A loud boom sounded from above. It was so deep I could feel it in my chest. Snow patrol was hard at work on this icy morning setting off miniature bombs to mitigate the risk of avalanches — a necessary task at the nearly 13,000-foot elevation where I stood. The sound and feeling were a stark reminder that I wasn’t in Kansas (or New York) anymore. By
I was negotiating one of the runs on Peak 8 at Breckenridge, an old-school cool mountain in Colorado, when I was startled by the noise. My skis glided over smooth powder as my instructor, Patrick — a no-nonsense character with an unmistakably thick New England accent who splits his time between Colorado and coastal Massachusetts — yelled out to correct my form, unfazed by the thunderous explosions happening just above us.
Ski resort in Breckenridge
Breckenridge has been drawing people like Patrick for decades. Known for its laid-back ski town vibe, long season, and snow as light and airy as you’d imagine a cloud to be. Year in and year out, Breck has offered skiers and riders a place to carve up the mountain during the day and après-ski into the night. Now, the mountain is celebrating its 60th anniversary, and while much has changed since it opened, its unique founding spirit remains alive and well.
“What people love about Breck is it’s a true mountain town,” Sara Lococo, senior manager of communication and marketing for Breckenridge through Vail Resorts, shared. “There’s a lot of energy here. It’s a vibrant town, but it still has that historic feel.”
Founded on December 16, 1961, the ski resort opened with only one double chairlift and a short T-bar lift. It has expanded to 35 lifts across five interconnected peaks in the years since, offering more than 2,900 acres of skiable terrain.
And there’s something for everyone from beginner trails and a stamina-building 3.5-mile-long 95.6 km) run to expert-level high alpine terrain and the highest chairlift in North America that brings skiers and riders to an elevation of 12,840 feet — in fact, 40 percent of Breck’s skiable terrain is above the treeline.
Sticking to the slightly lower altitude runs, I made my turns across smooth snow, noticeably different than the early season icy and granular terrain I was used to on the East Coast.
I skied late into the afternoon until the sun started to cast shadows across the hill. And when I was finally ready to hang up my ski boots, I hopped on the free gondola and rode through a magical scene of snow-covered trees down to the charming Main Street.
The last remaining glow from the day had just started to dip below the horizon. I staved off the cold by hopping from shop to shop, each one filled with a new surprise, from delicate jewellery to high-tech ski helmets and one particularly hilarious plush dog toy in the shape of a polar bear that grunted every time you squeezed it.
“That connection between the mountain and the town here is really one of the things that set Breck apart,” Lococo said. “I like to think of Breck as a ‘ski-in/ski-out’ mountain town…there’s definitely a vibrant energy here with the community that exists and the visitors that come here.”
In town, I settled into a socially-distanced snow cabana at Gravity Haus, just off Peak 9, popping a bottle of bubbly and having way too much fun with a Magic 8-Ball (a snow cabana favourite, I’m told). For dinner, I nibbled on inventive and absolutely delicious food at Rootstalk, a new American restaurant with an intimate dining room that opened in December 2020 (think: pasta with sage and hazelnut brown butter, and cauliflower schnitzel with an addictively chewy mustard spätzle).
Later, I traded my ski boots for snowshoes at the Breckenridge Nordic Center and traipsed through narrow paths, skirting around trees that seemed to rise forever on the lookout for moose tracks. Our group’s laughter was the only sound as we sank into soft snow.
The following day, as I got ready to head back to Denver, I took one last look at the stunning view from my ski resort, a pink morning glow hugging snow-covered peaks that rose like giants all around me. And suddenly, I understood all 60 years of Breckenridge and can only imagine what the next 60 will bring.
This story first appeared on www.travelandleisure.com