Strange as it may sound, until April, our family had never skied Breckenridge.
Arguably, one of the most popular family ski resorts in Colorado, Breck is known for it’s intermediate terrain, adorable mining/tourist town vibe and numbered peaks.
It’s also known for its crowds.
And so we’ve stayed away. But since so many of our friends and their kids absolutely love this mountain, we finally had to check it out.
A First-Time Family Guide to Breckenridge
When I visit a new resort, I have one basic strategy: ask the locals. So, for our introduction to Breck, we turned to Holly, mother of three and publisher of MTN Town Magazine, Heather, mother of four, and Andy, father of three.
Here’s what we learned.
Pick A Number
Breckenridge lies along Colorado’s Tenmile Range, a chain of mountains with mostly numerical names. The ski resort covers the east faces of Peaks 6 through 10, and encompasses the summits of Peaks 6, 7 and 8. Given how spread out the resort is, where you stay may determine where you’ll ski.
Staying at Beaver Run, adjacent to the Beaver Run chair, we started on Peak 9, an intermediate paradise with blue and green runs on its eastern flank, with quick access to the more difficult terrain found on Peak 10.
Holly’s goal was to orient us across the entire mountain. So from Peak 9, we went to the Falcon Super Chair on Peak 10 and then down to the Peak 8 SuperConnect. From here, we took the Imperial Express SuperChair up to 12,840 feet and jumped into Horseshoe Bowl.
Being a spring day, the snow was soft and slushy, making it easy to work our way across the mountain, through the bowls of Peak Seven to Peak 6. Peak 6 is the resort’s newest terrain, adding 543 acres of skiing to Breck’s total skiable acreage of 2,893.
And while Peak 6 was not without controversy (a place of old-growth forests and untouched wildlife habitat), it quickly became a favorite spot for families looking to combine intermediate bowl and tree skiing with challenging hike-to terrain.
According to my friend Heather, it’s where her boys flew their flag, all season.
Moving about as we did, gave us a good introduction to the entire mountain, but if you’ve got more than one day, pick a peak and really explore.
Just remember, the easiest terrain is lowest and concentrated on Peaks 8 and 9.
Intermediate terrain is found across the mountain, especially on Peaks 6, 7 and 9.
The hardest runs are up high, with the exception of Peak 10. And while you don’t have to hike to all of the double-black terrain, you may have to take a slower lift.
Which brings me to my next tip.
The lift infrastructure at Breckenridge is incredible, carrying up to 42,880 people per hour.
As befitting a busy mountain, they’ve got high speed quads galore, the better to get people on the snow and spread out.
You could spend your entire visit riding high speed quads, but then you’d miss some of the mountain’s best runs.
If your crew enjoys challenges, steeper terrain and glades, seek out the double chairs, specifically the E Chair on the north side of Peak 9 and the 6 Chair heading up the side of Peak 8.
Skiing in a storm with Andy, we found wide glades and soft powder off of 6 Chair, before heading over to E Chair for steep, soft bumps.
The next morning, my friend Anne (a visitor like me) and I found ourselves back at E Chair, loving the new snow on Mineshaft and Devil’s Crotch.
Looking across the valley between Peaks 9 and 8 to the 6 Chair, we realized that on a powder day, these slower chairs (unlike friends) are worth the wait.
One caveat: avoid the Zendo Chair. A fixed grip quad connecting Peak 7 with Peak 6, I can think of no reason for it to be so slow, except to deter travel to Peak 6. Still, it’s the only non-expert route to Peak 6, that I know of (anyone?).
Get Up. Stand Up.
Fast chairs, slow chairs, Breck’s also got a high chair, the Imperial Express SuperChair. The Imperial Express stops just shy of the Peak 8 summit at 12,840 feet. A sign marking the elevation makes a fun photo-op for expert skiers looking to enjoy the resort’s bowl skiing, accessing Imperial Bowl or Whale’s Tail.
While we barely had time to explore this vast expanse of tree-free skiing, we found plenty of fun in Horseshoe Bowl, also accessible by a T-Bar.
If you stand while you ride, you can make quick laps all day.
All You Ever Wanted
Breckenridge is part of the Vail Resort’s family of mountains and has all the amenities you’d expect, including ski school, EpicMix racing, a world-class terrain park scene (it’s a stop on the Dew Tour Mountain Championships and a training site for southern hemisphere athletes), along with a winter-long line up of festivals and concerts.
Visiting in late season, there was live music at the base of Peak 8. Locals and visitors alike, old and young (and our age, too) were hanging in the sun, listening to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy as we flew over the stage on the Rocky Mountain Super Chair.
The audience was the biggest crowd we saw all day.
And while I’m sure holiday and midwinter weekends can be busy, Breckenridge is fun enough, big enough and the infrastructure is good enough, that you can find your spot, to fly your flag.
When You Go…
We stayed at the convenient Beaver Run Resort, but I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it for families. Located in three large buildings, getting around requires a lot of walking.
Next time, I’ll search for lodging online. From small B&B’s to affordable condos, to mountain-side ski in/ski-out luxury hotels, you’ll find them here.
As for dining, we had a good, inexpensive casual meal at the MotherLoaded Tavern, and a nicer, yet still casual, dinner at the South Ridge Seafood Grill. Breakfast one morning, at the Cool River Coffee House, was so large that we should have split our burritos and bagels.
Okay, all you Breck skiers out there: what tips do you have for skiing your favorite mountain?
- Surprising Keystone: Bigger, Better and Fun for Everyone, February 4, 2013.
- Avalanche Dogs: From Lifesavers to Ambassadors, These Dogs Have What It Takes, April 1, 2013.
- Take Time Out for Tubing, February 13, 2013.
- Woodward at Copper: Sign Up Now for the Coolest Summer Camp on Earth, March 2, 2011.
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