A few years back, the catchphrase for Breckenridge's (in)famous deep-winter celebration, Ullrfest, was "Powder days and party nights." But in this town, which delivers as much action as any ski town in the world, that theme plays out every day of the winter.
In addition to the massive, high-alpine ski resort, Breckenridge also boasts a 1525-year-old mining heritage and lively historic district, one of the quaintest mountain-town vibes in the American West, and a collection of shops, bars and restaurants that make wandering around downtown an adventure in its own right.
The ideal length of stay here is a lifetime, but if it must be boiled down to three days, be forewarned: you may need a holiday from your holiday when you get home.
A gondola takes passengers to the top of Breckenridge, Colorado
Start your morning with the Daylight Special at Daylight Donuts, a stone's throw from the gondola. The massive buttermilk pancake, two eggs and bacon should get you through your first few hours on the hill. Warm up on the grippy corduroy that blankets the Peak 7 and 8 groomers, making sure to hit Spruce before the masses. These groomers are wide enough to carry some speed, so your eyes might water a bit but that's okay.
Once you've had your morning's fill of the lower mountain, pop in to the Vista Haus for another dose of fuel before heading up higher to the alpine stashes. The hearty chili served in a bread bowl is a must, but the burgers and burritos are tasty too.
Bundle up before skiing over to the T-Bar; there's a reason they call it "Breckenfridge," and the northwest winds that sting your face above treeline are a big part of that reason. But alas, the soft, light snow is almost always worth it. Spend your afternoon exploring the different fall-line routes in Horseshoe Bowl as well as the chutes known as Deb's and Vertigo, which funnel into a wide basin at the bottom of the Peak 7 bowl.
Once your legs are snarling, make your way down to Northside Pizza, home to one of the liveliest après scenes in town. In addition to $1 PBR drafts all day, every day, Northside also has some tasty microbrews on tap, including Ska Brewing's True Blonde. For dinner, treat yourself to some delectable-and affordable-fare at Angel's Hollow on Ridge Street (the elk steaks and fish tacos are outstanding). And if you dare, wash it all down with one of Lee's famously stiff margaritas, one of Breck's best-kept secrets, with six kinds of tequila and fresh-squeezed lime
Powder skiing at Breckenridge
Copyright: Liam Doran
Start by making your way (either by foot or on the free town bus) to the base of Peak 9. Today you'll be exploring the southern half of Breck, which also happens to be the less-crowded half. Mach a few runs down American, Gold King and Cimarron, which used to host a World Cup giant slalom race; then take a stroll up Windows Road for some off-the-beaten-track powder stashes. Spend the afternoon testing yourself on Peak 10's Southside steeps and Peak 9's E-Chair bumps. Once you're worked, saddle up for a few happy-hour pints at the Quandary Grille while staring up at the 13,600-foot summit of Peak 10.
After a soak in the hot tub, walk down to Blue River Plaza in the heart of town and stop in for a free tasting from theBreckenridge Distillery, which offers internationally known bourbon and some mighty tasty vodka. If the Barney Ford House Museum is still open across the street, pop in for a quick tour of the house where the town's famous black businessman raised his family. Then head to the Swiss Haven Restaurant for a meal that will make you feel like you are in the Alps.
Evening shopping in Breckenrdige, Colorado
Grab a coffee and fresh-baked blueberry scone (seriously, one of the best you will ever eat) at Amazing Grace Natural Foods, then head to the Breckenridge Nordic Center halfway up Ski Hill Road for a mellower start to your day. You can rent equipment in the lodge and get schooled on which trails might suit your skinny-ski skills, but regardless of where you go, you're bound to spend some time in the breathtaking Cucumber Gulch Preserve. Keep an eye out for moose as you schuss through the frozen beaver ponds and take in the placid landscape.
From the Nordic Center, head up the road and grab a quick bite at the Ski Hill Grill, then ski to the Imperial Express Chair at the top of Peak 8 (the lift closes at 2:45 p.m.). We've saved the best for last: Hike to the 13,998-foot summit and take your pick of the stunning, powder-filled alpine lines in the Lake Chutes and Snow White, or off the north side to Peak 7.
When you're cooked, grab an après beer in the lounge at the Motherloaded Tavern, then treat yourself to a well-deserved final meal at the acclaimed new restaurant Twist, on Ridge Street (the pork schnitzel will fill you up and then some). If you're still standing, complete your whirlwind vacation at the Gold Pan Saloon, which has been serving beer and spirits since 1879.
Shaun White, two-time Olympic gold medalist, at the Dew Tour in Breckenridge.
Copyright: Josh Cooley