Great snow, good runs open
Busy, long lift lines, ticket system sucks
Day two of my early-season start to skiing continued on at Breckinridge. Breck looked like it had the most snow (which is relative, of course, because it was all mostly man-made) and the most runs open. So we headed out, keenly aware that it would probably be busy since it was Saturday. We were surprised by just how busy things could be, but the crowds were worth the rewards.
First off, the parking situation at Breck sucks. Badly. First off, if you want to get on the peak 7 gondola, you'll have to pay $10 to park close, otherwise you have to go off to the Airport Road parking lot to park for free, then get shuttled in (for free) to the gondola. Next, the ticket prices are still full-price: meaning $65/day, $50/half day, and $41/late arrival (final two hours of skiing). What a rip.
We bought our tickets and headed up the newer gondola to the base of the Colorado Superchair. Holy cow was there a ton of people there, all with the same thought on their mind: first turns of the season. We waited in line for about 25 minutes (see the picture below) and finally got to the top. We cruised down Springmeier and found the snow soft...a blast to make turns in! We cruised entire length of the run with little-to-no congestion on it: even though it was so busy, the run was wide and well-covered, so there was plenty of room turn on.
We got to the bottom after our first run, and waited another 25 minutes in line for a chair. This time, when we got to the top, we went down Spruce. The run was horribly icy (it was mostly in the shade), and people had scraped up the steeper spots trying to control their speed. We decided to lap Springmeier instead.
So we did. We spent an average of 20-25 minutes in each lift line for a chair until about 2pm, when we waited about 5 minutes max as the crowds started to thin out. We kept on Springmeier because the sun stayed on the run all day, so the snow was plenty soft, even on the sides of the run. I had switched from my carver skis to a pair of twin tips so I could hop off some jumps and butter around and make the run last, instead of screaming down the run in 30 seconds. This turned out to be well worthwhile as there were tuns of little rollers, knolls, and jumps to hop off and play around on. The soft snow combined with these fun little terrain features really made the day.
We skied Springmeier until close, at which time we jumped on the gondola and headed back down to the parking lot to catch our shuttle back to Frisco--er, Airport Road parking lot. The line for the gondi was quick and the ride back down was even faster.
The only other complaint I would have about Breckenridge (and all Vail resorts, for that matter), is their new RFID pass system. Instead of passing thru a gate like at Alta or Big Sky, you have to get beeped by a lifty with a hand-held RFID gun. These guns rarely get the ticket or season pass read on the first try and you can spend up to 30 seconds with the lifty trying to beep the tag before he just waves you through because the system is holding up the line. It is a very poor system that you can no doubt attribute some of the delay in the lift line to (the liftys did an excellent job managing the maze and making sure the chairs were full).
What could of been an expensive, not-so-fun-in-the-lift-line-all-day day turned out to be the better of the two days. The weather was warm, the snow was soft, and the terrain was a blast. And in all, it wasn't as busy as it looked (at least, on the run).