There was a time in the not-too-distant past, longtime Breckenridge residents say, when a dog could lie in Main Street all day and not be bothered by a car. The population was 393 in 1960, on the verge of becoming a ghost town after the collapse of mining.
Today, it’s the postcard of a Colorado ski town, drawing visitors from around the world for skiing, shopping and mountain splendor. In winter, you’re almost as likely to share the chairlift with someone from Europe as from Colorado.
Breckenridge is a great weekend destination, even if you don’t ski or snowboard.
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Breckenridge Ski Resort
Once derided by expert skiers as a tame, family-friendly ski area, expansion into the high, rocky terrain has opened a world of chutes, steeps and glades as gnarly as you’ll find in a Colorado ski area, with reliably good snow to boot. The Imperial Express is the highest chairlift in America and provides access to a winter wonderland of alpine bowls and advanced terrain at nearly 13,000 feet.
If plunging down a 35-degree slope in whiteout conditions isn’t your idea of fun, the area boasts some of the state’s best kid-friendly, beginner and intermediate terrain, with endless acreage of mellow runs featuring great views of the Front Range mountains.
For the kids
If the kids get tired of skiing — or you’re there in the off-season — it’s still possible to whisk down the mountain. The Gold Runner Alpine Coaster at the Peak 8 base winds up and down 2,500 feet of track, and riders can control their own speed. Take it slow and make it last because it’s $18 per ride for ages 8 and up, and $7 for ages 3-7. The coaster is open in winter and summer.
The city-owned Breckenridge Recreation Center offers an indoor pool and slide, two climbing walls and courts for basketball, racquetball and tennis. Day passes are $15 for adults, $7.50 for kids.
Families can ice skate at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena — $8 per adult and $6 per child.
Looking for a free activity? Kids can sled at Carter Park at the south end of town.
Cross-country ski and snowshoe
Downhill skiing isn’t for everyone, and the area around Breckenridge offers quality outdoor alternatives in the form of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Stop at Hoosier Pass on the way into town and explore the deep snow and great views from either side of Colorado Highway 9.
For a longer adventure, ski or snowshoe Boreas Pass Road — closed to vehicle traffic in the winter — which winds 5 miles on a gentle railroad grade to the Section House, a restored 19th-century cabin that travelers can rent for the night at $30 per person. Visit www.summithuts.org for more information.
Nearby Quandary Peak is one of the more accessible fourteeners in winter, though most years you’ll still want snowshoes. In the backcountry, it’s a good idea to stay away from steep slopes unless you have taken an avalanche-safety class.
Beginner cross-country skiers might want to start at the Breckenridge Nordic Center, where groomed trails and trained instructors can introduce you to the sport.
Out on the town
In some ski towns, you have to be a trust-funder to afford to eat out. While Breckenridge has its share of expensive restaurants, there are plenty of cheaper options.
Beer lovers should visit the Breckenridge Brewery & Pub on South Main Street for dinners in the $10-$20 range and a large selection of locally brewed beers. The Kenosha Steakhouse offers a fine selection of meat entrees for about what you would pay at home. Downstairs at Eric’s has pizza and burgers — plus video games for the kids — and is possibly the cheapest meal in town.
For a night spot that embraces Breckenridge’s rough-and-tumble mining past, stop by the historic Gold Pan Saloon and mingle with the locals. Have a good ski story ready.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to find a cheap place to stay in Breckenridge. Skiers on a budget can try the Fireside Inn, a hostel that has a dormitory and individual rooms with rates from $69 to $145. It’s within easy walking distance of downtown and the ski area gondola.
Otherwise, budget-conscious travelers can try Frisco, Dillon or Silverthorne, which are cheaper spots in Summit County because they aren’t home to ski areas.
If you want luxury, check out the many slopeside lodging options at breckenridge.com.
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