Colorado Ski Resort Towns

Breckenridge: High-Alpine Skiing, Low-Key Mountain Town

Breckenridge1Breckenridge, Colo., with its ski terrain to die for, is one of the most popular winter sports resorts in the United States. But what truly sets Breck (as the locals and regulars call it) apart is its vibe as a friendly, authentic small mountain town. Naturally, 300 days of yearly average sunshine and 300 inches (7.62 m) of snowfall are nice, too.

Breckenridge ski resort, a two-hour car ride west of Denver International Airport, was already vast, yet this year’s addition of Peak 6 is said to be the biggest ski resort expansion in North America in more than a decade. The extra 543 skiable acres (2 sq km) not only feature high-alpine steep terrain but also intermediate bowl skiing, a rare find in North America. While many already favor ESP, a steep, tight north-facing chute that is 45 degrees at the entry point, to become Beck’s next signature run, veteran ski instructor Sibylle Hechtel can’t get enough of Horseshoe Bowl and Imperial Bowl. “If you can ski steep blacks, Breck has great terrain above the tree line, ” she said.

Breck’s ski terrain, base elevation 9, 603 feet (2, 927 m), now spans nearly 3, 000 acres (12 sq km) with 187 trails so varied you can go from steeps to trees to groomers, all in the same run. To boot, the 22-foot super pipe and 11 bowls turn this ski resort into a huge winter playground. No surprise professional freestyle skiers and snowboarders train at Breck’s four terrain parks; they are world class.

family skiiingOne of Breck’s superlatives, though, can’t be experienced downhill, but up. The Imperial Express SuperChair ascents to an elevation of 12, 840 feet (3914 m) within 100 vertical feet (30.5 m) of Peak 8 summit. This is the highest chairlift in North America.

Family-Oriented Skiing

The Summit County winter sports town has earned a reputation as top destination for skiing and snowboarding with children. “Breckenridge is really committed to making the experience enjoyable for families with kids, ” said Amy Reichardt. The Colorado mom and her husband come up from the Denver suburb of Littleton, Colo., multiple times every season to ski here with their two daughters. “There are areas on the mountain where you can take kids and not worry about getting run over.” What’s more, Beck’s abundance of extra long gentle groomers at the bottom of the mountain means fewer wearying chairlift boardings with the littles.

Convenient all-day parking lots are another perk for parents with small skiers in tow. The schlep from the Gondola North Lot to the BreckConnect Gondola is mere steps.

Activities Off the Alpine Slopes

Alpine skiing is not the only activity attracting visitors to Breck. Head to the Breckenridge Nordic Center for cross-country skiing, guided snowshoe adventures (four times daily and in the evenings during full moon), igloo building or a sleigh ride in the White River National Forest. While there, the Oh Be Joyful Lodge, constructed entirely from local beetle-kill wood, is new this season.

Tearing down the mountain on 2, 500 feet (762 m) of coaster track on the Gold Runner Alpine Coaster, Breck’s alpine slide, is yet another off-piste adventure. Or, for a scenic powder ride, plow a snowmobile over the Continental Divide, the line separating all watersheds in the United States.

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