Expert skiers and snowboarders will like Winter Park and Mary Jane, Winter Park Resort's interconnected playgrounds. Here, you'll find lots of inbound extreme ski terrain on open slopes and steep chutes above treeline, and in glades so tight only experienced, expert tree skiers and riders should visit. For insider advice on the best inbounds extreme terrain I went to Jamie Wolters, who has been a ski patroller at Winter Park for eight years.
Here's his take and tips on skiing or snowboarding in the above treeline Vasquez Cirque and in the trees around the Eagle Wind lift. The Vasquez Cirque, which crowns Winter Park Resort and tops out in around 12,000 feet above sea level, is a local favorite for extreme inbounds skiing. (In addition to being an expert skier or snowboarder, you also have to be willing to make a three-quarter-to one-mile traverse from the top of the Panoramic lift to reach the Cirque's headwalls and chutes.) If you prefer totally lift-served terrain and you're an experienced, expert tree skier, check out the terrain around the Eagle Wind lift.
In Wolter's words: "This is all expert terrain. There's nothing easy about it."
Patroller Jamie Wolter's Favorite Places in the Vasquez Cirque
Here are Jamie Wolter's tips and take on exploring the Vasquez Cirque.
- The South Headwall offers the best bang for your buck when it's open because it's the first open terrain you come to and has good vertical. But, it faces northwest and takes the brunt of the wind, so the snow often gets stripped off quickly.
- When slopes on the Vasquez Cirque are opened for skiing, the ski patrollers have noticed an interesting phenomenon, according to Wolter. He says that when the rope drops, opening up the South Headwall, the West Headwall and some of the Alphabet Chutes (A to G) for example, people most often go to the farthermost point of the rope drop. So, they may be fighting with lots of other skiers and riders for freshies. Savvy skiers jump right into the closer runs, such as the C and D chutes and might have the run all to themselves.
- When traversing to the Cirque, people often take their skis off and walk. But it's like walking on the beach because the snow's not that firm. Better to just skate across.
- Wolter's favorite shots: The South Headwall when it has snow. The G chutes (G 1-4), because they are steep, there's a straight fall line, and "It's way out there." Below these areas, you go into the trees. In the lower zone, his two favorites are the good lines for tree skiers in Eldorado, where the trees are tight, and Rollover, which is fairly open and keeps good snow.
Tree Skiers Rate Eagle Wind Tops
Eagle Wind is a tangle of ungroomed terrain where the trees get tighter and tighter as you head downward. You must be very comfortable in tight trees and natural snow conditions before exploring these slopes.
- The slopes around this lift start as narrow trails and quickly turn into shots between tight trees. There are some really nice alleys in this areas, but you have to search to find them. You might ski an alley that's beautiful but it ends in really thick trees. Little Raven and Medicine Man are Wolter's favorites.
- There are two routes to this terrain. Go down Switchyard toward Village Way and take the long Thunderbird Traverse through the trees to reach the base of the Eagle Wind lift. The other route is to ride the Panoramic Express and ski down Village Way to a gate that, when officially open, takes you to the top of the Eagle Wind area.
Please note: The Winter Park Ski Patrol asks all skiers and snowboarders entering these areas to ski or ride with a partner.
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