Expert skiers and snowboarders will find a lot to love at the Winter Park Resort and its interconnected playgrounds. There, you'll find an impressive amount of inbound extreme ski terrain to explore with plenty of open slopes and steep chutes located above the treeline. There are even glades so tight that only experienced, expert tree skiers and riders should venture into them. 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. He was kind enough to share his thoughts and tips for skiing or snowboarding the challenging Vasquez Cirque and in the trees around the Eagle Wind lift.
The Vasquez Cirque, which crowns Winter Park Resort and tops out at around 12,000 feet above sea level, is a local favorite for extreme inbounds skiing. Just getting to the start of the cirque can be quite an adventure, because in addition to being an expert skier or snowboarder, you'll have to make the nearly-one mile traverse from the top of the Panoramic lift just to reach the headwalls and chutes.
If you prefer totally lift-served terrain and you're an experienced, expert tree skier, check out the skiing and riding 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 accessible because it's the first open terrain you come to and it 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, when the rope drops, opening up the South Headwall, the West Headwall and some of the Alphabet Chutes (A to G), people most often go to the farthest point from 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 end up having the entire slope all to themselves.
- When traversing to the Cirque, people often take their skis off and just walk. But it ends up being much like walking on the beach because the snow's not very firm. It is faster and more efficient to just skate across instead.
- Wolter's favorite runs: The South Headwall when it has snow. The G chutes (G 1-4), because they are steep and offer a straight fall line. Plus, he says that "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 holds plenty of 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. It is essential that you are 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 area, but you might have to search a bit to find them. You could ski an alley that's beautiful but it ends in really thick trees. Little Raven and Medicine Man are amongst 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 option 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.