For anyone who loves winter sports, Breckenridge, Colorado, is the best kind of destination. A former mining town nestled at the base of the Colorado Mountains’ TenMile Range, it has all the makings of a perfect ski town: five glorious mountain peaks, plenty of snow—last year saw 387 inches and 96 snowfall days—a historic city center, and a burgeoning food scene.
But another thing it has—which I didn’t consider ahead of our trip—is super-high elevation. Breckenridge’s base sits at 9,600 feet, with its highest peak at close to 13,000. And Vail, whose regional airport we flew into, is also up there at more than 8,000 feet.
After getting in we stopped for lunch at Los Amigos, a bustling Mexican restaurant in Vail Village, where I opted for a cheese-laden burrito, along with a heavily spiked Irish coffee, and soon regretted both. Halfway along our 50-minute drive from Vail to Breckenridge, I started feeling nauseated and lightheaded. By the time we got to the base, my heartbeat had accelerated, and I felt short of breath. It was difficult to walk, let alone ski. Long story short, I needed oxygen, and it wasn’t until I got it later the next day that I started feeling normal again.
But once I was acclimated? Breck was a dream to ski. Beginner/intermediate skiers like me have a ton of terrain to choose from, spread across all five peaks, with 34 lifts total across 2,908 skiable acres. I soon went from tentative and shaky to confident skier extraordinaire—at least in my mind—zipping down the slopes at more than 30 miles an hour.
Taking advantage of the fresh powder each morning, we’d ski until we could ski no more, breaking only when famished. Then it was time to hit the après-ski scene—either T Bar, located at the base of One Tree Hill Resort, or Coppertop at Beaver Run Resort—before heading back to our luxury condo at BlueSky Breckenridge for a nap, a soak in the jacuzzi, or a massage at the onsite spa. One lazy afternoon we walked the town’s historic Main Street, admiring the historic buildings and quaint gift shops before taking a scenic drive, snapping photos with the snow-capped mountains as our backdrop.
Our last night, we had plans for a sleigh ride that was canceled thanks to inclement weather, but that didn’t dampen our spirits one bit. We went back to our condo, made a simple dinner of spaghetti and garlic toast, and fired up some s’mores. Having gotten used to the altitude by that point, we opened a few bottles of wine and capped off our trip with the best entertainment anywhere—good friends and good conversation.
- BlueSky Breckenridge, a 52-unit boutique ski-in/ski-out vacation rental managed by Wyndham Vacation Rentals, features condos with onsite ski rentals, private lockers, and direct access to Snowflake Lift. From $434/night.
- A brisk, three-block walk away from historic Main Street, Beaver Run Resort is a pet- and family-friendly resort with a spa, two restaurants, and an indoor/outdoor heated pool, among many other amenities. From $215/night.
- Built in the classic style of Alpine chalets, One Ski Hill Place offers luxurious condos with full-sized kitchens and fireplaces, steps away from The BreckConnect Gondola. From $425/night.
- Aurum Food & Wine Breckenridge is the “it” spot for chef-driven new American cuisine—get the foie gras strawberry appetizer, coconut-braised Colorado lamb shank, and Rocky Mountain Trout. There’s a great happy hour, too.
- Feast on pub food—think craft beer cheese soup, gourmet burgers, and steak sandwiches—and a selection of 64 craft beers on tap at Breckenridge Pour House. 970-423-5100
- Experience history at Briar Rose Chophouse & Saloon, a decades-old staple housed in a landmark building in the heart of Breckenridge serving steaks, ostrich, elk, and prime rib.
- Don your Viking hat and get ready to party in the Viking spirit at the 57th annual Breckenridge Ullr Fest (Dec. 11–15), named for the Norse god of winter, who, legend has it, brings snow to town each year. Highlights include a parade, bonfire, and ice plunge.
- Cozy up underneath a blanket and enjoy the scenery and a hot cocoa on one of Golden Horseshoe Tour Company's horse-drawn sleigh rides.
- Ever tried biking in the snow? With better balance thanks to their large tires, fat bikes offer an entirely new way to see Breckenridge. Guided tours are available through Breck Bike Guides and Ridden Breckenridge.
- Fly direct to Denver via United, Frontier, or Spirit, then drive approximately two hours west to Breckenridge.