Firsthand Report: Breckenridge - an Area in Transition 2
Author thumbnail By Robbie Allen, DCSki Columnist

For the second year in a row I managed a spring break trip out West with my family. Similar to last year we expected spring conditions but found mid-winter conditions. In fact we found all types of weather! At Vail we skied in a bone chilling blizzard. At Beaver Creek we skied in everything from deep powder, to wet snow, to fog so thick you could not see the sides of the trail! But the highlight of the trip was the day we spent at Breckenridge.

Breckenridge has a reputation of being a bit harder, a bit bolder, and bit colder than the other resorts in the area and it didn’t disappoint.

Midweek we made the short drive from Vail, where we were staying, to Breckenridge in under an hour. Thanks to the Peaks Program our 5-day ski passes were interchangeable here. Thanks to last season’s opening of the BreckConnect gondola we where able to park at the outskirts of the actual town of Breckenridge and be whisked right up the hill to the ski area.

Breckenridge is an area under transition. It is rapidly gentrifying its base areas from rustic western-type buildings to the now popular village type settings (a la Beaver Creek or Vail). As a result of this transition there is a lot of construction on the hill. Figuring out where things are and what buildings are open can be a challenge. The resort staff I spoke to was even unsure! As a result we off loaded from the BreckConnect gondola to the “new” Peak 7 area -; only to find the locker rooms where we had been directed were not open and there was no “day” ski area at this base area. No real big deal, but it did mean that my ski day was delayed as I took all the gear bags from my six party members and headed off to find the locker room. After a short gondola ride down to Peak 8, I found more construction and the lockers.

While I was gone my party warmed up with a couple of runs off the Peak 7 high speed six pack lift. Unfortunately high winds up high on the hill shut down all but two other lifts. I found my party the same time the rest of the resort did and as a result the lift lines quickly grew. It should be noted that these were the only lift lines I found during my week out West. And once the winds up high abated the other chairs opened and the lift lines dropped.

The Peak 7 Six Pack. Photo provided by Amy Allen.

We skied together as a group for most the morning. The wide cruisers off this chair provide for all abilities, which is saying a lot as my party was aged 6 through 60! The trails at Breckrenridge seem wider than at Vail or Beaver. So even though a 1/3 of the patrons seemed to be skiing off this chair the runs did not feel crowded. The snow was excellent -; a nice wind-blown packed powder. Due to the trees the winds that were howling up high were not bad in this area except at the top of the chair.

The whole team was able to enjoy the same slope and lift for awhile. Photo provided by Amy Allen.

The Peak 7 base area is brand new. So new in fact that it does not have a variety of lunch options, only one sit down restaurant with no carry out. Thus after a couple of hours here we ventured off to the Peak 8 area. Breckenridge’s base areas are labeled Peaks 7 though 10, with Peaks 8 and 9 serving as the “main” base areas.

Peak 8 is undergoing a transformation from day use area to a condo village; as a result, things are kind of confused at the base area.

Peak 8 construction at Breckenridge. Photo provided by Amy Allen.

Nevertheless the trails are the attraction at Breckenridge and those in the Peak 8 area didn’t disappoint. We skied a variety of Greens, Blues and Blue/Black’s in this area. As a group the day kind of got away from us as we traded off kid-minding duties to steal away some quick runs off the two high speed quads in the area. The variety in this area was ample and we were never bored.

The highlight of the day was a quick jaunt my wife and I took to the top of the T-bar surface lift. Breckenridge does boast a high speed quad that goes almost to the top of the mountain but on this high wind day the T-bar was the highest lift running. We both didn’t want to leave the area without skiing some of the high black runs that Breckenridge is known for. Realizing that the lift to the top closed at 3:15 and it was 3:00, we bargained with the Grandparents to watch the boys for one run and bombed for the T-bar! We just slid across the lift line just in front of the closed sign.

The T-bar to the top is quite a ride. I recommend riding the bar single. In our joy to make the lift we got on together. A nice bonding experience but a white knuckle ride to the top. “Don’t you knock us over!” said my wife more than once as I got out of the track a few times. I am sure if I had I would have been in the dog house for the rest of the time. But we made it up without incident.

Up high at Breckenridge. Photo provided by Amy Allen.

After posing for some obligatory “we made it to the top” photos, we followed the high spine of the mountain. Huge double black bowls loomed to either side. We looked longingly to the high speed quad that went higher still, but alas was not running. So we followed the spine until it met the trail Four O’clock. It is possible to ski Four O’clock from this high spot all the way to the gondola parking lot down below. We skied down smoothly until our legs were burning. We greatly enjoyed this run of freedom skiing together free from our charges for the first time all week. We thought about following the trail to the bottom (3 miles from top to bottom), but alas duty called and we cut off Four O’clock at Peak 8 and recovered the rest of our party.

Overall Breckenridge was colder, higher, windier and wider than Beaver or Vail. I am sure that those with more time or better skiers in their party would have a blast on the high black and double black areas here. But even those with blue/green skiers are well served here.

Alas Breckenridge is changing and I am sure some of the rustic charm of the base area will be gone with all the new construction and village-i-zation. But the trails are the appeal and they don’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

One team member after a long day on the hill. Photo provided by Amy Allen.
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About Robbie Allen

Robbie Allen is an avid small hill skier. He has written several articles on the many small hills he has sought out.

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Reader Comments

DCSki Reader
April 22, 2009
love the red boots!
SkiBumMSP
December 19, 2009
Yeah, I remember all the construction. What I had to go through just to find a bathroom down there at the base of Peak 8. Fortunately, when I was there, all the lifts were running, including the one up to the summit. That bowl was just incredible to ski. I wanted to hike it up all the way to the summit, but there was a huge crowd that day trying to hike up it, so I didn't bother.

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