How To Plan A Stellar Spring Getaway At Breckenridge Ski Resort

A red-hot hospitality scene and mountains of snowy thrills make the classic Colorado ski spot a winning destination.

(Good Times Adventures)

Thanks to an elevation of nearly 13,000 feet, Colorado’s Breckenridge Ski Resort has one of the longest seasons in the country, with lifts running through May. Going to Breck right now means you get the warmest days with the longest daylight, the best prices on lift passes, and the best sales on ski gear. 

Long known for its thriving ski village energy and serious nightlife, over the past few years, Breck’s culinary and cocktail scene has become world class. Winter here is grand, but spring and summer are perfect times to go too, and you can still get in some great ski days if you go now. 

Getting There

(Stinson Carter)

I knew when I picked up a 2024 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro at the Denver Airport, it was as clean as it would be all week. It’s hard to find a vehicle on any Colorado road that isn’t splattered to hell with salted snowmelt during the ski season, so when I loaded it with ski and snowboard bags and headed into the mountains, I savored a last look at the mirror-clean exterior like the crust on a crème brulée. Thankfully, the Terra-colored 4Runner was begging for battle scars.

The fact that Breckenridge is just a two hour drive from Denver means you can get there without a flight connection even if you don’t live in a major city. Living in Charleston, SC, the ability to take a one-leg flight to a ski trip out west is huge. But this convenience also means Denverites come on the weekends, so a mid-week trip helps avoid the crowds and traffic. 

We pulled into the valet at Gravity Haus—our home for the week. Gravity Haus Breckenridge is a modern ski-in-ski-out compound with a serious coffee bar, a solid restaurant and bar with ski lift chair booths, all sitting just a couple minutes’ walk from the Peak Nine chair lift.

(Gravity Haus)

There’s a reciprocal club membership you can join that gives you access to discounts at sister properties in Vail, Winter Park, Lake Tahoe, Steamboat, Moab, and Jackson Hole, among other spots as far afield as Costa Rica. 

You learn pretty quick that none of the locals use the full name in conversation—always shortening the name of their town to “Breck.” I’m usually hesitant about going on a nickname basis with anything before I’ve earned it, but here you can drop the “enridge” right off the bat. 

The restaurant scene in Breck has gotten serious over the past few years, and the nightlife is as chill or as wild as you care to make it—cocktail bars, dive bars, martini bars—and it doesn’t take many rounds at 10,000 feet. Speaking of which, the altitude hit us on day one with mild dizziness. Stopping off at Harmony spa for an oxygen treatment on arrival is a way to hack the transition so it’s a lot easier. I started the day at sea level in Charleston, so the contrast was extreme.  

My first night’s dinner was at Radicato, an upstairs “Mountain Italian” restaurant on Breck’s main drag owned by chef Matt Vawter, a native son turned culinary bar-raiser for Breck. Born and raised in Summit County—which includes Breckenridge—Vawter cut his teeth as a chef de cuisine in Denver for a James Beard-winning chef before returning home to start his own restaurants—Radicato and its sister restaurant, Rootstalk. Both of which are raising the culinary profile of the ski town.

The atmosphere is elevated casual, which you could say for the whole town. Standouts of the meal were the Cappalletti with Ricotta and Speck and quail stuffed with fennel sausage, with espresso and Tiramisu rounding it out and erasing all memory of the day’s prior airport food. 

“How does Breckenridge fit in with the other Vail Resorts—is it the stoner brother with the VW van?” I asked, fishing for a sound bite from my local media liaisons over dinner.  

“Nah, more like the middle child who probably deserves a little more attention,” she said. After spending a week in town, I would now agree.

We had heavy snow on our first day on the mountain. Guiding us through it was a seasoned ski instructor named Tom Owens, who has been at Breck since 2006. I haven’t skied or snowboarded more than twice since my snowboarding days outside Seattle in the ‘90s.

For my wife, it’s been a decade since she’s been on skis. Having the help for the day was key, not only for knowing where to go and which slopes to choose, but to refresh the long-forgotten muscle memory and get properly acquainted with the new pains, creaks, and cracks that didn’t exist back then.

 It was the first time my wife and I have ever skied together in the thirteen years since we met, and Breck was the perfect place for us to go to figure out where we were on our respective learning curves and get back into the groove. Unlike some mountains that impose a certain level of aggression or ease on you, Breck has such a diversity of terrain that any level of skier can thrive here.

With 3,000 acres of mountain, 187 trails, and five peaks, you could ski a different peak every day for a week. If you’re an expert, Breck has some of the best high alpine terrain in the country, but if you’re like me and you want to carve different blues all day, you can do that, too. And at the end of the day, the town is waiting right at the bottom of the trail for your après adventures. 


The first day started out with fresh powder and our pro skis delivered from DPS. But after a few hours, I knew I needed to get some boot work done. Even if you don’t buy skis, having a pair of your own boots to travel with is a complete game changer. Even having a wrinkled sock or your long underwear cuff inside the boot can lead to a painful day on the mountain. And ski boots are meant to be worked on if you want to get them just right—heat-molding them to get a perfect fit. 

I went to Christy Sports just a few steps from Gravity Haus to get some boot work on my Salomon BOA boots. BOA fit systems are cables that tighten with a dial instead of only buckles, and it’s far superior to buckles for the range of adjustability.

They’ve been popular in snowboarding boots for years, but now are migrating with great success into ski boots. I quickly learned after a day on the slopes that a good boot fitter is as valuable as a good tailor, and Dan Lee, one of Christy’s Sports best, spent hours dialing in and re-forming our boots to get them just right. 

After a long day on the slopes, a blizzard descended on us as we headed to dinner and a tasting at Breckenridge Distillery. If you find yourself in a snowy ski village in the middle of a heavy snow, a 4Runner TRD Pro is the vehicle you want.  I would highly recommend making the short trek out to the distillery from the center of town. 

The Doctor and the Distiller

(Breckenridge Distillery)

Breckenridge Distillery is the brainchild of owner Bryan Nolt, a practicing radiologist and avid whiskey collector (and consumer) who started it as a passion project that then took over his life. (Though he still works hospital shifts as a radiologist a few weeks out of the year.)

He met us for a tasting and led us through a range that spans from a flagship bourbon, to aquavit, to chili-infused vodka. A boyish early fifties, Nolt has a hand in everything from what’s in the mash bill to what’s in the mashed potatoes at the distillery’s restaurant. The food is stellar, with dishes like tomahawk ribeye, and fried chicken dinner for two, and cocktails unveiled in a cloud of smoke from wooden cloches resembling bourbon barrels.

There’s also a whiskey club, the Dark Arts Society, on the premises—complete with a private dining room and whiskey lockers. Members pay $12,500 for a five-year membership, and in addition to the brass plaque locker and access to the private dining room, they get access to exclusive releases from the distillery. There’s currently a wait list for the club that’s longer than the city is high. 

Breckenridge Distillery’s bourbon is excellent, and made with local water, but the biggest surprise was how good some of their other spirits are, given that they’re known for their whiskey.

My Scandinavian brother-in-law, who joined us for dinner, said Nolt’s aquavit was the best he’d ever had. The fact that Nolt even attempted aquavit is rare enough, but to actually nail it speaks to his detail-obsessed mind that also somehow fits in a fly fishing obsession, a passion for tinkering with old Land Rover Defenders, and being a dad.

He pointed to a still on our tour and said, “I’m working on a Gin and Juice project with Snoop Dogg with that right now.” He left us with a few roadie bottles and a standing invitation for a fly fishing trip. 

Dog Day Afternoon

(Stinson Carter)

After a morning ski session of perfect snow from the dumping the day before, we hopped in the 4Runner and headed just outside of town to go dog sledding at Good Times Adventures. The private reserve was coated in a thick coat of powder that unlike the mountain, is left pristine other than a few sled and snowmobile tracks.

It was a Jack London novel of a backdrop. Good Times has the largest purebred kennel of Siberian Huskies in the lower 48 states—163 dogs that are born here, pulled through their prime, and then adopted out after retirement. They go through 48,000 pounds of dog food a year and 3,000 pounds of raw meat. 

Eight-dog sled crews are assembled by the guides like officers picking soldiers for a mission—eight dogs on a gangline towing each sled. Each position in the line calls for a different disposition, and the guides know which pups are good at listening, leading, following, and pulling. Each litter is named with a theme, and our lead dogs were born under the sign of Sushi—siblings Toro and Miso led our pack.

We took turns on the sled as driver and rider, alternating with four other people on a sled towed by our guide in a snowmobile. Driving it is exhilarating, but it’s not foolproof. You have to lean into turns, you have to put both feet on the brake to stop the dogs, and if you get to a steep hill, you have to hop off and help. You can see the body-sized divots in the deep powder on the sharp turns left by previous riders, alluding to how easily you can tip the sled if you don’t lean properly. 

(The Tavern Underground)

That night for dinner, I had no idea what to expect when we slipped into a small elevator in The Carlin—a restaurant in the European pub tradition with luxury rooms upstairs—and rode to the basement space called The Tavern Underground at The Carlin. The elevator door opened onto a subterranean restaurant and cocktail bar you’d expect to find in New York or London.

The actual bar dominates the space with a presence that tells you they’re serious about cocktails, but the booth tables set into alcoves encourage long meals and conversation. It was the restaurant I had the least expectations about, and the one that grabbed me the most.

The Firecracker Shrimp were sublime, and cocktails came to the table with artful touches like smoldering cinnamon stick garnishes. For an after-dinner drink, our bartender, Chase, brought a peach-cobbler-inspired cocktail lovingly named after his grandmother, with a toasted marshmallow and a homemade tiny shortbread cookie for garnish.

My wife always jokingly says she prefers to drink her dessert while I usually want to take a gander at the dessert menu, so this cocktail covered us on all bases. Resort town restaurants have a reputation for under-delivering because they can, so when a restaurant over-delivers, it really stands out. 

Battjes Crazy

(Keystone Resort)

For our last ski day, we headed 20 minutes up the road to Keystone Resort. Keystone has always had a more chill, kid-sibling vibe compared to the likes of Vail or Breck, but a new lift service to the Bergman Bowl that opened this season adds over 500 acres of ski terrain to the resort. There’s also a new luxe hotel and club, the Kindred, under construction within feet of the main gondola. The Keystone vibe is relaxed, fun, and unpretentious—a vibe embodied by our instructor for the day.

Ski School instructor Tieg Battjes showed up at our coffeeshop meetup point with a pair of bamboo ski poles and an attitude like we were on an inside-joke level before we’d even shaken hands. He’s been skiing since he was two and has been instructing for 14 years at Keystone. On the mountain, he was like a sober version of John Belushi circa Animal House, with Mr. Miyagi’s relentless eye for details. Nothing missed his gaze, and every hundred yards you’d get a detailed report of every improvement or flaw you were too busy skiing to be conscious of. 

As a lifelong snowboarder, I gave it up for skiing because I got sick of sitting down and buckling and unbuckling bindings for chair lifts. When I found out about Burton’s new Step-On bindings, I was ready to go back to boarding. Those first runs at Keystone proved that Burton has actually fixed my problem with snowboarding. All the old thrills came back sans the old hassles, and I could’ve carved alone all day.

But Tieg was such a good ski instructor that I wanted to take advantage. After sitting on my toe-side knees listening to him spew gold and changing lifelong poor ski habits in front of me in real time, I swapped the Burton Custom for a pair of Line Blade Optic skis so I could soak up his wisdom. Keystone was a nice changeup and an easy drive from Breck, and Tieg helped convince us this would not be our last time on its slopes.

Until Next Time


Our last dinner was at Hearthstone. Unlike the forward-looking spots we’d been too, Hearthstone is a bit of old Colorado housed in a circa 1883 family-home-turned-restaurant that still feels a bit like a late 1800’s house. Floral wallpaper and granola-crusted blackberry elk were enough to remember that miners and speculators once settled what the skiers eventually took over.  

On our final morning in Breck, after loading our monstrous ski bags, gear, and luggage into the back of our chariot—now completely smothered in Colorado sludge—we grabbed espressos from the coffee bar at Gravity Haus.

While heading back to the Denver International Airport, if smartwatches are to be believed, I was about 60% adjusted to the altitude after four solid days of action. We paid for our memories with sore muscles and a greater-than-usual need for Advil. Likewise, when we pulled back into the long-term parking lot, the 4Runner TRD Pro barely resembled the showroom-pretty SUV we started out with. We had all earned our badges at Breckenridge, along with the readiness to do it all over again.

Breckenridge Pro Tips

  • Breck has a lot of free public transportation options, including a gondola, busses, and ski-to-town trails, so once you get there you don’t need a vehicle to get around easily. 
  • Resist the urge to change up your wardrobe each day, and pack only one jacket and one pair of pants. Go with half leg versions of long underwear to avoid any wrinkling or pinching in your ski boot. 
  • Put hand warmers into any pocket you can find on your body. Never forget to zip all pockets before descending the slopes, or you’ll end up with snowballs where you’d least suspect. 
  • Hydration packs in your water are key to beating the potential for altitude sickness, along with the oxygen treatment. 
  • Ask the locals, not yelp, for their recommendations. 
  • Never keep your hands in the loops of your ski poles when getting on a lift. Trust me.
  • Get the Epic Pass and you can go to 42 resorts. It also gets you 20% off food on the mountain, hotels, and rentals, making it a no brainer. Breck has a “Turn in Your Ticket” program, which means if you skied on a day ticket this season or if you purchase a day ticket this spring at Breck, you can apply up to $100 of that towards the purchase of your 2024-25 season pass.