I was so fortunate recently to visit Breckenridge, Colorado, a little town in the Colorado ski passage about 2 hours west of Denver. Some good friends recently moved there, so we decided to combine a week of canyon-seeing (more to come on that!) with a week’s snowboarding/skiing. I had no pre-conceptions of America ski towns before visiting at all – other than the gorgeous photos of my mates’ balcony view that wold occasionally appear on Facebook to make us all jealous.
I soon discovered that Breckenridge isn’t just a tourist ski resort, it’s a lovely little quaint, but lived-in town. Unlike its neighbour Keystone, it feels like a living place. Yes there are tourists, as you’d imagine, and the ski lift lines that go with that, but it’s a proper town, with great restaurants and bars, in amongst the t-shrt gift shops
Food and Booze
Of course we wet to Breck for the snow, and pistes but there’s more to it that a ski resort.
Great restaurants and apes ski for one! The Canteen was a favourite apres ski venue – with cracking nachos. In fact, pretty much everywhere here has great nachos and wings to be honest. “Twist” was a very nice higher end restaurant at the far end of town, along with a great sushi place. We had breakfast in Daylight Donuts a couple of mornings (donuts to die for they were seriously good). On our last day we spent the afternoon in the Blue River Bistro for lunch, starting with cocktails and appetisers (the Battered Tiger Shrimp was amazing, as was the bruschetta), moving on to wine and more wine. We spent another boozy afternoon in “Cheese and Chocolate“, drinking some awesome chardonnay (I brought a bottle back) and a coupe of serious cheese plates. All in all, Breck has lots of choice, and great food and wine – although I think we overdid it and ended up over-cheesed and over-boozed (but that’s probably what happens when you stay with good friends).
At night, there was always lots going on, or at least it felt like that!. The town is lit up nicely, although not too much (I found Keystone was a bit too kitch in comparison – it reminded me of a Xmas market in its tweeness). There was an impressive metal sculpture on show in the middle of tow which was lit up at night and looked like something out of Alien.
During the day, we went to see the International Ice Sculpting Championships (yes, seriously!) with teams from all over the globe chiselling massive blocks of ice into some scarily arty sculptures. Some were very abstract, some were twee, some were just amazing:
And on our last niight, Valentine’s night, we popped along to an anniversary showing of the Princess Bride film – something I’ve not seen for years! With wine and nibbles thrown in, and a crowd who knew most of the script, it was great fun, showcasing Breck’s Cool-yet-kitch side yet again.
The Snow bit
First of all, we were incredibly lucky with the weather. Other than a couple of days, we had perfect conditions, and lovely bright sun, Our first day on slopes – Saturday – was quite busy because, as we found out, Breck being close to Denver invites many people to come along just for the day – something I was amazed at. I met a man on a ski lift who had driven up from south of Denver for the day with his family.
The pistes (think they’re called trails here!) are nice and wide which is perfect for me as a novice snowboarder. The Colour grading system is different from Europe, going from green-blue-black-double diamond black, instead of blue, red, black. So it’s difficult to compare. I did some blues on my first day but II wasn’t sure if they’re really “reds” or “blues”. It’s difficult to sense how far I’ve come on since my last snow trip to Italy, because I don’t know how the trail compares to what I was able to do. Regardless, I felt quite confident and I was linking turns quite well, if a little wide. I set myself a target by the end of the week to be doing some shallow turns and not slowing down as much before a turn; but it’s really about confidence and practice, and I got plenty of both here.
On day two, my jet lag kicked in, and to top it off, it’s -10 outside. The wind chill is much more. Am I mad? I decided to use one of my “days off” (I have two to use this week as I only have a five day pass). So the boys braved the cold but I the girls went for a wander around the town instead. The French cafe does great pastries and we spend a good afternoon with tea and croissants. At around 3pm the boys came off the mountain and we head for a bar to watch the Superbowl – good timing for us Brits to immerse in some US culture – and more nachos and wings.
Throughout the week I get ore slope time n some of the widest slopes Ive been on, and although it sometimes looks like a whiteout when we get up, when you get to the top of the lift, it’s clear.
On Wednesday we have a massive dump of snow, so we stay in and wait for it to leave us. Which means that Thursday is perfect. Some of the powderyest snow Ive ever seen. Not like Europe – this is dry snow. You hardly even get wet walking through it. It’s like boarding on marshmallows. When I fall, it’s like falling into polystyrene balls. It’s the prefect day to hit the highest ski Lift in North America – and I go down a black twice. I’m elated.
On the last day of my pass, we mix it up and head to Keystone which is a nearby resort and is included in our ski pass. It’s a nice little town but very different to Breck in that it’s definitely a resort, rather than a town. Breck is lived in, Keystone is twee. It’s more like a theme park at the bottom of the gondola, and reminds me very much of the South Bank Christmas market.
However the pistes are wide again and the snow is perfect but I’m struggling with cramp in my right foot and I can’t figure out why. It starts to affect my confidence and I’m not boarding very well. I’m trying to relax my legs and feet but I have to take frequent breaks, which is a shame because the conditions are fantastic and it’s lovely and sunny.
In the end I decide to try one last run into town before Apres ski and it turns out to be the twilight run. Although Keystone has night skiing, this is just before that, and it’s lovely. Boarding down pristine mountain while the sun sets before you is an amazing feeling, and I decide to finish on a high – my last run as the sun sets.