By Beth Buehler
One of the biggest benefits of Winter Park is being only 67 miles from Denver and slightly off-the-beaten path. However, in my mind it’s the variety of distinct meeting and event venues and lodging and a full quiver of fun activities that make it a destination that should be on the radar of meeting and event planners.
In February 2019, I experienced several meeting spaces in Winter Park and Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in nearby Tabernash with our small group traveling from Denver Union Station and being delivered directly to the slopes at Winter Park Resort via the Amtrak Winter Park Express. The train is a great way to transport smaller groups directly to the slopes on Saturdays, Sundays and select Fridays from January through March.
Nowhere else in North America can you take a train from a major metropolitan city to the slopes of a world-class ski resort. “Fridays ended up being a huge hit thanks almost exclusively to groups. In fact, the early thinking is for next season we’d increase the number of dates to every Friday and an occasional, strategic Thursday in order to accommodate group demand,” says Steve Hulbert, director of public relations and communications for the resort.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by more than $30 million in capital investments at the resort that included a new gondola, upgraded snowmaking and a new base-area plaza. Winter Park Resort not only offers more than 3,000 acres of outdoor playground, there are function spaces available for groups of 25 to 800 attendees and more than 300 guest rooms ranging from hotel style at Vintage Hotel to condo style at the Zephyr Mountain Lodge and Fraser Crossing/Founders Pointe.
At the base of Winter Park Mountain, West Portal Station is the largest facility with rooms of various sizes and an outside deck. Vintage Hotel, Zephyr Mountain Lodge and Balcony House also provide a slew of options in the ski base area. For an on-mountain experience, head to The Lodge at Sunspot located at the summit of Winter Park Mountain and featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and a huge wrap-around deck.
Winter Park Mountain Lodge is located directly across from Winter Park Resort and has more than 8,000 square feet of function space that can accommodate groups of up to 400. The 110 guest rooms come complete with amenities like a microwave and mini-fridge, which attendees will appreciate along with an indoor pool, hot tubs and sauna.
The upscale Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa is just a short ride from Winter Park and situated on 6,000 acres at the base of the Continental Divide. With an inspiring setting and a variety of breakout spaces, the property offers an idyllic setting for groups of 10 to 350. The 25,000-square-foot, two-story Broad Axe Barn and 50,000-square-foot High Lonesome Barn serve as the meetings and special events centers for Devil’s Thumb; both are reclaimed barns from the 1800s with recycled flooring and other eco-friendly features. The Broad Axe Barn building also is home to the Activities Center and John Ls’ Wine Cellar and Private Dining Room. The High Lonesome Lodge & Barn has Grotto Suraboza, a 40-seat, underground stone wine cellar for receptions and private dining.
Devil’s Thumb has two lodges and a variety of cabins for accommodations and Ranch House Restaurant and Heck’s Tavern for dining, both serving Wagyu beef from the ranch’s herd. A movie theatre, game room, spa and a full menu of activities for every season will keep groups busy outside meeting rooms.
Ranch owners Bob and Suzanne Fanch also purchased and fully remodeled properties in Winter Park, Trailhead Inn and Vasquez Creek Inn, to provide overflow and additional options. It was a treat to dine at Volario’s Ristorante at Vasquez Creek Inn, with al fresco/creekside dining as well as a private dining room, lively bar area and main restaurant. Don’t miss stopping at nearby Hideaway Park Brewery downtown for a local brew.
Headwaters Center, Colorado’s newest eco-friendly, meetings and community events center, also is the brainchild of the Fanches. The nonprofit venue is designed around a commitment to environmental and historic preservation and fueled by sustainable energy resources. The building features a multi-level reclaimed Civil War Era timber barn that serves as the center’s framework, offering 28,000 square feet of options. Plus, there is an outdoor deck and amphitheatre to soak up the clean mountain air.
There are even more Grand County options a bit farther north in Granby, like C Lazy U Ranch and Snow Mountain Ranch, but that is a story for another time!
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.