Usually, my family takes our vacation together in mid-summer, mostly due to the fact that we always had to travel around my dad’s schedule as a CPA, which meant nothing from late December through April, nor could we be gone from mid-August through mid-October. Ski trips, thus, were always off the table—so now that Dad’s not working anymore, Mom got her dream winter trip: a ski vacation in Breckenridge.
Mom was a big skier living in Europe and California throughout her 20s, and I really got into skiing while I was a San Francisco resident myself. I love living back in Tennessee, and while I wouldn’t trade it for anything—OK, maybe a beach house on the Florida Gulf Coast, but that would be about it—the one big downfall is that there are no legit ski mountains within a half-day’s drive of us. We pretty much have to fly if we want to take a proper ski vacation.
And I’m not going to lie, this trip was a beast to plan, as Mom was set on going the week between Christmas and New Year’s because my sister and her husband, both accountants, would be coming, and unlike my dad, they still do work for the family firm. And do you know how ungodly expensive it is to book a vacation rental on Airbnb in Breckenridge during Christmas? Pretty much only a reality if you travel with deep, deep pockets. When I was searching last spring, a good eight months before the trip, the average price was already upward of $1500 (a night!), i.e. way out of our budget. Not to mention, the vacation rental owners often use their homes for that one week of the year: from Christmas through New Year’s. Add in the fact that we were looking for a three-bedroom, and it was even harder. More on our lodging in a second.
There was no way around getting cheap flights either; we booked way back in the summer, and prices on Southwest were already $525 round-trip from Nashville, a whopping $325 more than we normally pay to fly to Denver in January or February. Still, I looked around, and that was far cheaper than flying to Park City or Tahoe during Christmas.
What I’m saying is if you want to go do Breckenridge affordably, the holidays is not your time. I highly recommend the period between MLK Day and Presidents’ Day (aka right now!)—or anytime before Spring Break, really—when crowds are fewer and rentals not so hard to come by.
Skiing on Christmas Day, however, was a BLAST.
But this was Mom’s Christmas gift to all of us—mainly because it was a trip she really wanted to go on and one she clearly wouldn’t do solo—and when she handed over the keys to choosing the resort, there was only one clear choice in my mind.
Why We Love Breckenridge
I always thought I’d move to Colorado when I was in my 20s; then, I met (and later married) SVV and was swept away to California instead. I’ve always loved everything about Colorado: the fact that everyone seems to live their lives outside despite the oft-frigid temps, the reality that you can live in a major metro area and still be within 90 minutes of the slopes, the abundance of sunny days and bluebird skies, the revelation that there are so many mountains and/or national parks everywhere you look. Colorado, to me, is one of our most majestic states.
And I’ve been to quite a few Colorado ski towns at this point, but few have taken up permanent residence in my heart the way Breckenridge has. I love that the slopes are accessible directly from town (via gondola, lift or car) and that there is even a town to begin with (many ski resort communities are just that: the ski resort). This is the place to go if you dabble in snow sports but want to spend just as much time off the slopes as on, as there’s plenty to do off-piste from fat biking to art classes, fine dining to brewery- and distillery-hopping.
It’s also a great place to ski for expert skiers and snowboarders with its varied terrain and 187 runs. I guess what I’m saying is that Breck fits that one-size-fits-all model when it comes to travelers. There is definitely something for everybody.
Pro tip: Get yourself to an oxygen bar as soon as you arrive to help acclimate to the altitude. Locals told us we were crazy for landing in Denver and immediately heading up the mountain, but oxygen seemed to help all of us cope!
How to Ski Breckenridge
Breckenridge is absolutely massive with five peaks and, as noted above, 187 trails(!). SVV was skiing for the first time in 26 years—you may recall, he’s a pretty savvy snowboarder—and Josh was on a board while Mom and me were both on skis. While we were there, most of the black runs were closed due to a lack of snow (it was early in the season), so that kind of made our decision easier: We’d stick to the blues.
Still, even with more limited runs available, it’s wise to plot your plan of attack in advance. We were staying right next to the gondola, so it made sense that we’d stay close to Peak 7 and Peak 8. (Peaks 6 and 10 were closed due to conditions.) Plus, Peaks 7 and 8 lay claim to some of my favorite runs: loooong, wide-open groomers perfect for intermediates. I could ski Columbia, Wanderlust, Pioneer and Monte Cristo all day long.
We saved Peak 9 for the final day, which turned out to be a good move—it was a whiteout day, so crowds were slim—then skied down to where our rental equipment return was.
My hotshot brother-in-law also just had to try the pair of terrain parks off of Peak 8. I got some epic footage, but I promised not to post it here in case his mom and sisters were reading (ha!).
Is that Lindsey Vonn? Why no, it’s just my wee mom!
Where to Eat on Breckenridge Mountain
You know how when you travel, hotel food is often just an afterthought? The same is often true for slope-side dining—but not in this foodie town. I remember loving everything I ate the first time we visited Breckenridge three winters ago, and it was even better on this visit as there were a couple new spots that had been added to the dining scene.
We ate at Pioneer Crossing at the top of Peak 7 two lunches in a row, it was that good. Think lobster mac and cheese, gourmet burgers, a chili and grilled cheese bar. The temps were also so cold while we were there, topping out at 10 degrees most days, that we needed a warm whiskey drink every couple runs, so Broken Spoke became our spot. I was pleased to find out they even had one of my favorite Tennessee liqueurs on the menu, Whisper Creek sipping cream!
On the final day, we skied the opposite side of the mountain around Beaver Run, so we ended our afternoon just off the QuickSilver SuperChair at TenMile Station, where there’s a brand new Candy Corner. That’s right: an old-school candy shop right in the middle of the mountain! Needless to say, we stocked up on treats and filled SVV’s CamelBak (he never goes skiing without it!) before cruising back down the mountain and turning in our skis for the trip.
Where to Stay in Breckenridge
On our last trip to Breckenridge, we stayed at Peak 7 in one of the many condo buildings. That was a great spot, and I loved the ski-in, ski-out access. This time, however, we were traveling with both my dad (a stroke victim with more limited capabilities) and my sister (31 weeks pregnant, also with limitations), plus only skiing three out of the seven days, so we wanted to stay closer to Main Street, where there were off-piste adventures to be had (mostly, eating and drinking and shopping).
I almost canceled this trip multiple times—particularly after Book Breck canceled our booking after I finally had found what I thought was the perfect one for my family, both in our price and size range—but then I turned to a local friend who lives in nearby Dillon, and she suggested looking into the bookings with a local company VisitBreck, which has an office toward the entrance to the town, rather than pulling my hair out trying to find something on VRBO or HomeAway.
In the end, we paid a bit more than we were hoping to (again, holiday surge pricing), but I highly endorse the company and our entire process from check-in to check-out was seamless. I’ll be going to them first on my next trip to Breck before even bothering to deal with Airbnb, HomeAway or VRBO.
Where to Rent Your Gear
Other than my boots and helmet and all our clothing, we came with relatively no gear. We needed to rent skis and poles for everyone, in addition to boots and helmets for my Mom, SVV and Josh. I did some Googling for ski rental gear and came across Breeze Ski Rentals, which was located at the base of the Beaver Run lift and featured deals that averaged around $25 cheaper a day than the other ski shops I found. I paid $115 for three days of the demo ski packages (skis and poles) while SVV paid around $147 for the performance ski package with boots and a helmet. Breeze had plenty of other gear available if you need more than just the basics, and we saw ski masks, hats, gloves, hand warmers (which you can also buy in bulk via Amazon), the whole nine yards available at all the shops and kiosks within the ski resort.
Explore Beyond the Slopes
We had two rental cars, so SVV and I spent one morning driving up to Hoosier Pass for a bit of snow hiking. We also wanted to hit up Boreas Pass and these other highly Instagrammable spots in Breck, but somehow though there for seven days, we just ran out of time!
If you don’t have time to go too far—or the road conditions aren’t in your favor—we found some nice vistas by driving up Wellington and back down Reiling Road. You can also head up the sledding hill of Carter Park for a shot of the town from up high.
Shop My Ski Wardrobe
I’m hoping to head back to Summit County in the next year or two to see it in summer. But in the meantime, anything you want to know about planning a winter vacation to Breckenridge leave a note in the comments!