Taking a break in Breckinridge: What to do with a weekend in ski paradise

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With shins sore from a day on the slopes, I eagerly await a table to sit down with a hoppy beer and a massive burger to restore some energy. At this altitude, drinks hit faster, and fatigue sets in quicker, so finding the right spot for a break is paramount. Thankfully, Breckenridge has more than just a world-class ski scene, there’s no shortage of incredible places to eat and drink as well.

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I may have grown up in a ski town, but while the Poconos felt like a massive mountain when I was a kid, compared to Colorado, the slopes are barely a hill. The bunny slopes at Breckenridge seem longer than the longest slopes at Camelback. The Poconos also sadly don’t have anything near the restaurant scene that Breck does. When I first skied outside of Pennsylvania up in Vermont at Killington, I was amazed. I didn’t think a ski run could last nearly an hour or that you might find actual restaurants at the bottom of a slope. I was amazed and didn’t think skiing could get any better.

When I discovered Breckinridge, my first experience skiing out west, I felt like Vermont was a bunny hill. Looking down from the peak of the mountain, above the tree line and across the Rockies, I finally realized what real skiing was. Colorado has ski runs so long you need to stop for a drink in the middle because your legs get sore. Skiing down the bowl of the peak, I felt like a true pioneer. I even did some backtrail skiing through the woods which felt more like a hike than skiing. I still never got to see a moose though.

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To really get ready for a long day crushing the slopes and riding the white waves, breakfast at Blue Moose Cafe is a must. With a menu that is eclectic and lengthy, there’s something filling to fit any taste. I go for the spicy scramble, a massive plate of meat, cheese, and sauce over potatoes that amps me up for the day. Of course I add on the green chili, a necessity in this part of the country. The altitude can do weird things to the stomach, and paired with a heaping serving of green chili, it gets even weirder. The mounted moose head is the closest thing to a moose I see the whole trip.

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During my visit to Breckenridge, I stay at the Park Place Condominiums, a ski and stay locale right at the base of the slopes. Incredibly convenient is the ability to get a lift up the mountain a short walk from the lodge. On the long ride up the lift through the deserted woods, I keep my eyes peeled for wildlife, but instead I get treated to incredible views over the mountains. I also take in my first views of the untouched fluffy powder I’ll enjoy the rest of the trip.

After a morning carving the slopes, I’m ready for a break to recharge. I discover Robbie’s Tavern, right at the base of the slopes where the firepit’s glow beckons me in. I discover a vast food menu, and more importantly, a delightful craft beer menu. The fire pit is toasty and the sun beats down, but I’m still thankful for my hat and gloves out on the patio. Colorado, perhaps because it’s closer to the sun, seems to feel warmer than the temperature indicates.

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Bolstered with a bit of liquid courage, I head up to the bowl on the peak of one of the mountains. I’m a competent skier, but not as strong on this kind of vast mountain. I slowly pick my way down the mountain, legs burning the rest of the way, but happy with my progress.

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That night, I head into town after the sun sets and the slopes close. I discover a cozy little cocktail bar called Apres, perfect for my after ski libations. Apart from the excellent cocktails such as a Moscow Mule on tap, there’s a pretty good craft beer menu too with some hearty choices perfect for a frosty evening. There are even board and card games for groups.

For dinner, I head over to Hearthstone, an upscale farm-to-table type of restaurant in a historic atmosphere. There are an interesting variety of protein options on the menu including wild boar and elk. I’m a sucker for different types of meat, so I get the boar meatballs and the elk chops, both are succulent and delicious. The wine isn’t bad either. It’s a great place for a special occasion like a first visit out west to ski.

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Back in town, I feel compelled to check out Breckenridge’s largest brewery, Breckenridge Brewing. The brewery is still a small operation, but you’re likely to find their brews in restaurants and beer stores. On tap are only about 8 beers, but there is a nice infusion of hop-forwardness and some funk. For whatever reason, hoppy beers always seem to taste better after a day of exertion. It’s a little touristy inside, but the atmosphere works and feels like the right place to go after a day up the mountain.

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Breckenridge’s other brewery, across town, Broken Compass, is less of a tourist spot, and has a massive menu. Inside, one of the tables is a converted ski lift chair. The beer is even better here, though after sampling nearly the whole range plus the altitude, I’m in need of a little fresh air.

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I find it by taking a walk over to Breckenridge Distillery, a large restaurant and tasting space that looks much closer on Google Maps than it feels walking along the side of a road in the dark on a freezing night. The spirits here are incredible and can be tried straight or in a plethora of cocktails, highlighting the spicy notes or smoothness. The menu looks pretty good too as does the food going past me to tables.

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The next morning, I hit the slopes again. I fight my way back down the peak again, on a slightly different path that is perhaps even more intense. After another leg-shaking run down, I decide to give my legs a break and take it a bit easier the rest of the day. The time for being a hero has passed. At least I have a hot tub back at the lodge to restore my wobbly legs.

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On the way back out of town, I stop right off the highway in the old mining town of Idaho Springs. Along the quaint old-timey main street of the western town, I find Tommyknockers Brewpub. Inside I find a pretty large brewery and restaurant with a great menu of hearty pub food. I grab the homemade jalapeno poppers, massive peppers lightly breaded and fried, as well as the huge burger, of course with green chili on it. I won’t forget my Colorado adventure for a while as a result.

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After a wonderful adventure in Colorado, I have to head home. My first trip out was a huge success and I discovered a wonderful city that I know I’ll be back to. With not just great skiing, the best I’ve ever had, but also world-class restaurants and breweries, Breckenridge is the perfect place for me. I can’t wait to get back out this winter for some more shredding.