The Ultimate Mountain Guide

Where to ski, board, stay, eat, drink, shop, play, and buy real estate in Colorado's best mountain towns.

November 2010


Unlike some of the other I-70 corridor ski resorts, Breckenridge started out as an actual town: Founded just a few months after Denver in 1859, the mining center was a hub for gold until the inevitable crash in the late 19th century. Today, like both Telluride and Crested Butte, the town’s economy is centered on the ski resort, but local businesses haven’t been pushed out, in part because of the small town’s walkability: Park the car at the hotel, and you won’t need the keys until you head home.

SKI If you like your runs steep and cold, head up the chilly T-Bar or the Imperial Express Superchair—the highest lift in North America, just shy of 13,000 feet—to snag runs in the Horseshoe Bowl and North Bowl. The deepest snow falls in the glades off the 6-Chairand the E-Chair, but if it’s early season, beware the rocks and stumps. Finally, families will appreciate the blue square runs of Peak 7—younger kids can easily handle the groomers, while older kids can launch themselves off the tops of the undulating rollers.

STAY The Great Divide Lodge is a prime location for travelers on a budget—simple rooms start at $135—and is situated only two blocks from Main Street (550 Village Road, 970-547-5550). Couples looking for a quieter option should check out the B&Bs; we like the Abbett Placer Inn (205 S. French St., abbettplacer.com, prices start at $129) and the Fireside Inn (114 N. French St., firesideinn.com, starting at $103). If you insist on being a stone’s throw from the lifts, look into the Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge, which is also just steps from the dining and nightlife on Main Street (655 Columbine Road, marriott.com, starting at $169).

EAT For breakfast, grab a hot bagel and egg sandwich at the Cool River Coffee House and eat it on the way to the lift (325 S. Main St., 970-453-1716). Come happy hour, gear-clad skiers and boarders head to Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant for $1 tacos and $5 pitchers of PBR (600 S. Park Ave., micasamexicanrestaurant.com). For hearty Italian pastas and pizzas for the family, dig in at Giampietro Pasta & Pizza (100 N. Main St., giampietropizza.com).

DRINK Built in 1879, the Gold Pan Saloon feels like an old Western bar—all wood and whiskey—until, that is, the cover band or DJ takes the corner stage and gets everyone dancing (103 N. Main St., 970-453-5499). For a more laid-back evening, head to Breckenridge Brewery, and run through samples of microbrews—we love the boozy 471 IPA (600 S. Main St., breckbrew.com).

SHOP For outdoor gear beyond the standard skiing/snowboarding stuff—think Telemark, Randonee, and even splitboards—head to Mountain Outfitters, which carries just about any piece of backcountry gear you’ll need (112 S. Ridge St., mtnoutfitters.com). If the thousands of acres of beetle-kill lodgepole pines upset you on your drive up, head to the Beetlekill Blues to shop for cool, blue-stained furniture made from the trees (10 Farmers Lane, Suites 1 and 2, 970-453-7100). Bribe the little ones for good behavior by promising a stop at Mary’s Mountain Cookies, which features homemade, decadent, and massive quarter-pound cookies—we love the “chocolate avalanche,” a chocolate chip cookie sandwich with chocolate frosting in the middle (128 S. Main St., marysmountaincookies.com).

BUY IN A two-bedroom ski-in/ski-out condo in Breckenridge will set you back a minimum of $500,000, while the pretty, in-town historic Victorians start at around $800,000. Multigenerational trophy homes—the kind of place the family magnate brings the whole family to for ski holidays—go for $1 million and up.

DON'T MISS The nutty Ullr Fest—named after the Norse god of winter—brings a brigade of floats to Main Street for the craziest winter parade you’ll ever see (January 9–15). If your kids go crazy for Frosty, catch artists carving frozen works of art out of 20-ton blocks of snow at the International Snow Sculpture Championships (January 25–February 6). To escape the resort’s crowds, head into the backcountry for dog sledding or snowmobiling with Good Times Adventures (6061 Tiger Road, snowmobilecolorado.com).

Patrick Doyle