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Resort Review: Breckenridge, CO

posted by Westbound Boarder
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 11:34am EST

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Last week, Danielle, Rochelle and I all took an epic trip to Vail, our second annual snowboard trip to Colorado.  But this year, instead of spending the entire time riding Vail, we decided to try something new and shred at several different resorts.  Enter, Breckenridge.

Ever since last year’s Winter Dew Tour, I’ve been dying to ride at Breckenridge, CO.  Several of the biggest names in snowboarding call Breck their part-time home - Shaun White, Chanelle Sladics, JJ Thomas and Bobby Brown, just to name a few.  And the park and super pipe consistently top Transworld’s best list.  The combination of the high elevation, expansive free terrain and variety of terrain parks makes Breckenridge a top-notch resort in my book.  Oh, and parking was free for parties over four the day we went - love that they promote carpooling! (Normally, it’s $5 weekdays and $10 weekends, which is still pretty inexpensive in comparison to Vail).

When we arrived to Breckenridge, we thought we might as well start out the day right with a run through the park.  Looking at the trail map, we noticed there were three different types of parks - small, medium, and large.  We decided to settle for the in between and hit the medium park (also because it was the most convenient from where we started out, Peak 7).  Well, apparently the folks at Breckenridge do not quite go by the standard definition of “medium” we had envisioned … Compared to what we’re used to riding at Hood and High/Bear, this “medium” park was HUGE!  After staring awe struck for a moment at the top, glancing down at the tables below, we decided to bypass the park (this time around) and sit on the side, watching some of the local riders pass through.  Well, nearly thirty minutes later, our jaws were open just as wide as they were when we first sat down.  We had never seen so many amazing free skiiers and snowboarders all in the same place!  We sat and watched 720 after 720 whiz by, and then quickly came to the conclusion that everyone who rides at Breck is pro … or all pros ride at Breck.  Either way, it was really cool just watching all the talent built up at the mountain throughout the day.

DSC04237 After watching the pros in the park, we rode through the pipe for a while (not the smoothest pipe I’ve ever  been in, but I definitely blame it on the conditions - it hadn’t snowed in days - and not the resort itself).  The 22 foot walls were super fun, and the pipe was nicely cut.  One of the things I really liked about Breck was their “progressive” park system.  Their parks are set up in steps, or difficulty levels, so riders can start from the small parks when they’re first learning to jump and work their way up.  There are three small terrain parks and one small pipe, one medium park, and one large park and super pipe.  So riders who start  riding at Breck can go through the park system and take it up a step when they’re ready.  And since I am a person who grew up learning to ride a baby park, then immediately transitioning to a large, comp-style park, I can definitely appreciate this style of “at-your-own-pace” learning.  Also, Breckenridge has a really neat Web site called Breck 1080, where you can actually preview the features, meet the team riders, and watch videos before you head up to the slopes.  But park riding definitely isn’t all there is to Breck, unlike some jib-heavy resorts.  There’s tons of free terrain to ride as well, and several bowls and fun tree runs, really making Breckenridge a well-rounded resort.

Now, Breckenridge boasts a lift with the highest elevation in North America.  It’s called the Imperial Express Super Chair (at the top of Peak 8) and it sits at a record elevation of 12,998 feet.  To put that in perspective, the highest point reached by a chair lift at Mt. Hood Meadows is 7,300 feet, and the top of Palmer at Timberline, one of the few resorts open for skiing year-round, is 8550 feet.  That’s kind of a big difference.  Even though the dismal Colorado snowfall (or lack thereof) during our stay made for some pretty icy runs near the peak, we finally decided that we couldn’t not take at least one run down.  So after lunch, we headed up the 6 Chair to make it over to Imperial before it closed for the day.  We had to rush because the lift stops operating at 3:15.  We made it over to Imperial by 3:02, but of course with our luck the lift had just closed at 3pm, early due to conditions.  Bummer.  But then again, we now have an excuse to go back to Breck next year!  Insider Tip: If you get a chance to make it to Breckenridge, especially on a powder day, I’d recommend starting out your day on the Imperial Lift before the bowls get chopped out.  And before the lift closes.

After our journey to find the top (which we didn’t) we made our way over to Peaks 9 and 10, the final side of the hill we had yet to experience.  And we finally found the small terrain parks!  The small parks were a lot of fun to ride.  We particularly liked Eldorado, because the jumps had a lot of pop and a nice, solid landing.  The perfect way to end our day.

The lifts at Breckenridge are open 8:30am to 4:30pm, with the gondola operating 8am to 5pm, but one of the cool things about Breck is that if you think that 8 hours on the hill isn’t enough (???) then you can head straight to Keystone, which is one of the only resorts in the area open for night skiing (your ticket is good for both resorts).

Overall, I really enjoyed riding at Breck, and I think it is one of my favorite places I’ve ridden at so far due to the vast versatility of park and free-ski options.  I was really surprised at how big Breckenridge is.  Though it’s only half the size of Vail, it really didn’t seem like it, and we definitely didn’t cover as much ground as we would have liked to in just one day.  We had also heard that Breck was a lot less steep than Vail (our skiier friend, Kevin, said Breck isn’t his favorite for this reason), which is true to some extent, but there are definitely a fair share of steep runs as well, especially if you hit the back bowls above peaks 8 and 7.  Personally, I’m not a huge fan of super steep runs because I like straight-lining it the whole way down, so I thought Breck was perfect, especially since there wasn’t much powder or fresh snow when we rode.  Insider Tip: If you head out to the Vail area during icy conditions and are able to add some flexibility to your resort riding plan, I’d recommend riding Breck over Vail or any of the other resorts, namely because there are more options to ride less iced-out runs than the other nearby resorts.

Also, if you can swing it, I’d recommend staying in Breck for a night or two, at the very least.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get the opportunity this year, as we had prior arrangements in Eagle-Vail, but the town of Breckenridge is so adorable, I wish we could have stayed and checked out the nightlife!  Unlike Vail, which is a bit more family-oriented, IMHO, Breck tends to attract a younger crowd, likely due to its stellar reputation within the snowboard community and younger audiences.

Now, I had always thought that Breckenridge (or any Colorado resort, for that matter) was purely a winter resort with not much to do in the summer other than dream of the first snowfall of the following year.  However, in talking with a few Breckenridge locals, I learned that this is not the case.  Not at all.  Breckenridge boasts more than 100 miles of bike trails (yes, I say “more than” because they stopped counting after they reached 100), the Peak 8 Fun Park, which features everything from Alpine slides to Colorado’s largest human maze.  Also, we hear the vibe is a lot more chill and laid-back in the summer, so this might be a good option for a relaxing, laid-back summer vaca.  Like the saying goes, “Perfect Mountain, Perfect Mountain Town.”  I’ll add “year round” to that one.

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