Unlike so-called "town-in-a-can" setups like Vail and Stratton, the town of Breckenridge is a real town. With a population just over 3,000 people, the place is oozing with wild-west authenticity, from the history to the architecture. Founded in 1859 to serve the miners pulling gold from the surrounding hills, the town has been featured in several movies, including National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Dumb & Dumber.
One thing to note: Breck is high, and I'm not making a snowboard stoner joke here. At an altitude of 9,600 feet (2,927 m), the town is nearly a quarter-mile higher than Vail. Although most people will be fine at this altitude, it should be mentioned that thin air and decreased humidity prevail in Breckenridge.
Back to the town and it's authentic charm - from hotels to inns, restaurants to coffee shops, and, of course, shopping galore, the place impresses. There truly is something for everyone that visits Breck! Hardcore skibums meld easily with college kids taking a break from reality, and everyone, including visitors, is quick to smile and say, "How are you?" Needless to say, it's a cool town!
At 64%, or just over 1,500 acres, intermediate and advanced riders have the majority of the mountain to play on. Cruising down Country Boy on Peak 9, Claimjumper or Alpine Alley on Peak 8, or Wirepatch over on Peak 7 is a blast. Those that dream of following a groomer down the hill can take solace in the fact that Breck grooms early and often, ensuring silky-smooth corduroy is in effect whenever the mood strikes.
Experts will be downright giddy standing atop Breckenridge, especially on a powder day (and with an average annual snowfall that approaches 25 feet, powder days are plentiful). Riding off the top of the Imperial Express, both Peak 7 Bowl and Horseshoe Bowl are easily accessed and offer heart-pounding pitches, ample opportunity for air, and the wide-open experience that bowls have always offered. Of course, in the name of diversity, not all the experts at Breck seek out the high terrain above the trees. The mountain offers plenty of thrills down low, too!
What about lift lines, you ask? In the immortal words of Anthony Soprano - fugghedaboutit! Breck's uphill capacity of 40,680 riders per hour means that wait times are manageable (longest we waited was maybe 7 minutes), even during the busiest times.
A Mecca for the Park & Pipe Set
I've never been accused of being the sharpest edge on a board, and I've hit some big ol' park features in my day, but even on a perfect spring-day with soft, cushy landings, I wasn't going anywhere near the monster three-jump line in the Freeway terrain park. Don't quote me on this, but I'd estimate the first jump at around 50-55 feet (15-16 meters), the second jump slightly bigger, and the third jump at something nuts - minimum 70, maybe closer to 85 feet (21-25 meters). Nevertheless, the features are well built, well maintained, and on the day I was there they were getting a good workout by some local pros. If you think you can throw down in the park, head to Breck. You'll know where you stand almost instantly.
Leave the (Rental) Car at Home!
Bus service is great, but Disney World has buses, and people aren't raving about Walt's environmentally friendly transportation system. That's where the BreckConnect Gondola comes into play. Opened in 2006 as a joint venture between the resort and the town, the gondola features 121 cabins that can hold up to eight people, ski and snowboard gear included. Running from the Breckenridge Transportation Center (same as the buses), and stopping at both Shock Hill and the base of Peak 7 before continuing on to the resort's main base area at Peak 8, the total ride time is 10 minutes, with an hourly capacity of 3,000 riders. The gondola runs from 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m., and is currently open year-round.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with a complimentary lift ticket for the purpose of reviewing this resort. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.