The mention of Breckenridge always seems to conjure up images of mountains and snow. And while Breck as the locals call it is still one of Colorado’s finest ski destinations, each season brings with it a unique beauty and a myriad of things to see and do. Our last visit had taken place during winter. But recently we found out how fun it can be in the summer. It should come as no surprise that spring and fall are special too.
Located 80 miles west of Denver, Breckenridge was founded in 1859 during the Colorado Gold Rush. At an elevation of 9,600 feet, this 19th century Victorian mining town sports one of Colorado’s largest historic districts. Structures have been carefully preserved. Today it’s charming colorfully-painted boutique shops, art galleries, and restaurants occupy many historic buildings. Not only is the town easily walkable, a free downtown shuttle also makes it convenient for visitors to get around and explore this fun and fascinating alpine hamlet.
Surrounded by the majesty of the Rockies, Breckenridge is a major year-round outdoor lover’s nirvana. Whether it’s winter wonderland sports or fishing, hiking, and mountain biking, Breckenridge has it all. Add in a myriad of shopping and dining opportunities, and distilleries and craft breweries to tour, there’s something for everyone no matter what time of the year.
Breckenridge has always been a winter lover’s dream due to the annual heavy snowfall that blesses this mountain paradise. Five peaks covering almost 3,000 acres provide opportunities for every skill level of downhill and cross-country skiing. Then, there’s snowboarding, and snow tubing. Free gondola rides take riders on America’s highest chairlift to 11,000-feet to some of the most awe-inspiring unforgettable views around.
For non-skiers or those wanting to take a little break from the slopes, snowmobiling is a great way to explore Breckenridge’s exciting backcountry. And yes, there’s even ice-skating. Stephen C. West Ice Arena offers year-round skating, hockey, and ice games for the entire family. During the winter months, Maggie Pond in the center of Breckenridge freezes over and ice skates are available for rent. If you’ve never skated outdoors in Colorado, it’s truly a magical experience.
Biking is even popular in the winter. How is this possible? Because fat biking is the new rage in Breckenridge. These high-performance carbon fiber fat-bikes with oversized tires are designed for low ground pressure to allow riding on soft unstable terrains, such as snow. But, they’re also popular other times of the year as they do well on sand, bogs, and mud-covered surfaces.
Colorado’s spirit of adventure is celebrated in the 2,000-year old Arctic tradition of dog sledding. Riders can mush their team of beautiful furry canines through the snow-covered backcountry. And what could possibly be more romantic than a sleigh ride? Private tours can be booked in a one-horse open sleigh. Families can enjoy a hot cocoa scenic ride led by a team of Clydesdales or even a theater ride to an authentic 1860s mining camp dining hall.
And during winter holidays the charming town transforms into an enchanted Dickens-like Christmas village with twinkling lights, holiday tunes, and celebrations. It’s absolutely picture-postcard perfect.
Ski season ends in mid-April, but, according to my brother who’s an avid skier from Denver, spring might just be the best season for skiing. Why? March actually brings the most snow to Breckenridge. Temperatures have warmed up, days are a bit longer, the sun is shining, skies are the color of bluebirds, and the plentiful snow is softer and more forgiving.
Springtime brings with it a sense of new life and rejuvenation. Hikers tend to spot more wildlife on the paths; colorful wildflowers begin popping up everywhere, and cascading streams tumble and roar with waters from the mountain snow melt.
Breckenridge is one proud craft beer town. And Breckenridge Spring Beer Festival is one of the coolest spring events in the Rockies. Breweries from across the state converge here to showcase their best and latest creations. Live music and spectacular views come at no additional charge. Springtime also brings the annual chili cook-off, where voters get to sample and choose the best chilis made by Breckenridge chefs.
Spring is also a great time to check out the Breckenridge Arts District with eclectic venues like the Hot Shop featuring “hot arts” like silversmithing, encaustic painting, and lampworking. Visitors can sign up for classes led by local art instructors and leave as I did with a beautiful individually-designed charm. Hand formed from Colorado clay, fired with a blowtorch, the charm is finished by steel brush until it shines with a pure silver glow.
How about elevating your spirits with a tour at the world’s highest distillery? Breckenridge Distillery makes its own unique bourbon, vodka, and gin. Their secret formula includes blending water from Rocky Mountain snowfall to achieve mineral-infused perfection. We jumped at the chance to taste some of its outstanding award-winning libations. The pear and chili chile vodkas were amazing but truth be told, it was the espresso-flavored vodka that got my vote. Coffee lovers adore it.
While much of the country is sweltering in the heat of summer, Breckenridge temperatures are mild, averaging 70-degree days thanks to its lofty altitude. And waking up to fresh, clean mountain air every morning is pure paradise.
Gondolas still run practically year-round taking visitors up the mountain for those spectacular panoramic views. 50-plus miles of interconnected trails provide a variety of hiking and biking opportunities ranging from easy to difficult. If it’s rushing mountain streams or cascading waterfalls that tickle your fancy, these are easily accessible in the summer months.
Ski season may be over but big and little kids alike can see how skis are made at Rocky Mountain Underground. RMU, as they’re fondly known in Breckenridge, carries outdoor adventure products in their ski shop. But, they also sport an onsite tavern featuring rotating craft beers and hallmark specialty cocktails. The outdoor backyard features live music and their lawn games are popular with patrons and their families.
Summer 2017 launched a new season of activities, Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Epic Discovery. This unique program is designed to introduce guests to getting high-that is, 11,000-feet above sea level. With its mountain of adventures for the entire family, Epic Discovery’s outdoor activities include zip-lining, alpine slides, challenge courses, rock-climbing walls, interpretive trails, and more.
The summer’s vibrant art scene with WAVE: Light + Water + Sound is a not-to-be-missed four-day creative arts event. WAVE features cutting-edge artworks, illuminated sculptures, and musical performances within a stunning outdoor plaza, transforming the river, bridges, and waterfront into a remarkable outdoor canvas.
Frolicking in the Fall
We can’t wait to get back to experience this year’s fall season when the verdant foliage of summer transforms into blazing hues of gold, yellow, red, and orange. Hiking is a great way to experience the full glory of autumn in Breckenridge.
French Gulch boasts a network of mellow trails with thousands of Aspens changing to gold amongst the remnants of abandoned mines. Magnificent Boreas Pass offers spectacular views of Tenmile Range. Both are popular biking destinations as well.
Fly fishing can be enjoyed year-round, but the locals say the cooling temperatures make the trout a bit more chilled and easier to catch in this season.
Festivals abound all year long in Breckenridge. One of the most popular is Oktoberfest, the largest of its kind in the Colorado Rockies. Going strong now for more than 20 years, Breck’s Oktoberfest is a true celebration of the harvest, German beer, and cuisine. Lederhosen and dirndls are optional.
Breckenridge Film Fest is one of the oldest and most respected film festivals in the U.S. bringing the art and craft of filmmaking along with honored guests to the mountains. Comedies, dramas, documentaries, indies (independent films), animation, outdoor films and new for this year, music video are all featured here.
Fall is not just for beer drinkers. Autumn also brings both A Wine Classic and Craft Spirits Festivals. So, I guess you can say there’s something for everybody.
It’s Always the Right Season
Each visit to Breckenridge is a reminder of the late John Denver who sang about the majesty of his beloved Rockies. The words to Rocky Mountain High still ring true …”he walks in quiet solitude, the forest and the streams, seeking grace with every step he takes.” Colorado does that to you. Certainly Breckenridge.