Every time seeing Breck feels like the first time
I was a sleepy little kid full of donuts and chocolate milk – breakfast on the road in the car after the early morning Denver departure when I first set eyes on Breckenridge. I was pulling on my skin-tight navy blue, bell-bottomed ski pants as we rolled into town and even more than the storybook main street with its shops and buildings dating back to the mining days, what really struck me was the enormous set of peaks looming over the town like a giant genie. I stepped out of the car and shivered, not from the cold, but in reverence of their majesty.
A native Coloradan, I’d already been spoiled by the sublimity of the Rocky Mountains and the allure of other resort landscapes, but the mighty line of Breckenridge Ski Area, reaching that broad, dizzying high point at the top of Peak 8 over the natural cut of Horseshoe Bowl struck me as otherworldly. And it still does.
Every time I leave town and return, looking over the town of Breck at that squad of peaks among the Ten Mile Range, five of which now beckon with gleaming white cuts of ski trails and that high point now serviced by North America’s highest chairlift, it still sends chills of awe from my eyes to my toes.
There are not many towns in the world that possess this fairy tale-like beauty – towns that glow with character and energy, looking and feeling almost fake in their uncanny charm.
But let’s get back to the high point … the physical high point, that is. Anyone who has literally had their breath taken away by Breckenridge might feel validated to know that no matter how many years some of us have lived at 9,600 feet, returning after some time away still hits us right in the lungs. These days, the burn of oxygen deprivation trickles into the legs upon the season’s first hike to the true top of the world along the ridge line of Imperial Bowl or to the tippy top of Peak 6 to dive into those luscious jump turns down Zoot Chute or The Six Senses.
Even with no hiking necessary, each season’s inaugural trip down the wall-like steepness of the runs off of E-Chair always makes my forehead throb with adrenaline.
After so many years in town, shopping is something I admittedly take for granted, but every time I slow my pace strolling down Main Street, I’m reminded of tucked away treasures like Ole Man Berkins Bookstore with its stacks and stacks of books of all ages, colors and sizes like something straight out of a Harry Potter movie, or the sweet smelling Candle Gallery, where hot wax wafts through the air not from the tune shop but from the studio where artists craft one-of-a-kind masterpieces on site all day.
While the local culinary offerings have significantly expanded since my initial childhood visit to Breck, it’s truly mind-boggling that the mainstay favorites from decades of yore have not missed a beat – namely Downstairs at Eric’s, which still boasts one of the biggest menus in town with prices that I swear have not changed since 1989. There’s also The Hearthstone, while now rivaled by numerous other fine-dining sanctums, still manages to offer the most belly-warming creative concoctions and offers the most historic charm and stunning views, if you’re lucky enough to get a table by the window.
Like wandering through the International Snow Sculpture Competition and feasting your eyes on an unlikely fleet of magical, mystical creations, every time you enter Breck, no matter if a day has passed or a year, the place never ceases to get your heart beating a little bit faster. And it’s not just the altitude.