You don’t need to go full-on fur coat and cocktails in Aspen or Vail to have a luxury winter adventure.
Photo: Bob Winsett
When it comes to luxury winter escapes, you might think après-skiing in Vail or McMansion lodges in Aspen. Well, if you're looking for all the winter activities and sports that make mountain towns so exciting, but could do without the astounding prices and pretentious clientele, there's no better place than Breckenridge, Colorado.
A two-hour drive from the Denver airport, nestled in the Rockies, Breckenridge is a winter wonderland that has just the right balance of bustle and chill.
Bars, restaurants, and snow sport shops line Main Street (the epicenter of the charming downtown), where you can find everyday comforts—yes, there's a Starbucks—and local favorites: Crown Coffeehouse for caffeine, Amazing Grace for breakfast and lunch, and RMU or Rocky Mountain Underground, where you can get both handcrafted skis pressed on-site and an après-ski brew or cocktail at its no-frills bar.
But if you're traveling to a place like Breck, chances are you have some winter activities on your to-do list. Here are some of the awesome adventures you can have in this mountain town during the snowy season.
World-Class Skiing and Snowboarding
Breckenridge Ski Resort offers five peaks, four terrain parks, many opportunities for above-tree-line High Alpine skiing, and the highest chairlift in North America.
Breck has also played host for the last 10 seasons to world-class athletes competing in the Dew Tour, an Olympics-qualifying event, giving spectators a glimpse at some of the potential Team USA members on a local, up-close-and-personal stage. Translation: The trails and the powder are Grade A. But while the mountain attracts advanced skiers and snowboarders, there are still plenty of green and blue runs for rookies and families, with lesson areas and slow-speed zones.
Stay at Grand Colorado on Peak 8, the area's newest mountain resort at the base of—you guessed it—Peak 8, with "the best amenities in Breckenridge" for a truly ski-in/ski-out experience. This means you can roll out of bed, gear up, and be sitting on the ski lift in less than 30 minutes (depending on how fast you get those boots clipped).
There's something really special about riding a bike with 5-inch-wide tires through snow that's just as deep. Bonus: The low-pressure tires and on-snow pedaling will also give you one serious quad and glute workout. Stop by Breck Bike Guides to gear up, then match up with one of their local guides (they know the trails of Breckenridge like the back of their hand). Beginner riders will fall in love with the epic views along the way, and advanced cyclists will appreciate the 30+ miles of available riding routes. (Intrigued? Learn more about why you should swap your cycling classes for a fat bike this winter.)
I've been wanting to go #fatbiking FOR.EV.ER. and despite less than stellar conditions (5-10 inches of that day) it was worth the wait. Riding through a mountain bike trail with deep snow surrounding everything but your tire tracks is scary as hell, but doing things that scare you is so much better than sitting on the sidelines—something I'm learning to embrace more and more. (Plus if you fall, you have 2 feet of fresh powder to cushion you). // #faceyourfear #wintersport #adventuretravel
The latest evolution of the wellness-first trend is the ingenious combination of fitness with self-care. And when do you need a relaxing spa service or hot tub session more than after a full day on the slopes?
Some R&R options: Hop in one of Grand Colorado On Peak 8's many outdoor hot tubs adjacent to the bottom of the mountain (perfect for people-watching). Let someone else do all the work, and schedule a Himalayan salt stone massage at the hotel's Infinity Spa. It's just like a hot stone massage but with large salt rocks for a bonus exfoliation. Or stretch and reset at Breckenridge's newest yoga studio, Bhava Yoga, with restorative, yin, and Vinyasa flows that will give you the recovery your tired limbs need.
Do you ~really~ need an explanation for why this is so cool? Good Times Adventures offers an incredible dog-sledding experience just a 20-minute shuttle ride away from town. Here in the backcountry, you can greet (and yes, pet, under supervision) the Siberian Huskies that are more excited about running outside in the snow than you could ever be for a cold winter run. Standing on the runner's footboard behind the sled, you can pretend you're hauling ass in the Iditarod even though you're really just a few "mushes" away from home base with hot cocoa waiting. (After you've warmed up a bit, stick around for a guided snowmobiling excursion also offered by Good Times.)
Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing
If looking downhill from the top of a Black Diamond run is not your idea of adventure, there are still a lot of level-land things you can do in Breck. Strap on some snowshoes or skinny skis and simply step outside. Breckenridge has more than 30 miles of manicured cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. The best part about this kind of winter trekking: You get to skip the crowds at the chairlift lines. The only company you'll have out in the quiet solitude of the forest is a fox or two (or maybe a moose, if you're lucky).
Skinning or Uphill Skiing
The latest winter-sport trend is going to make taking the ski lift up the mountain seem lazy. Skinning, or uphill skiing, uses special gear and bindings to help you make your way up the mountain using only your body's own power, bypassing those "slackers" on the chairlift. Sound tough? It is, but the challenge and endurance are well worth the well-earned views at the top. Plus, you'll get the relief of heading back downhill on your skis—a task that, suddenly, has never felt easier. First-time skinners should come into it with a baseline skiing skill set (and ideally, some backcountry skiing experience), but you can gear up at Mountain Outfitters and learn how to tackle the trip with Backcountry Babes' ski mountaineering intro courses. (Oh, and once you've mastered the sport, come back to Breck in the spring for The Imperial Challenge, a pseudo triathlon that consists of running, biking, uphill, and downhill skiing. Piece of cake.)