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Ski Destination: Breckenridge, CO

Colorado boasts a flurry of slope-side activities and Breckenridge tops the list of best wintery breaks.

Written By:  Kristin Luna

Photographers:  Supplied

Photo by Bob Winsett

 

Breckenridge, Colorado

Unlike Tennessee, where you have to drive a full day to reach a real skiing destination—sorry, Ober Gatlinburg doesn’t countthe great state of Colorado boasts a flurry of slope-side activities. The problem is this: With more than a dozen resorts on tap, where do you start? After skiing my way through the bulk of them over the past few years, Breckenridge tops my list of favorite wintery breaks.

Getting There

Denver is a three-hour flight from Nashville, and Southwest Airlines operates a handful of nonstop flights a day. From Denver, Breckenridge is 100 miles by car.

Our long weekend in Breck, as the locals call it, started with a flight out after work on a Wednesday. Three hours later, we landed in Denver, hopped in a rental car—making sure to have chains in the trunk in the rather likely case of a snowstorm—and, 100 miles later, were checked into our spacious and cozy condo at Crystal Peak Lodge, which offers en suite accommodations ranging from one bedroom to four.

Since we arrived under a veil of darkness, the panorama through the window the following morning was a surprising yet welcome sight: skiers and snowboarders loaded up on the Independence Superchair lift just feet from our condo, eager to make the first tracks of the day. But before we joined them, we needed breakfast.

We were itching to tackle the powder as soon as possible, so we didn’t venture far for our inaugural Breckenridge meal; we walked next door to the Grand Lodge at the base of Peak 7, where Sevens serves three meals a day, with both grab-and-go and sit-down options. With a long day ahead of us on the slopes, we opted for the latter, ordering a generous spread of eggs Benedict, pancakes, and hot chocolate. Then we took advantage of Crystal Peak’s ski-in, ski-out access, got outfitted with rental gear from Breck Sports, and were ready to shred.

Not only does Breckenridge Ski Resort boast the highest chairlift in North America, but it also lays claim to five huge peaks, four terrain parks, 11 bowls, and a 22-foot Superpipe spread out among its 2,908 acres. I fancy myself an upper-level intermediate skier, while my husband is an advanced snowboarder. In some terrain, it can be tough finding a resort that caters to both of our tastes. Whether we’re coasting down a challenging blue or navigating the tricky turns of a black diamond, we both like the wide, open groomers with occasional steep drops, but more importantly: no moguls. Breckenridge caters to both of our slope styles—yet there are plenty of bumps for those who prefer them.

But what’s a little skiing without some après action? Breckenridge has its own eponymous distillery as well as the even newer Broken Compass Brewery, conveniently located on the Ski Hill. Not only does the taproom follow theme—an old chair lift from the resort doubles as seating—but the brews on draft are diverse and creative, too, from a pumpkin pie stout to a coconut porter. For the beer extremist, there’s a chili pepper pale ale.

>>> ski destination: Snowshoe Mountain, WV

 

The charming Main Street is packed with stores, cafés, restaurants, and bars galore—plus a host of oxygen bars for those from the lowlands who suffer from altitude sickness. (The base elevation at Breckenridge is a dizzying 9,600 feet.) After a bit of window-shopping, we popped into Modis for a round of creative Prohibition-style classic cocktails before moving on to Relish, a cozy second-floor restaurant with a Colorado-inspired menu featuring both big game and seafood.

The remainder of the weekend was spent getting our ski legs on Peaks 7, 8, and 9, but sometimes you just need a day off from the physically taxing sport, which is why I love Breckenridge so much. Many ski towns of comparable size don’t provide many options beyond the slopes, but it’s got a little bit of everything—and plenty of offerings off-piste—right down to dog-sledding excursions with Good Times Adventures.

Saturday, when Denver residents crowd the slopes, seemed like a good time to take a break, so we booked a ride with Breck Guides. Not being an avid cyclist, I was unfamiliar with these fat bikes that allow you to climb the trails, over the snowpack, and through the woods. While they required some serious pedaling when we hit the steep inclines, I was still ready to invest in my own set of these oversized, low-pressure tires by the day’s end. Bonus: If you fall—and it’s quite likely you will—you’ll tip over into a mound of fluffy powder.

After three hours up in the thick of the mountain canopy, we returned to cruising altitude, unloaded our gear at the shop on Main Street, then headed to Cuppa Joe for oatmeal lattes and a sweet potato burrito. Next, it was across the street to Breck Create, an artisan collective that showcases the city’s finest creative talent. Classes are many—from mask-making and floral crowns to figure-drawing and light-painting through digital photography—and we signed up for a metalworking workshop, where we used electricity to produce a colorful array of earrings.

On our final night in town, we went for happy hour at Après Handcrafted Libations, which has an impressive number of craft beers on tap, before loosening our snow pants and heading back up the mountain for dinner at Traverse. Housed in the Lodge at Breckenridge, which recently underwent a $3.7 million renovation, the restaurant has a Texas chef, Brent Turnipseede, at the helm, and the fare—lots of flavor, spice, and smokiness—reflects his roots. As we tucked into chicken lollipops with huckleberry-habanero BBQ, seared scallops, and potato-chive gnocchi, we watched the sun sink behind the Rockies out the picture window and considered it a long weekend well spent.

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