An Expert Guide to Breckenridge Ski ResortPublished on 05/27/2023 · 11 min readLooking to plan an unforgettable ski trip next season? Go visit Breckenridge Ski Resort! Skiing Expert Lauren Dobbins gives all the tips for skiing at Breck!
Welcome to the highest chairlift in North America! Photo by Lauren Dobbins
Breckenridge Ski Resort needs little introduction. As the second most-visited ski resort in the United States, Breckenridge (known as “Breck” for short) has become ubiquitous for ski vacations. The quaint town of Breckenridge has just over 5,000 residents, yet skiers and non-skiers by the thousands come to this little Colorado locale for a mountain getaway every year. This small, historic mining town is an incredible juxtaposition to Breck the ski resort, as it is owned by the skiing mega-conglomerate Vail Resorts. I always compare Breck to Disney World; it is huge, well-known, expensive, and crowded. Yet, like Disney, Breck has managed to capture the magic (pun intended) of a fantastic experience that creates one-of-a-kind vacation memories.
I’m Lauren, a Skiing Expert at Curated and an aspiring ski bum. As you may have guessed, Breck is my favorite ski resort of all time. In fact, Breckenridge was the inspiration for my eventual move out to the Rocky Mountains. Breck is the closest ski resort to my home in Colorado, and I love to visit in the summer and winter months. However, regardless of the easy access, I ski here for at least 15 days per season for the terrain alone.
Are you looking to plan your own trip to Breckenridge? If so, get ready to learn all the key info about Breck and some of my favorite expert tips to make the most out of your visit!
- Breckenridge is about an hour and a half drive from Denver (Colorado's largest city and capital) and two hours from the Denver International Airport.
- Breckenridge started as a mining town during the gold rush in 1859.
- Breck Ski Resort opened for business on December 16, 1961.
Breck has 2,908 acres of skiable terrain, making it the sixth-largest resort in Colorado. As a testament to its popularity, Breck has the most chairlifts in Colorado, with 35 in operation. Almost half the acreage is groomed, and 40% of the terrain is considered high-alpine (above the treeline). Breck features a vertical drop of 3,398ft, and this vertical is entirely accessible via chairlifts. With 187 runs, you will never be bored here! There is a noticeable lack of back bowls, as Breck is uniquely lateral on the Ten Mile Range.
Breck consists of five peaks that offer diverse experiences on each peak. Let’s cover these peaks' ins and outs (Peak 6 through Peak 10 due to their location on this range).
Breck’s Five Peaks
If you are standing in the town and are looking up at the mountain, Peak 6 is the farthest right boundary of the resort and the northernmost peak. Opening in 2013, this peak is the newest terrain expansion at Breck. The Kensho chair accesses the bulk of this peak, including the highest elevation blue runs at the resort. Peak 6 is notable for its expansive high-alpine terrain and phenomenal views of the Dillon Reservoir. Warning: This peak is exceptionally windy due to its high elevation and exposure.
Expert Tip: The blue runs on Peak 6 are by far the hardest blues on the mountain. Intermediates should be confident on other blue runs before venturing to this peak.
My Favorite Run: Intuition. This black bowl is wide open and usually way less tracked out than similar bowls at Breck. There is a traverse out of the bowl, but this is no problem on skis (sorry to my snowboarder friends).
Peak 7 is an intermediate’s heaven. Most runs are blue groomers, and it is very easy to navigate around this peak. I love spending my time on the slopes of Peak 7, as I can give my legs a rest and cruise around the various groomed trails. In contrast to Peak 6, Peak 7 features a small base area with lodging, a restaurant, and a rental shop. Peak 7 also has some of the most difficult high-alpine terrain at Breck, primarily accessible from the t-bar and Peak 8’s Imperial SuperChair.
Expert Tip: The Independence SuperChair is often very crowded and has a super long wait. New to the 21/22 season, the Freedom SuperChair offers a much shorter wait time and quicker ride.
My Favorite Run: Monte Cristo. This run is the longest on Peak 7. It is less crowded than the family-designated Pioneer run. It is also easy to access both the Freedom and Independence chairlifts.
Peak 8 is the original base area of Breck. The base features numerous dining and lodging options and is also the last stop for the BreckConnect Gondola from town. As the heart of Breck, Peak 8 features runs for every type of skier on the mountain (including their expansive freestyle park). In addition, this peak is home to the Imperial SuperChair, the highest chairlift in North America at 12,998ft. The views are unsurpassed, and you can easily spot Keystone’s three distinct peaks from here.
Expert Tip: Do you want to take the longest groomed run possible at the end of the day? Take the Imperial chairlift up to the very top. From there, you can take the Imperial Ridge run to 4 O’Clock all the way to town!
My Favorite Run: Imperial Bowl. This bowl is right under the Imperial SuperChair. It is fairly mild for a double black, and it is very easy to return to the chairlift.
Peak 9 is where one can learn how to ski or snowboard, as this base is the main lesson hub. Beginners here will have access to the most green runs at Breck. When looking to progress, this peak also offers numerous groomed blues. Peak 9 also has a few beginner terrain parks. However, experts shouldn’t overlook Peak 9, as E Chair features exceptionally difficult and narrow moguls that will make you question how steep is too steep. This peak also features dining and lodging and is a quick walk to the main street of Breckenridge.
Expert Tip: If you need to return to Peak 8 from here, take Shock or the Peak 8 Transfer to the SuperConnect’s mid-load station. The lines here are much shorter than going to the base of the SuperConnect.
My Favorite Run: Upper Lehman. This cruisy blue run features numerous side hits for maximum fun. This run is also the easiest way to access Peak 10 from the Mercury SuperChair.
Like Peak 6, Peak 10 is a boundary peak at Breck. It is the southernmost peak at the resort and has one chairlift: the Falcon SuperChair. Due to the advanced to expert-only terrain and lack of base area, Peak 10 is a gem for shorter lines and a quieter experience (quiet, of course, is relative at Breck). This peak is a haven for difficult terrain, from fast groomers to steep glades. While there is no high-alpine terrain here, the variety of advanced terrain is certainly refreshing.
Expert Tip: If you get to the top and feel like you are over your head, there is a secret escape route. Off of the Spitfire run, there is an unmarked service road that is groomed. It skis like a catwalk and takes you back to the blue run, Upper Lehman.
My Favorite Run: Centennial. This insanely fast groomer lets me pretend to be Mikaela Shiffrin briefly as I unleash my full speed. Sure, I’m not nearly as fast, but it feels exhilarating to feel like a ski racer for just a moment!
10 Expert Tips and Tricks
Since I’ve spent so much time at Breckenridge, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way. Here are my top 10 tips to help you maximize your time at Breck:
Consider a Cheaper Epic Pass Product
Many people opt for the Epic Pass or Epic Local Pass, but did you know Breck is available on cheaper pass options? If you know you won’t be visiting on a holiday, consider the Summit Value Pass (which also has access to Keystone). If you plan on visiting in April or May, consider the Keystone Plus Pass (which also features five days at Crested Butte if you want to take a trip there).
Prepare for Wind
Breck is easily one of the coldest resorts in Colorado. The high elevation and open bowls make wind exposure a real concern. I once experienced wind chills of -30°F, and I can tell you it is miserable. So dress for the wind, and make sure you have sufficient layers to keep you warm.
Hitting the slopes for the first chair at 8:30 is key to ensuring you have space for yourself. Arriving early allows you to quickly head to the peak you want to spend your time at. In addition, arriving early is the only way to ensure parking, as the lots fill up very quickly.
Know Your Bus Route
Unless you are staying slope-side or are paying for premium parking, you will likely need to take a bus. Learn the free bus routes, and know which options are right for you. Bus stops list the timing of each route, so have no fear if you just miss the bus.
Park in F Lot or Tiger Dredge
If you need to park, F Lot and Tiger Dredge are exceptionally easy and cost less than premium lots. Also important (for me, at least) is both of these lots have easy access to bathrooms. F Lot is a short walk to and from the Peak 9 base. Tiger Dredge is an even shorter walk to the bus stop, with the key benefit being the ability to ski back to this lot (aka no need to ride the bus back). Both of these options are much more efficient than taking the gondola. Bonus pro tip: If you pay for parking through the app and end your day early, you can cancel your parking and be refunded for the time you didn’t use!
Memorize the Traversal Options
A big downside to Breck is the need to traverse from peak to peak. Learn the names of the traversal runs, and know which chairlifts can take you to other peaks. If you get lost, ask a mountain guide at the top of the main chairlifts how to navigate around the mountain. They will also give you advice based on your ability level.
Avoid the Lines and Take the Slower Chairs Instead
Chairlift lines at Breck can get incredibly long. If you want to save time, consider the non-high speed chairs (aka anything that isn’t a SuperChair). The ride time will be longer, but the shorter lines significantly reduce your overall downtime. This tip is especially true for A, C, and E chairs and Snowflake.
Know How to Ride a T-Bar or Don’t Use It
The Horseshoe Bowl T-Bar is very popular thanks to the awesome terrain it takes you to. While the lines can be long because of this popularity, they are often slow because people fall off the t-bar. True story, the longest I had to wait for the t-bar was when someone fell during loading and got a concussion. If you don’t know how to ride a t-bar, this is not the time to learn.
Pack a Lunch or Skip Lunch Entirely
On-mountain food at Breck is incredibly expensive. On top of that, you may be waiting a long time for a table. Packing a lunch can maximize your time and keep some cash in your pocket. If you want to eat inside, avoid stopping between 11:30-1:30 to beat the crowds. If you think you will have a shorter day, skip lunch and eat afterward.
Après in Town, Not at the Base Areas
Sure, the base areas are convenient, but the quality often doesn’t justify the price. Breckenridge has numerous bars and other places to grab a post-skiing drink. Plus, visiting the town is the best way to give money to local businesses. Consider heading over to Frisco or Dillon/Silverthorne for other options. Check out my article on the best après spots in Colorado to see some of my favorite places in the area for beer and other treats.
Are you excited to make Breckenridge your next ski trip destination? I absolutely love Breck, and I hope you will too! If you have any additional questions about Breck, feel free to reach out to me here at Curated. Also, are you shopping for the right gear to make your next vacation perfect? One of our amazing Skiing or Snowboarding Experts here on Curated is ready to help you find your new favorite gear to make your next trip the best one yet!