Travel Guide: Winter's Tale

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Winter's tale

Colorado's familyfriendly ski resort has more to offer than ever before

If you're from Denver, chances are you learned to ski at Winter Park Resort. After all, Denver owns this big (2,886 acres) alpine hill only 67 miles west of town. But even those from the Mile High City might not recognize Winter Park now; the old gat has had a minor makeover. There's a lot of new ski terrain, but also plenty to appeal to nonskiers: shopping, snowshoeing, and great dining in a new base area.

A handsome new village complex, scheduled to open next month, has chic shops and restaurants looking out onto the slopes. Want to tour the hill without skis? Redfeather Snowshoe Tours let you ride a chair partway up the ski hill, then snowshoe down with a naturalist guide. But note that, even though you get a lift up the hill, snowshoeing at Winter Park's heady altitude can prove to be somewhat strenuous.

There's news on the ski slopes as well. In the Avalon Quick Tips Learning Lane, you'll be videotaped as you ski, then get feedback from a ski instructor on your technique. For advanced skiers who are comfortable skiing in black diamond territory, there's new 687-acre Vasquez Cirque, a ruggedly scenic area of sculpted rock (and snow) to ski. (At press time, lift tickets cost $50, $15 ages 6-13.)

No matter how you spend your day, dinner at the Lodge at Sunspot is a perfect way to end it. Ride the gondola to a log lodge on the top of Winter Park Mountain (elevation 10,700 feet) and watch the alpenglow wash over the granite tops of the Indian Peaks, turning the clouds orange and pink.

Winter Park Resort is oft U.S. 40 about 67 miles west of Denver, (800) 729-5813 or www.skiwinterpark.com For lodging, call (800) 729 5813. Lodge at Sunspot, prix fixe dinner $39-$59 Thu-Sat; (970) 726-1446 Redfeather Snowshoe Tours, $25; (970) 726-5514 ext. 1732. Vasquez Cirque tours, $165 for one or two (970) 726-1551.

- Lora J. Finnegan

Flipping frantically through the Sundance Film Festival's ticket catalog, I realized I was chasing a dream: Could I really figure out which Indie" film would be the next blockbuster? Picking a hit is part of the fun and mystique of the country's most glamorous independent film festival, which takes place January 20-30, mainly in Park City. Since 1989's sex, lies, and videotape caught Hollywood's attention, several Sundance premieres have hit it big, from The Brothers McMullen to last year's dark horse, The Blair Witch Project.

Fortunately, snaring a festival ticket is easier than choosing a winner, thanks to a lineup of about 120 feature films and eight film-showing venues in Park City, plus two in Salt Lake City and one in Ogden. Festival ticket packages are available in November, and individual ducats ($8-$10) go on sale January 11 at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City and the Marriott at Summit Watch in Park City. Be persistent about getting these (some folks camp out overnight in a bid to be first in line); you can order by phone (801/3224033), but be prepared for a lengthy wait.

Another insider's trick: Head to any festival box office at opening time (8 A.M.) any day of the festival and select from a small number of tickets held back for that day's screenings at venues like Park City's Egyptian Theatre. It's potluck, but you can get tickets for some film gems.

If spotting celebrities like Nicolas Cage and Susan Sarandon is as important as seeing a movie, try dinner at Robert Redford's Zoom, which serves up hearty roadhouse meals like grilled chicken breast with apple-sage relish. Also reliable-for food and celebrities-are 350 Main Co., which offers an oyster bar and seafood entrees, and Grappa, with its regional Italian dishes. Harry O's, a Main Street nightclub, also will be jumping throughout the festival. …