will be open in November for the start of the new ski season and will be a spot that can be enjoyed year-round, becoming the perfect venue for not only dining and relaxing, but also weddings, retreats and group functions.

Check out the Lunch Rock photo gallery for a complete overview of the steps of construction.

The 71st season of operation for the Winter Park Ski Resort is already 2 weeks old, so let’s first take a look at how we started, and how we’re doing.

All things considered, opening day wasn’t as bad as many had feared, in the light of the Indian summer we were experiencing for the most part of October, and only one major snowstorm towards the end of the month. Indeed a mixture of warmer-than-average temperatures in November and very little snow until about a week before opening day, was causing more than a little anxiety among Ski Area hierarchy, and didn’t bode well for bookings not just over Thanksgiving, but early bookings for the season as a whole. Thankfully overnight temperatures were sufficiently cold enough for the snow-making machines to operate for many hours during the night, and even though they’re an inferior substitute for the real thing, at least a decent base on a few runs was established early on for upcoming Winter Park skiing.

What we desperately needed was good press, and lots of it, to advertise to all potential ski resort vacationers, that we were open for business and it was time to book a Winter Park ski vacation in Colorado! Fortunately, we were visited by a few storm systems that dumped fairly decent amounts of snow in the run-up to opening day, and while they were more in the form of “solid showers” rather than “major dumps which caused chaos across the region” (headlines we really like), the ski area did open with the following stats:

  • Snowfall last 24 hours:                       6.5”
  • Snowfall last 7 days:                           25.5”
  • “Season” snowfall                               55”      (i.e. total snow since it started snowing!)
  • Mid Mountain Base:                           34”
  • Summit Base:                                      37”
  • Number of lifts open:                          4
  • Number of trails open:                        8
  • Acres open:                                         53

If you didn’t already know and – according to the local Sky Hi Daily News and Winter Park Resort “Thanks to Jesus”, the season will be longer this year. With a later Easter, the season will run through Easter Sunday, April 24. Two notable, national events to watch out for this season are the NASTAR National Championship Race which returns to Winter Park for the second year running, plus the big one – the US Alpine Championships which was last held in Winter Park in 1992. What price Lindsey Vonn’s autograph?

Have a great season everyone.

Well, the 2010 Winter Olympics have come and gone, and the big question on everyone’s lips is, “Who won?” Perhaps the question should be re-phrased as, “Which country was the most successful?” At the end of the day, does that really matter, when taken in the context of the true Olympic spirit, coined by the founder of the International Olympic Committee Pierre de Coubertin, who stated “The important thing is not to win, but to take part.”

Before the Games, I started to think about what might end up as the biggest headline, or most newsworthy event of the Games. Would it be Lindsay Vonn’s shin, Great Britain’s chances of even getting a medal (which they did, and a gold at that in the women’s skeleton) or record-breaking viewing figures for the curling? There – I’ve gone and broken my New Year resolution to take curling seriously this year.

As it turns out, perhaps the biggest headline from the games will be the tragic death of the Georgian athlete who crashed during a training run in the Luge event before the Olympics opened.

A potentially momentous event that at one time threatened to supersede all these wasn’t even a sporting story at all, but had to do with the potential sale of the Whistler ski area, the site of the Alpine events at the Winter Games, slap bang in the middle of the competition!

It’s important to provide some background in order to understand how and why this all was coming to a head. Back in the giddy days of 2006, Fortress Investment Group, a private equity firm and hedge fund, purchased Intrawest in a leveraged buyout for $2.8 billion. The premise behind the deal was that condo sales slope-side would provide the funds to repay the $1.7 billion in debt that was taken on to finance the investment.

“If only we knew then what we know now”, so the saying goes. Good old hindsight. The state of the global economy in 2010 is in stark contrast to what it was at the time of the buyout. Property prices have plummeted, the resort industry has been struggling, and institutions are having a tough time raising money in restricted credit markets to meet loan commitments. This is exactly what has happened to Intrawest.

Back on October 23rd of 2009, Intrawest Holdings missed a $524 million installment on their loan, and although a 60-day extension was achieved, it was still unable to come up with the funds on time. The composition of Fortress’ creditors provides an ironic twist. In addition to JP Morgan and David Kempner, Lehman Brothers – which collapsed in September 2008 and was “allowed” to fall into bankruptcy – is purportedly Fortress’ major creditor, and is motivated to recover as much money as it can as it unwinds its own financial obligations.

Without sufficient cash to repay debt, in the face of creditor pressure it seems Intrawest has had to resort to selling assets. As far as actual sales are concerned, in November of 2009, Intrawest sold its Copper mountain ski resort to Powdr (a company based in Salt Lake City and which itself owns eight other ski resorts) for an “undisclosed sum” (although speculation has it that it was worth about $100 million). Then, on January 28th 2010, Intrawest announced it was selling its Panorama Mountain Village ski resort in British Columbia to local homeowners and businesses. Less than a week later, Intrawest sold all of its real estate holdings at Squaw Valley ski resort in California to Squaw Valley USA, which already owns on-mountain operations at Lake Tahoe ski resort in Olympic Valley, California: again, the amount was not disclosed. Following this up, on February 9, 2010, Intrawest announced it was selling is interests in Florida’s Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort to the Florida-based Becnel family, the real estate of which includes cottages, homes, condos and hotel properties, as well as a marina, shops and restaurants.

The big news in the middle of this however was tied to Intrawest’s press release on Janaury 20, 2010, which merely stated:   “There have been inaccurate and misleading media reports surrounding Intrawest today. Fortress Investment Group continues to own and control Intrawest and all of its properties. Serious discussions with Intrawest’s lenders are ongoing regarding refinancing and the Company continues to operate “business as usual” at all of its resort properties. Intrawest is looking forward to the success of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games”.

The release came after ads appeared in major newspapers on January 19th announcing that lenders represented by Wilmington Trust FSB would hold a public auction to sell their interest in the company. That auction was scheduled to take place on February 19th, and included was Intrawest’s jewel-in-the-crown property, Whistler-Blackcomb.

There has been much speculation (read “suspicions about motives”) as to why the auction was scheduled for the middle of the Olympics. Daniel Fannon, a hedge fund analyst at Jefferies & Co. called it a “marketing tool”, aimed at fetching the best price for Whistler while the world’s attention is fixed on the games. Pretty smart in my view. Others have deemed it a pressure tactic. Will Marks of JMP Securities suggests it was merely a threat to achieve affirmative action by Intrawest.  One realtor called it “irresponsible”. Whatever the angle, there is a widely held view that the lenders had grown impatient with the unwillingness of Intrawest and Fortress to face the tough decisions that had to be made.

While a hurdle for potential investors was the short time frame between the announcement and the scheduled auction date (which would mean raising capital at short notice a challenge), there was much talk of Vail Resorts being in the running to take over the debt and eventually gain control of Whistler. Although potentially valued at $250 million, in this day and age, finding any buyer might prove difficult. Kai Li, a professor of finance at the University of British Columbia said “Given the current economic condition, auction of assets at a fire sale price does not bode any good. So the likelihood of an auction is extremely low due to lack of buyers and bad prices for the lenders”. Barnett, the newspaper publisher, noted “There are a lot of things that look more promising than the ski and recreational real estate businesses that have been built around aging North American baby boomers. And the buyer(s) need to decide if they are in the resort operation business or the real estate development business, something investors could never really figure out about Intrawest”.

An alternative to the auction was that Intrawest could file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. This strategy would protect Intrawest from creditors and buy some time by allow it to continue to do business as control passes to a trustee.

Intrawest and Fortress have been pretty non-committal in response to requests for comment. “Calls to Fortress went unanswered” or “Executives at Intrawest and Fortress could not be reached” were common among many reports. However, Ian Galbraith, Spokesman for Intrawest did mention that “serious discussions with Intrawest’s lenders are ongoing regarding refinancing”. Even the CEO of Fortress, Dan Mudd, was on CNBC and commented that they wanted to manage their way through the crisis and realize the full value of the investment.

As it turned out, the auction was postponed for a week, but still scheduled to occur right before the end of the games, and then there was another delay until March 1st. That was yesterday. At the time of writing, there are reports that a deal has been reached which includes the injection of more equity into the company. As reported by Bloomberg News, and according to “a person with knowledge of the talks”, after a $150 million additional equity injection by Fortress (or its funds), Intrawest’s remaining $1.2 million of debt would be divided into a senior tranche of $800 million, on which it would pay 10% interest, and a mezzanine tranche of $400 million on which it could pay as much as 17%, and which may depend on payment terms. According to The Wall Street journal, with the new loans, the debt’s maturity has been extended by as much as four years. April 16 has supposedly been set as a deadline to complete negotiations.

So there you have it – just waiting for confirmation! An interesting but not unfamiliar history lesson. Continue to buy up real estate as part of the housing bubble with large amounts of debt, bubble bursts, prices go down, sales screech to a halt, cash evaporates, loan notes become due and unpaid, creditors threaten, assets (reluctantly) sold off to reduce debt and with credit tight remaining debt re-financed at terms very much in favor of the lender. What – the banks win again? Bet someone makes off with a nice bonus!

With opening day just 5 days away (November 18th), all eyes are on the heavens – or rather the forecasts – to determine what sort of opening day it will be. While it’s snowing as I write, and with snowfall set to continue through the weekend, the longer-range forecast calls for sunny skies through the following weekend: 10 days ahead is as far as it goes.

Consequently, don’t expect multiple trails and excellent conditions from day 1, even though things can turn very quickly if a bunch of storms come in one after the other over a period of a few days.

Something that the ski area is hoping will help precipitate (coincidental use of the word – my apologies) greater snowfall, is active “cloud seeding”, whereby the resort in partnership with Denver Water, will be seeding moisture-laden clouds with  silver iodide particles released into the sky to increase snowfall.  Vail Resorts has done this for some years, and this is not the first time Winter Park has participated, having conducted seeding during the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons. The one benefit of cloud seeding over snowmaking is the creation of additional snow throughout the area, rather than on specific trails.

It’s all planned to occur in the first 3 months of the season at a cost of $110K, shared between Denver Water and Winter Park Resort, and apparently produces a 10-15% precipitation increase. How one measures this, I wouldn’t know, but anything to prompt greater snowfall during the season is good for me.

May our harvest be truly bountiful!

OK – a couple of days ago I said “next week” I’ll be giving your 10 ways to save money while you’re here in the valley, but why wait? Besides, I’ve put out a challenge to some of my colleagues to add their ideas also, so this may turn out to be a monster list! So, without further ado:

 

1.      Parking: It’s amazing how many people – guests, travel agents, basically anyone that doesn’t live here – tell me that I should promote how much free parking there is here in Winter Park. Basically, the only paid parking anywhere is right there at the base. However, outlying parking areas, the south entrance to Winter Park Drive and all the way to the “gates”, parking by the Vintage (and a free cabriolet ride to the Village), and all designated parking areas along the shuttle routes and at all lodging establishments – are FREE. Most other major ski areas, so I’m told, have paid parking everywhere, not just at the base. So, an “unheralded” way to save money, but these costs can add up if you have money to burn and are exceptionally lazy.

 

2.      Early Bird Dining: Many restaurants will reward you for eating early by either offering special early bird menus, or discounts if you are seated and order before 6PM. Fontenot’s, as an example, have a whole page on their website devoted to Early Bird Specials, with Appetizers, Main Courses and Drink Specials between 4 and 6PM. This is a “must eat at” restaurant anyway so, if you don’t mind eating early, then you can save a bunch of money. Ask for a (free) Grand County Dining Guide when you check in and either look them up online or give them a call and ask what their Early Bird specials are.

 

 

3.      Ski Rentals: Don’t pay the extra bag, oversize charges that airlines will ding you for by bringing your totally out-of-date skis with you. Rent from the ski rental companies while you’re here and have fun with the latest, top-of-the line equipment, all tuned up and ready to go. Epic Mountain Sports currently offers 20% off if you book online (go ahead and guarantee your equipment of choice before you get here), or ask our front desk for a coupon which will get you the same discount for a walk-in. Remember in my previous articles, kids 11 and under rent free!

 

 

4.      Grocery Shopping: Resorts, and Winter Park is no exception, are notorious for high prices for groceries, something that causes us locals much angst and – often – forces us to take a trip to Denver every so often to shop for the food essentials. However, as a vacationer, when you’re here, you neither have that ability nor desire: you want to shop at the nearest grocery store. With City Market 15 miles away, your nearest and only grocery option is Safeway. However, there are ways to save money.

 

First, get a Safeway Card if you don’t have one. If you don’t have one, and the attendant asks you if you’d like one, absolutely say yes! A temporary card will take less than 1 minute to process (don’t feel guilty about holding up other people in line – this is your money you’re saving, not theirs), and can save you a lot of money. Ahead of the checkout line, you need to have purchased as many “red-tag” items as possible in order for those discounts to kick-in. The meat department also has a clearance section which can sometimes save you up to 50% on the stuff you intended to buy anyway!

 

Apparently you can download brand producer coupons onto your Safeway Card ahead of time and they’ll also be applied at checkout. I’ll leave my colleague Rebecca to explain how all that works – see the comments section below.

 

5.      DiscoverColorado.com: This is the first of 4 “ways” all to do with Coupons. DiscoverColorado.com, one of our advertisers, has a “Printable Coupon Sheet” for every Resort they work with in Colorado – which is pretty much everyone. On the Home Page, you’ll see Printable Coupon Sheets, and beneath it “Destination: Select your Resort, and a “Daily Deals” page will come up. The first coupon on the list is “$20 OFF 2 or more Snowmobile Unguided Rentals with Grand Adventures. If you’ve done it before and feel confident enough about an unguided rental, this is $20.00 off a $95.00 2-hour tour, a saving of 21%!

  

There’s also One Free Hour of Tubing with Colorado Adventure Park, as long as you purchase three tubing tickets. In other words, 25% off for 4 people.

 

6.      SkiCoupons.com: More coupons on this site, including Activities and Tours, restaurants and more. Here, Epic Mountain Sports offer the 2nd Ski or Snowboard Package at ½-price. As this cannot be combined with the 20% off deal, do the math and see which one gives you the best discount!

 

7.      Local Telephone Directory! I put an exclamation mark here because there are deals to be had if you know where to look. In the restaurants section, Hernandos Pizza Pub (which is the best place for pizza anyway) have 5 different coupons, although you cannot combine with other offers. Again choose which one gives you the best deal and use it. Subway offers a 6” Sub for 99¢ with purchase of any 12” sub and medium drink. Could save $5.00 here at least.

 

 8.      Front Desk: We’re continually being bombarded with vendors giving us coupons to hand out, either individually or in booklet format. Ask our crew at the front desk what they have and they’ll give them to you! Being locals, they can also make personal recommendations as to the best places to eat (and when), where to rent, and fun things to do.

 

 9.      On-Mountain Restaurants: It pays to plan where you want to eat on mountain. You’ll pay a premium for a view (The Lodge at Sunspot), or save depending on where you are and what you want to eat. If I’m on the Winter Park side, I’ll head to Snoasis which is mid-mountain. They call it a “blast to the past”, which really means it’s had no real upgrades since it was built! But that’s fine. For me has the best on-mountain prices. If all you want is  your basic ham-and-cheese toasted sandwich, fries and a coke, I don’t know what this year’s prices are, but you used to be able to get all that for under $10.00. If you’re over at Mary Jane, go to either the Food & Drink Food Court, or Pepperoni’s Pizza and Sports Bar for……….pizza and sport! Pizza by the slice and a good atmosphere.

 

 

10.  TripAdvisor.com Forum: Finally, go to the Winter Park Travel Forum, follow the posts  and ask a question if there’s something specific you have in mind and that you want to save money. I’ve found out things here from other contributors that I had no clue about. Sometimes you can get coupons and deals to things up here that you can only get down in Denver for example. People are always looking for the best lift ticket deals. If you buy 10 gallons of shell fuel, you can get 1 free lift ticket when you buy a lift ticket at the resort. Now, a day ticket purchased at the window is the highest rates you’ll pay anywhere, but if there are two of you, 2 tickets for the price of 1 may turn out to be the best deal out there. Call ahead and find out what the ticket window price is that day, and go from there.

 

So there’s my Top 10 Tips. Please feel free to add any I’ve missed and help everyone who’s coming here save a bunch on their vacation.

Never before has the concept of saving money when planning a vacation been more important to travelers than now as we approach the 2009-10 ski season. According to the latest results from the travelhorizonsÔ survey and the Ypartnership/Yankelovich, Inc National Travel MONITORÔ, 87% of respondents cite being able to check lowest fares and rates as the most important travel website feature.

 

So let’s take that a step further and look at ways in which this year’s crop of winter vacation planners can save money on their ski vacation. This will be a 2-part article with 5 tips in Part I focusing on the research phase of the planning process, and 10 tips in Part II next week will highlight “Tips from a Local” (i.e. me) which will be more about how to save money when you’re here, because you’re coming to Winter Park, right?

 

1.      Meta search the airlines: You may be asking “what the hell does that mean”? Well, you might not know exactly what it means, but you might be doing it already. Meta search is the next generation of search which effectively stacks up all the competition alongside each other, across all websites, and displays results to enable pure comparison shopping. The best example in the airline industry is Kayak.com. Plug in your “from and to” airports, dates of travel, and hit Search. As an example, I searched for flights from Chicago to Denver, for travel on January 9th 2010 returning January 16th (oh, if all stays were that long!). In just a few seconds, no less than 514 results came up starting at $209.00 round-trip on either United or Continental with all manner of permutations for departure and arrival times. Aside from sorting by price, you can sort by airline, duration, (a few dollars more might save an hour or more travel time if there are stopovers), takeoff or landing.

 

Don’t forget to check out low-cost carriers if they match your airports, and also look into checked bag fees because these can mount up.

 

2.      Check in Online: BIG TIP – and I’m still amazed at the lines of people that don’t do this – check-in online and print out your boarding passes before you travel. Checking your bags will then be a matter of a few minutes instead of endlessly waiting in line and shuffling your bags along. Depending on who you fly with, you can sometimes save money on the checked bag. I recently traveled to Washington DC with United and saved $5.00 each way by checking my bag online. No big deal you might say, but a family of 4 with 1 bag each, that’s a $40.00 saving which is maybe lunch on mountain.

 

3.      Look for Packages: This can mean one of two things: packages bundled by online travel companies (such as Expedia, Travelocity, Bookit, Orbitz, etc), which combine flight, lodging and car rental, or lodging and lift ticket packages offered by lodging properties such as ours. The online companies use their own commission and discount structure to build in these savings and some show you the savings you can make as against if you booked the component parts separately.

 

The lodging and lift ticket packages combine the lodging properties own prevailing specials, which often include free nights or percentage discounts, as well as the lift ticket rates offered to them by the Ski Area, which are substantially less than ticket window prices and better the further out they are booked. Plus you have the convenience of picking up your lift tickets at check-in because the lodging company will order and collect those for you ahead of your arrival.

 

4.      Early-Season (or late season) deals: Virtually every ski resort will offer their lowest prices from opening day until Christmas or pre-Christmas, and again when Spring Break is over. If your plans are flexible, it will pay to wait to gauge skiing conditions as well as take advantage of last-minute offers, because occupancy levels during these time periods are lower – hence the lower rates.

  

5.      Kids-free Deals: Almost anywhere you go, kids get to ski and rent equipment either free (if they’re under 5) or cheap (6-14). Skiing for kids 5 and under is free at the Winter Park Ski Area, and at Epic Mountain Sports in Winter Park, kids 11 and under rent free with each full paying adult!