The highest ski resort in North America, Breckenridge’s summit sits at 12,998 feet, though the elevation of the town is a mere 9,600. The ski resort opened in 1961, and was the first in Colorado to allow snowboarding, in 1984. But it’s not just a magnet for winter sports enthusiasts: Historic pride is on full display. Breckenridge was founded in 1859 when gold was discovered nearby. More than 300 days of sun and 300 inches of snow a year, an easy drive from Denver, and a welcoming vibe combine to make this town a perfect place for recreation and rest.
GOLD RUSH FOR FOOD
In 1861, Long’s Saloon opened as a tent to serve miners. A permanent building was erected on the site in 1879, and The Gold Pan Saloon was born. One of the oldest bars in the U.S., it was declared a local landmark in 2017. Even if you’re not a history buff, go for the food! The delicious Cabra Burger is topped with pulled goat and goat cheese ($15) and most of the beers on tap are from Colorado. It’s not just standard bar food here: cauliflower tacos ($14) and seasonal burrata ($11) are elevated dishes that match the high altitude.
A luxurious ranch vibe awaits at The Ranahan, a Welk Resort just a short drive from downtown. Barn doors, iron chandeliers, neutral colors, and soft fibers for upholstery all lend a Ralph Lauren feel to the resort. Patios and balconies overlook the recreation area that includes three large hot tubs, an indoor/outdoor heated pool, fire pits, and an indoor splash pad for kids. There’s a free shuttle to town and to the mountain. But you won’t want to leave your villa ($258 and up), which includes a full kitchen with stone countertops, a washer and dryer, a fireplace, and a bathtub—unlimited ways to relax. welkvacations.com/vacation-ownership/breckenridge
When you need to get a comfort fix, stop by Giampietro Pizza downtown. Gingham tablecloths and a room full of locals provide a cozy atmosphere. If you’d rather get takeout, you’ll still enjoy tasty New York-style or Sicilian deep-dish pizza. If you want something different, try the beet salad with hazelnuts, mint, basil, and citrus vinaigrette ($9.50). The staff is friendly and efficient, even during busy times.
SKIING, OF COURSE
With 187 trails across five peaks to explore at Breckenridge, there’s lots of room for social distancing as you carve up the slopes, and there are plenty of options for skiers and boarders of all levels. Safety measures this year include masks required to access the mountain, required reservations, and cashless transactions throughout. Lift tickets go on sale Dec. 8, but an Epic Pass is a better option in most cases as you’ll get early access and special discounts (up to $133 per day, depending on number of days).
AND HIKING, TOO
That same mountain provides ample opportunity for hikers in the summertime. It’s easy to walk to the Burro Trail from the center of town, and then venture up the mountain near a running stream and through clearings and forest areas. Be sure to bring water and allow time for rest breaks … you’re pretty high above sea level here! The out-and-back nature of this hike allows for as much or as little exertion as you like.
Open for more than decade, Relish restaurant makes many lists of favorite places to eat in the area. Featuring dishes that celebrate local ingredients and Colorado flavors, the menu comes to life with items such as grilled Mexican street corn ($10) and trout with hatch green chile posole ($30). Steal away for the daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m., and you’ll find cocktails for as little as $6.
HAUS AWAY FROM HOME
For a streamlined, modern approach to lodging, try Gravity Haus at the base of Peak 9 ($104 and up). Eco-friendly amenities include throws made of recycled bottles and zero-waste bath products. Soaking tubs and dry saunas beckon after a day of outdoor activity, plus there’s a trampoline for an extra boost. The hotel is dog-friendly, with your four-legged friend getting his own bed and treats ($50 per night, per dog). The location is perfect for walking—be it into town or to the base of the mountain.
TIP FROM A LOCAL
“Whenever I have a friend visit, I take them to the Breckenridge Troll, Isak Heartstone, (which) can be found down a short path near the ski resort. The friendly-looking troll is monstrous in size, and there are always people marveling at the character.”
—Taylor Sienkiewicz, reporter at Summit Daily
Dec. 9 through 19: Ullr Fest. The town will pay its annual tribute to Ullr (rhymes with cooler), the Norse god of snow, with open-air art, a town-wide scavenger hunt, fat-bike races, ice skating, helmet decorating, and more. gobreck.com/event/ullr-fest-2