The sun sets and the lights come up over the village of Breckenridge, Colorado.
MATT INDEN/Weaver Multimedia Group.
SCOTT HENDERSON, Special to SnowSeekers
– Feb. 11/10
COLORADO, US — “We could take the limo.” With these five words the planning of the ski trip to Aspen, Vail and Breckenridge was complete. To celebrate a couple 40 year birthdays, four of us were heading to North America's Ski Mecca: Aspen, Colorado.
A bit of math revealed that a limousine and driver almost equalled four plane tickets and a rental car. It would be a throwback to camping out at ski resorts in a VW van but hey, this is a different age.
We would finish in Aspen for the ESPN Winter X Games, but hit Breckenridge and Vail first. Aspen always comes up when one thinks of the world's top ski destinations and for good reason. It first opened in 1947 with the world's longest chairlift and three years later it held the first FIS World Alpine Championships in North America. As a ski town, Aspen flourished and built its reputation by offering the best ski and lifestyle experiences. It was the perfect final destination. First up though was Breckenridge.
Breckenridge ski resort opened 14 years after Aspen, but it was not until the Eisenhower Tunnel, on Interstate 70, was completed in 1973 that Breckenridge really started to grow as a ski resort. The tunnel reduced drive time from Denver to Breckenridge to an hour and a half. Easy access to recreational activities in the high country increased its popularity.
Every year tonnes of skiers and visitors visit the Town of Breckenridge and in 2003 it was the second most visited ski area in the USA.
It was dark when our limousine rolled into Breckenridge but after a night's sleep, we were on the slopes at 9 a.m. With a summit elevation of 2,926 m, a vertical rise of 1,036 m and total skiable terrain of 904 hectares, Breckenridge has lots to offer the skier and boarder. While it has an annual snowfall of 762 cm, we were facing a base of 90 cm and no new snow.
This changed as we got on the lifts and it started snowing lightly. Sixty-seven per cent of its terrain is comprised of expert and advanced runs making Breckenridge a challenging ski hill. Our group liked the blacks of Imperial Bowl and as it started to snow more, the black runs off of Chair Six provided good tree skiing. For those that don't mind a short hike, Peak 7 Bowl is highly recommended.
Breckenridge is very windy and while this does add some extra powder with wind blown snow from other mountains it did force a few brief lift closures. As every rider and skier knows, skiing is only three quarters of the fun, so with the mountain explored it was time to check out Breckenridge's après ski.
Breckenridge offers just about everything you want after a day of skiing. It has a variety of options for bars, restaurants and shopping. There is a good sense of community in the village and it is very friendly.
Those looking for good DJ music should try Celia's in the village. Breckenridge offered a great taste of what was to come and the perks of limousine skiing kicked in the next morning, as our driver dropped us at the bottom of Riva Bahn Express in Vail Village.
The back bowls of Vail, Colorado.
JACK AFFLECK/Special to SnowSeekers
Vail Mountain first opened in 1962, five years after it founders, Pete Seibert and Earl Eaton, first climbed Vail Mountain and realized its potential for a world class ski area. Compared to Aspen and Breckenridge, Vail has developed more as a ski village than an real town. While this reduces some of its over all charm, it has led to one of the more beautiful ski resort villages.
From the newly redeveloped Vail Square to the vintage Vail Village, one has the feeling this resort is purpose built for skiers.
As one explores Vail Mountain's terrain it is easy to see why Vail's tagline is Like No Place on Earth. Vail's total skiable terrain is 5,289 acres, more than twice that of Breckenridge and it has a seemingly unlimited amount of large bowls offering amazing tree and glade skiing. It's Back Bowls alone count for 3,017 acres of skiable terrain.
As we arrived in Vail, they had just had 40 cm of fresh snow over the last two days. This made every run off of the Orient Express and Tea Cup Express chairs in the Back Bowls heavenly. For long, perfect tree runs through great bowls, Vail can't be beat.
While the best après ski bar is located in Vail Square at the Canadian bar and restaurant Garfinkel's, the best nightlife is in Vail Village. The Red Lion and The Club offer live music for all generations and Whiskey Jack spins DJ music until late. The best find in Vail Village was The George.
This comfortable pub and restaurant features great food and a pool room with a bank of leather recliners to lounge on while you wait for your shot. After a hard day riding Vail powder, recliners next to pool tables is akin to paradise.
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