The Ultimate Guide to Breckenridge, Colorado
Written by Jack Lee • Last updated Aug 21, 2017
A mecca for big mountain shredders and trick stomping freestylers, Breckenridge is all about the new school! When it comes to high alpine terrain, no-fall zone chutes, and wide open bowls, it tops every other ski area in Summit County.
Nowhere else in North America gets you higher on a lift, with the resort’s crowning glory Imperial Express Super Chair whisking skiers and boarders up to 12,840 feet. From this height you can spot the peaks of a whole bunch of Colorado’s magnificent fourteeners! Throw into the mix insane terrain parks expertly designed to cater for everyone, from first-time jumpers to seasoned pros, and you have the essential ingredients for a progressive skier’s and snowboarder’s dream mountain. All this and much more makes Breck America’s most popular ski resort - more skiers and boarders hit the slopes here than anywhere else in the country during the 2016/2017 season.
Now, as good as Breckenridge undoubtedly is, it’s not without its shortcomings. The resort’s high altitude has a nasty side effect, coming in the debilitating form of altitude sickness. Eager skiers and snowboarders leaving Denver first thing and then straight on the lifts to Peak 8 are the most likely victims, but even at base elevation you can start feeling woozy. Being so high up on the mountain also means it’s cold too, and some of the top lifts stay closed for days on end when the weather takes a turn for the worse. Compared to other Colorado resorts, Breck simply doesn't have the glitz and glamor of Aspen or the mammoth terrain of Vail, but on the upside, lodging is slightly more affordable. The vibe in town is easy-going and unpretentious, perhaps that’s why it was the first resort in Colorado to allow snowboarders on the slopes!
The first ski trails were cut here in 1961, but Breckenridge was a bustling town way before any skiers arrived, thanks to swarms of prospectors seeking fortune in the gold rush of 1859. The place still retains its old world western charm, but now it’s the powder on the peaks above that are its most precious resource. 300 inches of the white stuff falls here on average each year, keeping the 187 trails spread over 2,908 acres of ski terrain topped up nicely. The locals know how good they've got it, and each year they hold Ullr Fest, a raucous celebration that pays homage to the Nordic god of winter! Even the annual International Snow Sculpture Championships take place here, transforming the town into an exhibit of icy art. As for après-ski, you really can't go wrong in Breck, it’s the home of the world’s highest distillery!
Nestled within the Rocky Mountains, in Colorado’s Ten Mile Range, the town of Breckenridge enjoys an unusually high base elevation of 9,600 feet, and above it tower five main peaks, the largest being Peak 10, maxing out at 13,639 feet. That’s way out of bounds of the Breckenridge Ski Resort, but to reach the dizzying heights of Peak 8 at 12,998 feet it’s just a short hike from the top of the Imperial Express Super Chair. From there you’ve got 3,398 feet of vertical rise stacked up in front of you! Each of the peaks have their own distinctive character and you could even say they’re separate ski areas in their own right. So, let’s start from the top!
Below Peak 10 is nothing but blacks, many of which are double diamonds, so needless to say this is expert only territory.
Next door at Peak 9 you have the best area for beginners in Breckenridge, a mountainside jam-packed full of blues and greens, wide gentle slopes that still enjoy great snow thanks to their high position on the mountain.
The centerpiece of Breck is unquestionably Peak 8, offering an amazing variety of terrain, from award-winning terrain parks and perfect highway groomers to sketchy cornices and powder-filled bowls. This is where the most fun is to be had, with something for every ability of skier and snowboarder to get excited about. It’s also where the resort’s longest trail is, the Four O’Clock blue that runs for a leg-aching 3.5 miles.
Moving swiftly on, Peak 7 is all about the intermediates, with practically nothing but rolling blues that cut between the trees, it’s corduroy all the way here! Last, but by no means least, there’s Peak 6, where the only blue runs above the tree line can be found. For the more audacious among you it’s also home to some intense off-piste steeps accessible after just a short hike.
When to Go
Thanks to its spot high up in the mountains, the ski season in Breck usually lasts for around five months, from mid-November to mid-April. Slopes can be a bit patchy at the start and end of winter, but an extensive snow cannon network keeps the lower trails white for as long as temperatures stay below zero! As far as proper snowfall goes, it really starts cranking from January, tailing off by the end of March. Events like Ullr Fest and the International Snow Sculpture Championships are held in January, making that month an awesome time to visit. If there was ever a time not to visit Breckenridge, it’s the Christmas and New Year holidays, Martin Luther King Day, and Presidents’ Day. Crowds peak during these times, leading to monstrous lift queues and a spike in accommodation prices.
Single-day tickets are not the way to go at Breckenridge; the walk-up price is as high as $160. Fortunately, Breckenridge offers a variety of passes that can save you money over a multi-day visit, especially if you buy in advance.
The best bargain is the Summit Value Pass, which gives unlimited access to Breckenridge as well as nearby Keystone and Arapahoe Basin for $529 adult, $429 teen, and $299 children age 5-12. You only need to ski at least 4 days for this pass to start saving you money.
The next best deal is the Epic 7-Day pass at $639 for adults and $339 for children (there’s no separate ‘teen’ category for the 7-Day pass). In those seven days - which don’t have to be consecutive - you can also visit Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone, and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood in California; Park City, Utah; Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia; and Stowe, Vermont. SnowPak also often have great deals going to Breck and the surrounding resorts.
The on mountain staff were happy to tell you where the best runs were for that day and direct you in the right way.
Big Mountain with great intermediate terrain and awesome grooming. The village is one of the best- close to the mountain and lots of shops, restaurants, bars. Tons of slopeside lodging make ski-in-out a great experience.