At Breckenridge, Colorado, it was a given that I expected to be skiing some of the best terrain in North America. I mean Breck - as it is affectionately called - stretches over four mountains (soon to be five we hope) Peaks 10, 9, 8, and 7; is consistently near the top on all the skier surveys and is at the top of an of an especially noteworthy list - The 2010 Best of Summit County List.
The Best of Summit is the creme de la creme - with Breckenridge being voted the Best Ski Resort and the Best Snowboard Resort by skiers and riders who know every lift served trail and bowl in Summit County - and look at all they had to pick from!
The first day skiing Breckenridge I was meeting my ski-around guide - remember, as I always say, look to find the free Mountain Tours everywhere you go - at Peak 9. I was as ready as ever to experience as much of Breck in a day as I could take.
Note, I didn't say I was ready to experience as much as Breckenridge has to offer. With better than 2300 acres over 155 trails and 722 acres of bowls there's no way to ski it all in a week. Being that I was there in early December it was just a luck of the La Nina that it was one following on the heels of one of the snowiest November in recent memory.
So, for three days I had pretty much the whole of Breckenridge, except for Peak 10 which was getting very close to coming on line, to explore.
Getting To The Mountain
If you stay at One Ski Hill Place you are literally steps from the Peak 8 chairlift. One Ski Hill Place is a luxury, full service resort with a staff that is well seasoned in resort service.
Just because we're talking ski-in/ski-out with restaurant and spa, don't let that stop you from checking out the stay and ski specials. With a very up to date and catering website you may be surprised at the price postings you'll find as the computer becomes the sales agent.
Staying down in the town of Breckenridge, or anywhere in the environs getting to the mountain, is pretty straightforward, once you get it. Here's how to get it - mountain shuttles can run you to Peak 9, but the best access is from the Breckenridge Station area.
There is plenty of parking if you need it, but it's walkable from town. Hop on the free Breck Connect gondola and this will take you to a midstation stop at Peak 7 then over to Peak 8.
First Day Is Easier Skiing With a Guide
The first day I was meeting my ski-around guide - remember, as I always say, look to find the free Mountain Tours everywhere you go - at Peak 9. Taking a shuttle there, I was as ready as ever to experience as much of Breck in a day as I could take.
Note, I didn't say I was ready to experience as much as Breckenridge has to offer. With better than 2300 acres over 155 trails and 722 acres of bowls there's no way to ski it all in a week.
Being that I was there in early December, it was just the luck of the La Nina that I was following on the heels of one of the snowiest November in recent memory. So, for three days I had pretty much the run of the mountain, except for Peak 10 which was getting very close to coming on line.
Peak 9 To Peak 8 And Up
Meeting my guide at the Peak 9 Beaver Run Resort area, we warmed with a few laps on some of the long blues on Peak 9. Then, a hop on the Peak 8 SuperConnect at midstation brought us up to Peak 8.
Off the chair and you are at the centerline of Breckenridge resort with 360 degree access to anywhere and some great views to take in from the Vista Haus restaurant.
A quick break in the overcast morning led to a decision to head over to 6 Chair and from there up the highest chairlift in the U.S. - the Imperial Express SuperChair. Rising to 12,847' The Imperial Express drops you off to a huge expanse of above the treeline terrain. If you just have to be on the very top from here it's only a short bootpack to the 12,998' summit of Peak 8.
Being this was my first day at this altitude, it didn't take much for me to be talked out of huffing up to the top. However, give me a day or two to acclimate or a foot of powder - whichever would come first - and I would go for it.
Seriously, this is high, so listen to your body as you will tire a lot easier up there. In fact, I tightened my boots, stood up fast, and had a real head rush. From the top of the Imperial chair there's great skiing left or right or down from the top of the lift and, that first day, I didn't miss the extra 150 feet of elevation.
Down from Peak 8
You have so many choices from the top of the Imperial Chair including the end of day, long run down Four O'Clock to town. 4 O'Clock being quitting time - get it?
During my tour-around-day, the black diamond chutes and runs off 6 Chair caught my interest and I'm happy to remember spending the better part of a morning 2 days later just looping off this chair pretty much all alone.
However, on my first day I was looking to cover a lot of terrain, so we skied a ridge line down to the blue runs on Peak 8 and then down to Sevens restaurant at the bottom of Peak 7.
Lunch at Sevens with a hearty salad got me back up for skiing. One word of note - around Breckenridge mountain and in town the phrase you'll hear most often is a friendly "where are you from?" Sure enough our server at Sevens was a girl from New York very near me. It's uncanny about Breck, but you won't believe the number of people you'll find from your state or area.
Peak 7 Afternoon But Keep It In Mind For The Morning
After lunch, we were back on the snow for some loops around all the intermediate, blue runs on Peak 7. A few stops at the top of the Independence SuperChair were in order to watch a few skiers high up on the chutes above Peak 7.
Regarding Peak 7, Here's a savvy note from my guide - early on a powder day there's an advantage getting off the Breck Connect at Peak 7 hopping the Independence SuperChair then skiing down Lower forget-Me-Not to the T-bar and all that fluffy stuff in Horseshoe Bowl and the lower North Bowl. Also, take note that after a good size snowstorm the bowls and runs above Peak 7 are "refreshed" each day by windblown snow.
After the Peak 7 blues it was up Peak 8 for a break and recap of the day. Then I finished off the day with a 3.5 mile run down Four O'Clock to the Mountain Thunder Lodge where I was staying and into the nearest hot tub. Skiing Breckenridge Photo Gallery