Breckenridge Ski Resort, Colorado
Breckenridge is one of Colorado’s most popular resorts and the most visited in North America.
With a third of the trails ranked intermediate, four mountains, steep treelined gullies that collect feet of snow, and Alpine bowls that cap the mountain range, Breck has something for everyone. With the addition of the Imperial Bowl high-speed quad in 2005/06, the resort added almost 700 feet of skiing to its vertical height. The chairlift takes skiers and riders to the top of Peak 8 at nearly 13,000 feet and accesses 550 acres of steeps, chutes, and glades that were previously hike-to and out-of-bounds terrain.
But it’s Breckenridge the Town that sets this destination resort apart. It is richly colored by its gold mining history and still retains its Victorian charm and devil-may-care attitude of yesteryear. The streets of the authentic 19th-century town bustle with sightseers and shoppers checking out the boutiques (258 at last count) and geographically significant museums, most housed in brightly-colored Victorian buildings. In fact, downtown Breckenridge is Colorado’s largest historic district, with 171 vintage places of interest. In the evenings, locals and tourists congregate for happy hour, dinner, and maybe the theatre and late-night libations in the town’s 39 bars and pubs (and 100 restaurants). If you take a day or two off from the slopes, you won’t be bored here. As proof of this, more than 1.6 million skiers and riders come to Breckenridge each winter. But popularity has its downsides, particularly in the early season when scores of skiing-starved Front Rangers—inhabitants of Denver and its suburbs—flock to the slopes. Even mid-winter, Breckenridge can get crowded. It’s best enjoyed on non-holiday weekdays.
Although tourism is the heart of Breckenridge, it’s not its soul. More than 3,000 residents live in Breckenridge year-round, and they care deeply about the town from a civic standpoint, making it feel more down-to-earth than some of Colorado’s more chi-chi resorts. But new shops and restaurants do tend to cater to the upscale crowd. With Vail’s ownership, this trend probably will continue. Restaurant and ski-area workers remain as friendly as ever, though, and some long-time Breckenridge locals still retain much of the casual attitude of their 19th-century predecessors, which helps balance out any stuffiness that the tourists may bring.