With 2,908 acres (1177 ha) of skiing spread across five interconnected mountains (Peaks 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10), and averaging 300 inches of fluffy Colorado powder per year, the skiing at Breckenridge is exceptional and exciting for every level of skier and boarder.
Peak 7 made its debut over a decade ago, opening up 165 acres (66 ha) of intermediate terrain and seven new trails, and although it has been "tamed" there are still vast ungroomed upper sections of Peak 7 above the treeline to attract hardcore skiers. Peak 10 is by consensus the toughest, and Peak 9 the easiest of the other mountains, while Peak 8 is a bit of everything. The town and the ski area base are both at 9,600 feet (2,926 m) above sea level. The highest lift-serviced point is at 12,840 feet (3,914 m).
Peak 6 opened for the winter of 2014-2015 adding additional lift-serviced intermediate bowl terrain and some first rate hike-to runs for expert skiers.
Of the 155 trails, 24 are green beginner trails, 38 blue intermediate trails, and 74 black and double black diamond trails for advanced and experts. If you're concerned about safety, you can be assured of a safe skiing and riding experience at this resort: Breckenridge Ski Patrol monitors each run every morning to check for safety hazards that may exist. All man-made objects are padded to specification and/or marked with bamboo, rope and flagging for visibility.
The ski area also includes four terrain parks and halfpipes, including the world class half pipe at Peak 8. To accommodate new trails and a new terrain park, the Breckenridge grooming fleet got three additional snowcats and new pipe-grooming implements. Artificial snowmaking includes 380 snowmaking guns covering 540 acres (227 ha)-24 percent of the mountain.
Breckenridge proudly boasts that it is America's most popular ski resort. Anyone who's been there on a holiday weekend in December would certainly agree, judging by the liftlines which can be lengthy when Denver day-skiers flock to this nearby Front Range resort. However, although lines during peak periods can be formidable, the terrain is exceptional and knowing how to escape the crowds will allow you to maximize your time on the snow even on the busiest days.
Many who are new to Breckenridge complain that the mountain layout is confusing and difficult to understand. Unlike Breckenridge's sister resort, Keystone, which features three peaks stacked one behind another, Breckenridge's four peaks are spread out across a ridge. Knowing how to negotiate laterally by using different lifts is essential. Breckenridge posts helpful signs throughout the resort which point skiers to key lifts and base areas.
Breckenridge offers two base areas with interconnecting lifts , Peaks 8 and 9, as well as the new BreckConnect Town Gondola lift. Peak 8 has two high-speed quads, accessible from the base, that connect with other lifts servicing higher terrain. These are the Colorado SuperChair and the Rocky Mountain SuperChair. Beginner lifts are chair 7 and chair 5 starting from the base area on Peak 8. These are double chairs. Peak 9 has the Beaver Run Super Chair at the base of Beaver Run, which accesses intermediate terrain. The QuickSilver Super6 passenger chair leaves from The Village area at the base of Peak 9 and serves beginner terrain. It also accesses several other on-mountain lifts including the more advanced Peak 10 Falcon Lift.
Breckenridge now boasts the highest lift in North America, reaching up a massive 12,840 feet (3,914 m). The Imperial Express Chairlift accesses 400 acres (162 hectares) of advanced and expert terrain. The QuickSilver SuperChair on Peak 9 was upgraded to a six-passenger chair for the 2000/01 ski season and it accesses beginner terrain. The new BreckConnect gondola connects the town of Breckenridge with the base of Peak 8, making a stop at Peak 7 base. All day-skier parking as well as the Breckenridge bus station are located in lots adjoining base station. The new gondola greatly improves access for day skiers and makes staying in the town and attractive alternative.
Simplifying the transfer between mountains is the new Peak 8 SuperConnect high-speed quad that replaces the old Chair 4. While skiers and riders will not be able to access the chair from the base area of Peak 9, a quick ride up the Beaver Run SuperChair or QuickSilver Super6 accesses the new lift and whisks riders to Peak 8, terminating near the (recently renovated) Vista Haus restaurant. The two-lift ride now takes 13 minutes instead of the former 30-minute, three-lift ride.
The SnowFlake Lift also takes skiers and riders from Four O'Clock road on Peak 9 to Peak 8. Additionally, the new high-speed six-passenger Independence SuperChair on Peak 7 will take skiers from bottom to top in seven minutes and opens up 165 acres (66 ha) of intermediate terrain (that is to say, 30 percent more) including seven new trails and the famous Peak 7 glades.
Lift tickets are interchangeable between Keystone and Arapahoe Basin, and one day out of a three-day pass is good at Vail. Expect to pay around US$92 a day for an adult lift pass, although there is a reduction if you buy 3 days or more. Lift passes can be bought at all lift ticket windows located at the base of Peaks 8 and 9, if you buy your tickets online at www.breckenridge.com you will get a reduction. For those parking in town or in the numerous lots adjacent to the new BreckConnect gondola, tickets are conveniently available for purchase at gondola base station. Plenty of ticket windows are available at the base station, meaning lines for ticket purchase are almost always shorter than at any of the other bases.
Rush hour on the lift lines is usually 10:30 am and 1:30 pm but you can beat the lines by starting first thing in the morning at 8:30 am, and at lunch time, at around 12:00 noon. Intermediates can use the Beaver Run Chair on Peak 9 and the Rocky Mountain Chair on Peak 8, which are usually less crowded.
Breckenridge offers several trails designed for those who prefer to ski at a slower speed. Bonanza is the designated slow skiing trail on Peak 9, Springmeier on Peak 8. These runs are patrolled and monitored by Ski Patrol and Guest Service staff. Chair 5 offers access from Peak 8 base to a half dozen green runs. Kids will love the chair's unique loading conveyor.
Breckenridge's reputation as one of the best ski resorts in the United States for beginners was recently enhanced with the addition of the high-speed QuickSilver Super6, the country's highest-capacity chairlift. This lift serves hundreds of acres of exclusively beginner terrain and its double-loading configuration allows beginners ample time to load comfortably. The wide-open, gentle beginner terrain aims to instill confidence and increase enjoyment for all novice skiers and riders.
A word of warning: remember that Breckenridge is high-even the bottom station stands at 9,600 feet (2,926 m) and the top soars to 12,998 feet (3,963 m), so beware of breathlessness and don't attempt too much until you are acclimatized. Make sure you drink lots of water as well. Hydration is the best defense against altitude sickness. You may pant a bit at first, but you will live.
But if you want to put miles under the skis, confident intermediates will relish the runs on Peak 7 accessed by the Independence Super Chair. Serviced by its own high speed express 6-passenger chair (Independence SuperChair), Breckenridge's newly expanded terrain on the lower sections Peak 7 is an intermediate's playground. Intermediate skiers will love the long runs and rolling terrain. Work your way across Monte Cristo, Angel's Rest, Lincoln Meadows, Wirepatch, Pioneer and Claimjumper for fast, undulating cruisers. Advanced skiers looking to rip long carvers will also appreciate the bumps and rolls, particularly on the rollercoaster Claimjumper trail. Breckenridge's Peaks 8 and 9 offer some great runs for intermediates, such as lengthy Four O'Clock and wide and bumpy Lehman.
Lower intermediates could start off with Breckenridge's Peak 9, which offers open cruising all the way from the 11,460-foot (3,725 m) top, right down to the bottom. After a few runs up there you can move on to other slopes-there are plenty to choose from-and the new intermediate runs and glades on Peak 7. Two favorites for the permanent intermediate are both off Peaks 8 and 9. Peak 8 terrain varies from intermediate to advanced, but if you stick to the open, swoopy Four O'Clock-the longest run-you can have some great downhill skiing and not get too stressed. Also check out Spruce, and Frosty's, and Dukes, all of which runs are groomed nightly and have a slightly steeper pitch.
From Peak 9, a favorite way down is via the Lehman run, or Cashier, which offers plenty of space and some deep moguls. Peak 9 also has Volunteer, American, and Peerless, while Peak 10 challenges intermediates with Doublejack, Centennial, Crystal and Cimarron, the former World Cup downhill race course, all of which are groomed and designated "blue/black." A good day's skiing in Breckenridge might include a warm-up on Peak 9 with Cashier, Bonanza, or Country Boy, or on Peak 8 with Springmeier or Four O'Clock, gradually easing into the more difficult "blue/black" runs.
The T-Bar, Chair 6, and the Imperial Express all service some serious expert terrain (see below for details). However, Breckenridge is probably better known for its below treeline expert terrain.
Take the Falcon SuperChair up Peak 10 to access a large swath of expert terrain. The Burn, Corsair and Spitfire, off the skier's left, are steep, wooded runs that allow a skier to choose their level of challenge. While all three runs are moderately steep, the lines through the trees vary greatly and can range from challengingly tight to wider, but steep chutes. Hit up skier's right off Peak 10 and you'll drop into Mustang, Blackhawk and a handful of other double black diamond steeps. These runs cascade their way down to the base alternating between steep pitches and fairly flat runouts.
Chair E is an oft-overlooked expert's playground. Because the terrain is not shown AT ALL on the front of the trail map (turn the map over…), many skiers simply don't notice it. With names like Devil's Crotch, Mineshaft, Hades and Inferno, you can imagine what the terrain is like. All the runs off Chair E will challenge even the most advanced skier. If you're looking for a tight gladed run, try Windows, right off the top of the chairlift. The chutes are numbered on the traverse out. We like #4.
The south side of Peak 10 is a hidden paradise for bump-skiers with spectacular views of the valley. Try that out before moving onto the even steeper and tougher Lake Chutes-the best challenges for experts with pitches of up to 51 degrees and some areas accessible only from cornices or by going off-piste or into one of the bowls. Also try Horseshoe, Cucumber or Contest-all three are worthy double black diamond trails.
Experts should also ski the terrain off the midstation of the Peak 8 SuperConnect. Rising almost 1000 ft in only 3 minutes, riding the chair from the midstation allows you to log some serious vertical without long lines or slow chairs. Southern Cross and Mach 1 are all excellent pitches that bump up quickly. Tiger is a merciless double fall-line beast that lets you strut your stuff for the chairlift riders above.
Breckenridge's above treeline skiing is very underrated. The resort offers many in-bound bowls for expert skiers, some lift accessible and others accessible by short hikes. Breckenridge's Chair 6 offers access to the Imperial Express Quad terrain on the summit of Peak 8, but also serves a dozen advanced chutes and small bowls. After hitting the terrain off Chair 6, hop on the Imperial Express, North America's highest chairlift, and ride it to the summit of Peak 8. For those who don't like to hike, there is plenty of bowlskiing available without a hike. The more adventuresome should try taking the short 10-15 minute hike above the Imperial Express to access bowl skiing at the summit. Standing on the summit you'll be at an elevation of 12,998 feet (3,963 m) with Breckenridge's total vertical of 3,398 feet (1,036 m) below you. Continue hiking farther out to the skier's right to get to the Lake Chutes (the steepest terrain at Breckenridge) or Snow White Bowl.
If wide-open bowl skiing with plenty of snow is what you desire, then you should head to Horseshoe Bowl, which is accessed by Chair 6 and the T-bar lifts. The ride up the T-bar is certainly worth the antiquated lift. Horseshoe Bowl, Cucumber Bowl and Contest Bowl are all outstanding. They are steep and the powder tends to blow into these bowls more so than some of the others, making for some great soft turns. As for the best powder, that's definitely to be found on the bowls of Peak 8, but this means you must be willing to hike above the tree line.
In 2014, the resort opened new terrain on Peak 6. This new bowl terrain in Serenity Bowl and Beyond bowl is mainly hike-to terrain above the top of the Kensho Superchair. The runs are amongst the steepest on in the ski area. The one lift-serviced expert trail, Wonderland, is a short, fun pitch that many experts have yet to find because Peak 6 is mainly intermediate terrain.
If you want to go beyond the ski area boundary and access the backcountry, use the designated gates only. Areas beyond the ski area boundary are not patrolled or maintained. Avalanche slopes, unmarked obstacles and other natural hazards exist. Rescue in the backcountry, if available, is the responsibility of the Summit County Sheriff, and your wallet. It will be costly and may take time. What's more, the backcountry avalanche hazard may be extreme. Also there's no sponsored guiding available for off-piste adventures.
The Peak 8 Freeway Terrain Park is renowned for its award-winning SuperPipe, a 300-foot (90 m) half-pipe, and it was voted one of the four best in North America by American Snowboarder magazine. The resort's adjacent snowboard park was rated the second-best facility in the country in the same readers' poll. The park's impressive series of large tabletops and spines, with slopes of up to 15 degrees, makes it a popular site for the advanced and expert boarder. Peak 9 is home to the Country Boy and Gold King Terrain Parks which are less daunting facilities. Hits and features are more subdued for the budding freerider and skier. Trygve's and El Dorado are designed specifically for beginner freestyle riders. They have smaller features and halfpipes.
Overall, Breckenridge's network of lifts between mountains allows for easy access for boarders, but you may want to stay away from Lower Sawmill, as its extremely gentle slope is not conducive to snowboard gliding.
The Ten Mile Station is Breckenridge's latest-it's at the top of the QuickSilver Lift on Peak 9 and is a mining-themed restaurant and Coffee Depot with a spacious heated deck.
Peak 8 is the most popular spot for lunch due to its central location at the middle of Breckenridge's four interconnected mountains. The Vista Haus Restaurant on Peak 8 (at the top of the Colorado and Peak 8 SuperConnect chairs) is a recently renovated facility with fantastic views, serving breakfast and lunch with an open seating area. However, along with its Peak 8 base sister restaurant, the Bergenhof, the Vista Haus is probably the most crowded of Breckenridge's lunch spots and finding a seat can be difficult. Try having lunch at an off hour (before 1130 or after 130) if you're set on eating at Peak 8.
At the base of Peak 8, you'll find the Bergenhof, a popular and unassuming lunch spot. Seating inside can be tight on busy days, but if it's not too cold, outside seating is plentiful. The dozens of pink and green plastic Adirondack chairs offer a great spot to sit back and relax while enjoying the great views. The Tiki Bar on the deck serves up great burgers and other grilled specialties at a remarkably reasonable price.
The Maggie, a locals' favorite at the base of Peak 9, serves breakfast and coffee in the morning and a variety of American favorites for lunch. Also on Peak 9, at the top of the Beaver Run Chair, is the Peak 9 Restaurant.
Sevens is a new pizza restaurant at the base of Peak 7 scheduled to open in the Spring of 2009.
Breckenridge has real Wild West roots and is 100 years older than neigbouring Vail. Breckenridge's pastel-painted weatherboard buildings reflect this. It was formally created in the 1860s as miners flocked to the area in search of gold. World War II officially ended the mining era and in December of 1961 the Breckenridge Ski Area opened for business.
Today, Breckenridge serves as the county seat and in 1981, the Secretary of the Interior designated the greatest concentration of the town's historic structures a National Register Historic District in Colorado. But it's the people rather than the public buildings that make Breckenridge such a welcoming place. There is a thriving local community and you'll feel the welcome as you are strolling along the streets or sampling the cafés and coffee houses. Breckenridge is perhaps the most authentic Western ski town in Colorado.
The main snag with Breckenridge restaurants is pretension - what you see is often less than what you get. This being so, personal recommendations count a lot and will vary from year to year so talk to locals and to other guests and ask what they suggest.
Places that have stood the test of several visits are the Café Alpine, Pierre's at the Riverwalk, and the pricey (but just worth it) Top of the World at the Lodge and Spa.
If you're looking for breakfast, look no further than the Blue Moose Café. Located in the heart of the downtown, the Blue Moose offers a great homecooked breakfast at reasonable prices. Just be sure to bring cash, since they don't take credit cards!
Kenosha Steakhouse serves contemporary Japanese-American steakhouse cuisine in a friendly atmosphere with an extensive drink menu. Also be sure to check out the Breckenridge Brewery. The restaurant offers hearty portions of standard, but tasty bar fare at exceedingly reasonable prices. The beer has garnered acclaim, so much so that the brewery recently began distribution throughout Colorado.
If you're looking for the locals' favorite bar, look no further than Downstairs at Eric's, an unassuming sports bar. Eric's is a great deal, offering a large selection of cold draft beer and remarkably good bar food at non resort prices. The pizza's great and the hot wings are not to be missed. Locals also like the Gold Pan, an authentic Western saloon.
Breckenridge's bars and nightlife are consistently rated among the best in the reader polls conducted by skiing magazines and a whole spectrum of apres-ski and nightspots await you.
The Maggie Restaurant located at the base of Peak 9 is one of Breckenridge's liveliest après-ski hangouts. The Silver Bullet Saloon in the Bergenhof Restaurant at the base of Peak 8 serves specialty drinks for apres-ski.
Cecilia's, Sherpa and Yeti's, Tiffany's, the Liquid Lounge, and Burke & Riley's Irish Pub are a just a few of the hot spots around Breckenridge. The Underworld Club is a popular hangout for snowboarders.
There is a wide variety of annual winter events including ski and snowboard competitions. In addition to alpine skiing, there are numerous other winter recreational activities including Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, sleigh rides and dogsled tours. Non-skiers might also enjoy taking the BreckConnect gondola up from town to the base of Peak 8. It's free and a nice way for skiers to meet up with nonskiers for apres-ski or lunch at the base of Peak 8.
Off the snow you could visit a fully functioning gold mine, go fishing, or browse the many quaint stores on Main Street. Other sporting activities to be found at The Breckenridge Recreation Center include indoor tennis, swimming, an indoor rock-climbing wall, a gym, saunas and spa, and you can ice skate either outdoors or indoors at The Breckenridge Ice Arena. In addition to all that, there is a skateboard park featuring a nine-foot (2.7 m) deep bowl.