I am lucky enough that I have now spent time in and around Breckenridge, Colorado in summer, fall, and winter. All are wonderful times to visit with their own merits, but winter certainly is a popular choice. With a world-class ski resort and magical winter atmosphere comes an increase in visitors and potentially challenging driving conditions. Here’s what you need to know to have an amazing winter Breckenridge vacation, from dining recommendations to ski tips.
Stay in a condo within walking distance of everything.
The first of our Breckenridge winter vacation tips is probably the biggest. The good news: staying within easy distance of both the slopes and the town is easy to do. Because Breckenridge spans five peaks with lifts touching down in locations across the town, most lodging along South and North Park Avenue, Village Road, and Ski Hill Road will be ski-in, ski-out, or close to it.
We stayed in this unit at One Breckenridge Place, managed by Great Western Lodging. We were about two blocks from the Quicksilver Lift at Peak 9, and one block from Main Street. The unit is a three-bedroom, with lots of room to spread out, cook some of our own meals, and do laundry. The condo village has access to a year-round pool and hot tub complex, which is just 100 yards from the door. Unfortunately, during our stay, the hot tubs were too dirty to use, but the pool was heated. I recommend paying a bit more for a unit at One Breckenridge Place with a private hot tub, which is located on the back deck.
Plan DEN-Breck shuttle trips carefully.
If you take a shuttle service such as Colorado Mountain Express from Denver International to Breckenridge (and we recommend this if you don’t want to hassle with a rental car or driving in wintery conditions), try your best to avoid shuttle times between 4 pm and 6 pm on Friday nights. Traffic is very heavy to the mountains on Friday afternoons, and you can expect your trip to take twice the standard 1.5 hour time. Sometimes, of course, this can’t be avoided…on our last trip, we had to travel on Friday, and had no choice but to get a 4:30 shuttle. Still, it helps to be aware and set expectations. Make sure everyone has water and has eaten a snack before departure.
Going home, if the weather is bad, consider calling your shuttle service to book an earlier departure back to DEN. We learned that CME aims to give travelers a four hour window (two to get back to DEN, with two hours buffer before flight). However, the drive can sometimes take as long as three hours or more in snow storms, and it’s generally up to you to ask for a new departure time.
Get take out for affordable meals.
When you’re too tired to go out to eat, order the ‘pasta bucket’ from Fattys. This local favorite pizza place on Ridge Street offers a take out option that feeds the whole family for about half what it would cost to eat out. Pasta buckets are $30 (you pick your sauce and pasta choice), and comes with rolls and butter. You can add a salad bucket for $20. For $50, we fed our crew of five, and had enough left-overs for lunch the next day. Fattys says their buckets serve 4-5, but we believe it’s closer to 6-8 (and we have teens who eat a lot!).
Eat lunch early or late on the mountain.
When skiing Breckenridge, avoid the base areas between 12 pm and 1 pm, opting to break for lunch at an upper mountain lodge instead. Crowds will be far thinner, and lift lines shorter. Use the Breckenridge Mountain app to see lift line wait times at a glance. We really enjoyed eating quick meals at Vista Haus on Peak 8 and The Overlook on Peak 9.
Use Ski Butlers.
Use Ski Butlers for any gear rentals. If your family owns skis, boards, and boots, and you’ll be skiing or riding for more than a few days, it’s usually more economical to check ski gear on the plane than to rent for multiple days. (Tip: Alaska Airlines allows free boot bag checked luggage with a ski bag.)
However, if you don’t own your own gear, use Ski Butlers. It’s easy to order your rentals online before your trip, and once you arrive, Ski Butlers brings your rentals to your condo or hotel room. The ‘butler’ fits you there, and even offers a direct line for any problems that may arise. We had an issue with one snowboard (the binding wasn’t set to our liking), and Ski Butlers came out the same evening and fixed the problem at our condo immediately. We were very pleased with their attention to detail and willingness to do what it took to ensure we were happy with our gear.
Beware of altitude sickness.
Don’t take the altitude lightly! See our post on avoiding altitude sickness, and be sure to drink lots of water before and during your trip to Breckenridge. I feel symptoms of altitude sickness with every trip, despite taking precautions. Know that one symptom can be insomnia…don’t be surprised if kids and adults have a hard time sleeping at first. Get to bed early, drink fluids, and avoid caffeine and alcohol at least on your first few nights.
Check for seasonal events and festivals.
We happened to time our latest visit to Breckenridge with the annual International Snow Sculpture championships, which meant we could view amazing snow sculptures created by teams across the world.
View during the evenings to see the finished sculptures lit up starting the day of the judging. There’s a people’s choice type of award as well, so be sure to pick your favorite and ‘vote’ with a dollar. Look for additional activities in and around the Riverwalk Center by the Blue River, where the sculptures are located.
Don’t forget to check out the arts district.
Located between Main Street and Ridge Street, Breckenridge’s art district is located in repurposed small buildings with pedestrian friendly walkways. You’ll find all manner of artisans here, and can usually watch them work in addition to buying in the galleries. Kids enjoy this too!
Think ahead before heading out to dinner.
Remember that many family-friendly dining options in Breckenridge do not take reservations. Instead, put your name in early, and use the time before your table is ready to shop along Main Street or check out the small history museum at the Welcome Center (along the Blue River near RiverWalk Center). Some restaurants, including one of our favorites, Downstairs at Eric’s, uses an app to tell you when your name is called. Just give them your phone number and you’ll know how many parties are ahead of you in line. Tip: for the best burgers in town, head down Main to the north end to Canteen. Expect big portions!
Don’t forget snow play gear!
Bring an extra set of gloves or mittens and a waterproof pair of snow boots for each family member, in addition to what you wear if you ski or snowboard. Exploring the village of Breckenridge is part of the charm of a vacation here, but kids will definitely get snowy on even the simplest walk down Main Street. They’ll find places to slide down hills and have snowball fights!
Disclosure: Our stay at One Breckenridge Place and our transportation on CME were provided complimentarily, for the purpose of review.