I wish I were as fearless as the kids.
It seems kids have no fear … on ski slopes, anyway, even when it’s dumping snow and the wind is howling on Breckenridge Mountain (www.breckenridge.com), located two hours west of Denver. We’re above the treeline at the new Peak 6 bowls, which represent the biggest ski resort terrain expansion in more than a decade.
Some of the new 543 acres of new terrain on what is a top draw for family snow sports lovers is the most extreme at the resort – you must take off your skis and hike to reach it – but all of the buzz here has been about the above-treeline terrain for intermediate skiers. But when it’s snowing hard, and you can’t see much, it can be a little scary – for grown-ups like me, anyway.
Not so for the young skiers I met.
“Awesome,” declared 10-year-old Annika Erikson and her 8-year-old sister, Hailey, visiting from suburban Chicago.
“I got stuck in the trees!” Hailey’s twin brother, Ty, said proudly.
“My favorite run on the whole mountain,” added 16-year-old snowboarder Chris Sangiuliano, who is here with his dad from Philadelphia.
At the warming hut at the bottom of the lift, I stop to catch my breath and run into ski patroller Dave Leffler. “This is going to be more difficult for those used to groomers, especially on low visibility days,” he said. “On a blue bird day, it is beautiful but the visibility can go away faster than below treeline and blue skiers may not be used to it.”
Challenge is a good thing for all ages on vacation, and Breckenridge offers it up in spades, whatever the kids’ ages and ability – from the Four O’clock run, which is 3.5 miles long, the terrain parks, the kids’ trails through the trees and kids’ terrain features with names like Rip’s Ravine and Dragon Trail. (Kids can rent gear free in Breckinridge when parents rent from Black Tie Ski Rentals, www.blacktieskis.com, which brings the equipment to you.)
“It’s hard but not too hard to have fun,” explained Pavel Hamill, 9, visiting with his family from Boulder. That’s one reason Breckenridge is the family’s favorite mountain, said his dad, Paul.
Clearly, the picturesque historic mining town of Breckenridge coupled with the big mountain resort run by Vail Resorts can provide an ideal family getaway to enjoy the snow, rather than wallow in its misery at home shoveling, driving and juggling work schedules when school is closed.
There’s also a first-rate ski school, as well as on-mountain day care for infants. No worries either, if one in your gang has special challenges. The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (www.boec.org) offers a variety of programs for people of all abilities using the latest in adaptive equipment and one-on-one instruction.
On Breckenridge Mountain, you’ll find blue skies, spectacular mountain vistas and sunshine – at least some days – and more than 2,800 acres across five peaks to explore. Check out www.gobreck.com/families-breckenridge, which offers insider tips from local families, winter fun for less than $20 and other deals.
Off the mountain, Breckenridge (www.gobreck.com), with a population of about 3,000, offers up plenty of apres activities to suit everyone – from the giant ice castle, more than 9,600 feet, which will last till the end of March, to historic town tours, snowshoeing to the Breckenridge Distillery (www.breckenridgedistillery.com) where parents can get a sample of the award-winning bourbon whiskey while the kids play with the resident pooch to shops and restaurants that welcome both junior foodies and finicky eaters.
A trip here doesn’t have to bust the vacation budget either, with deals like the one from Wyndham Vacation Rentals that can save you 25 percent on a four-night stay (www.wyndhamvacationrentals.com, use the promo code EPIC). Stay Sunday and get 40 percent off that night’s stay at Beaver Run Resort (www.beaverrun.com) where kids loved the indoor mini golf and huge arcade.
“The kids love that the mountain is so big,” said Amy Krill, who is from Erie, Colo., skiing here with her 9-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. “They want to conquer it all,” she said.
Grown-ups, too, once some of us conquer our fear.