Introduction to Breckenridge
The crown jewel of Colorado’s famed Summit County. One of the most lively and picturesque mountain towns in the state, sitting at the base of a world-class ski resort. Much like Vail, Breckenridge just seems to keep getting bigger- in 2013 the resort opened Peak 6, adding 500 additional acres of skiable terrain north of the other four peaks that make up the resort. That’s right- Breckenridge Ski Resort is composed of five different mountain peaks (aptly called Peaks 6-10) that are part of the Tenmile Range of mountains.
All said and done, the resort offers 2,908 acres of in-bounds terrain with 3,398 ft. of vertical. At its peak, you’ll be standing at 12,998 feet above sea level. 34 lifts, 187 runs, and 280 inches of annual snowfall make Breckenridge one of the most popular ski destinations in the world.
What separates Breckenridge from other Colorado resorts is that 60% of the terrain faces east. Instead of a layout of front side, back side like Keystone and many other places, traversing Breck requires heading north or south across the mountain from peak to peak. While it does get crowded on weekends and holidays, the sheer size of the resort ensures that it is possible to get away from the masses. To do so, head to the edges or up high. Peaks 6 and 10 and the open bowls above treeline are the safest bet for minimizing the amount of time spent in lift lines.
The resort thrives in its sheer diversity. There is something for everyone, from families with kids to expert park riders, from the powder hound to the guy who wants to do a couple cruisers and then head to the bar. If you’re looking for a place to make everyone happy, Breckenridge is the place to be.
The town sits right at the base of the ski resort, ten miles south of Dillon Reservoir on CO Highway 9. From Denver, the drive takes about 90 minutes. Head west on I-70 to exit 203 at Frisco and head west. There are plenty of signs to direct you straight to the resort. Breckenridge offers paid parking right at the base of the town Gondola in the Gondola South Lot, Gondola North Lot, and Gold Rush Lot. Hop on the gondola, which will bring you from town to either the Peak 7 or Peak 8 base.
Free parking is available at the Airport Road Lot. It can be tricky to find (which I’m sure is no accident) as the turn off is before you pull into town. It is just to the right of CO Highway 9, visible from the road and has a free bus to the gondola lots for boarding to the resort bases. Keep an eye out for the turn off onto Airport Road.
Where the locals are riding
Peak 10 features all advanced and expert level terrain with moguls and challenging tree runs. Breckenridge is notoriously flat, but here is where you’ll find some of the highest pitch the resort has to offer. Boreas, down low on Peak 8, also provides some steeps and a fun set of moguls that the majority of skiers and riders completely overlook.
Riding the Kensho SuperChair up Peak 6 provides a jaw-dropping view of the north face of Peak 7 and a run called The Dunes. Getting there requires traversing and a good amount of hiking across either Peak 6 or by approaching from the south off Peak 7. Other hike-to terrain off Peak 6 such as Serenity Bowl and The Six Senses (a group of steep, open chutes) rarely get tracked out.
I learned to ride in the terrain park in the Highway 9 park as a teenager, and I highly recommend a few laps there before going big time at Freeway on Peak 8. Freeway was the park of glory back in the late nineties and early 2000’s before other resorts caught on to the freestyle trend. It’s still epic- a 22-foot superpipe and huge jumps offer quite a show even for those just passing by.
Part of the local’s knowledge at Breck isn’t where to ride, it’s where not to ride. Because the resort is often so crowded, avoid the main lifts on Peak 8 and Peak 9 whenever possible. Using them to move around the mountain is sometimes a necessity, but lapping the Mercury Superchair on a Saturday is going to give you more of a sunburn and leg cramps from standing in line than a chance to explore the terrain.
Where to eat and drink
- Sevens (and the beach area out front)– The best afternoon scene on the mountain is at the base of Peak 7. Adirondack chairs and a walk-up window bar outside of Sevens draw a crowd of thirsty skiers and riders nearly every day. Inside the restaurant, a solid offering of burgers, sandwiches, and apps.
- T-Bar- Any good ski town needs a T-Bar. This spot is usually bumping from lunch until after the lifts close and often features DJs or music. If you’re looking to hook up for a few runs with a stranger, this is the place to do it.
- Crepes A La Cart– I never thought about having a crepe after a full day on the hill, but it is one of the most satisfying meals for the occasion. This food cart in downtown Breckenridge makes your food fresh, which can cause a backup when busy, but the wait is more than worth it. Plus, there are numerous bars in the area to pass the time.
- Downstairs at Eric’s– Probably the most classic pub and grill for the Breckenridge visitor. They have an entire section of chicken sandwiches on the menu, complementing the awesome wings and pizza. The calzones are amazing as well.
- Quandary Grille– The place to take your group for dinner after you’ve burned up the après scene on the mountain. Modern American and continental cuisine in a setting upscale enough that you can make use of that long-sleeved button down that’s in the back of the car, with enough of a hip bar vibe that the beanie on your head is perfectly acceptable.
Where to stay
- The Bivvi Hostel- A hostel built for ski travelers, with an in-house bar and storage for your gear. Dorm beds start at $59 during ski season, with private rooms and apartments also available.
- The usual chains are available down the highway in Dillon, Frisco, and Silverthorne. Staying there is typically cheaper than staying in Breckenridge proper, and Summit County has a great bus system that can transport you back and forth.
Where to party
- Three20south– Breck’s live music venue and party spot, bringing in touring acts constantly.
- Burke and Riley’s Irish Pub– They’ve got a great patio and the scene here is popping right on Main Street. Breck is small enough the walking just about anywhere is doable and Burke and Riley’s is right in the center of the action.
- Breckenridge Brewery– No trip to Breck is complete without a stop by the brewery (even though there’s a larger location in the Denver area). Great food, great beer, and a lively pub scene.
- I mentioned this in the Loveland Ski Area edition, but here it is again. This is Colorado, after all, so take a night and check out the Brews, Booze, and Buds Tour. Microbreweries, craft distilleries, and that famous CO bud- there is no better way to relax in Summit County.
Flannel. The tuxedo of the ski bum. Bring it with you, and wear it everywhere. Unless, of course, you’re one of those high-end luxury ski travelers. In which case, I don’t have much advice other than this: Aspen is only a couple hours away.
For the rest of us, Summit County is exactly what you picture a highly trafficked mountain setting to be. Locals working in the service industry, tourists blowing their money and keeping things afloat. Laid back vibe, and a strong possibility that you’ll see your favorite pro skier or snowboarder either on the mountain or at an industry event in town. Relax and enjoy yourself, Colorado is about as mellow as any place you’ll ever go.