As evidenced by the return of jeans and sweaters (I, for one, am still clinging to my flip flops...), the seasons are a' changing. And crazy as it may seem, fall is actually a great time to start thinking about ski season since discounted tickets, passes, and accommodations are cropping up at just about every ski area. Today, I'm delighted to share a sponsored guest post by fellow blogger Shannon Entin for GoBreck and Back to Ski. Thanks to Shannon, I now want to eat a pile of crepes.
First, about Back to Ski: Back to Ski is a new website that has tips on how to plan a family ski vacation, how to get your family geared up for winter sports, how to find great ski instruction, and what the best ski resorts are for families. During Back to Ski Week 2013 from September 16th to September 20th, 2013 you can enter to win some fabulous skiing prizes.
Breckenridge, Colorado ranks at the top as my favorite ski resort destination for several reasons: non-stop flights from the East, an easy ride from the Denver airport, and a huge amount of terrain, with nearly every peak offering a mix of expert, intermediate, and beginner terrain so families can ski and ride together. And I'm captivated by the character of the bustling, Victorian-era mining town that is seamlessly connected to the mountain. Almost everything is within walking distance or is easily accessible from a free shuttle or via the gondola, which you ride amid stunning views. You can even ski directly into town.
There are plenty of ways to spend your time on and off the slopes; here are seven of my recommendations:
1. Visit the arts district. At any time of the year you'll find hands-on, public workshops for a variety of ages. Try drawing, painting, metalsmithing, printmaking, ceramics, and more. Little Earth Studio and Ready, Paint, Fire both offer ongoing children's art programming. You can also explore the town's many art galleries or take in a show at the Backstage Theater.
2. Go dog sledding. One of the highlights of our recent trip to Breck was dog sledding with Good Times Adventures. While mushing and being pulled along a forest trail by a pack of beautiful Siberian Huskies might sound super-adventurous, it's actually ideal for all ages and perfect for multigenerational trips. Our expert guide knew exactly what portions of the trail would be slow and flat and therefore easiest for older adults and young children. My 8-year-old daughter did it and while she was a little nervous at first, you can see the triumph on her face at the end.
3. Walk down Main Street. Breckenridge is the oldest Colorado town west of the Continental Divide and has more than 250 historic buildings. There are a variety guided walking tours available covering everything from the town's saloons, to tales of haunted buildings, stories about the Gold Rush, and a tour on snowshoes. The shops and boutiques on Main Street are primarily small and independently-operated each with its own unique personality that goes beyond the typical souvenir shop. After shopping, grab a warm drink and a crepe and sit by the outdoor fire pit.
4. Fill your belly. Downtown Breck has a diverse selection of restaurants and food carts. My favorites include: Crepes a la Cart, offering warm and crispy crepe with your choice of sweet or savory fillings; Empire Burger, which has an amazing variety of burgers and flavored dipping sauces for your fries or onion rings; Downstairs at Eric's, a family-friendly arcade/sports bar; Swiss Haven Restaurant where you can sample fondue; The Bond at Breck for hearty breakfast burritos; La Francaise Bakery for chocolate-filled beignets; and Mary's Mountain Cookies where you can't go wrong with frosting-filled treats.
5. Ride the Gold Runner Coaster. Breck's alpine coaster is a low-thrill ride that gives you complete control over your speed. The coaster cars allow for single or double riders and you easily control the speed with a lever at your side. Fun for skiers and non-skiers alike, the coaster twists and dips past the slopes and through the forest.
6. Cavort with the kids. Breck has some unique features for kids. Off-mountain they can sled at Carter Park or skate at the Steven C. West Ice Arena. On-mountain there are four kids' adventure zones with special themes, like the Dragon Trail and Haunted Forest. These are simple, beginner trails that wind through a small portion of forest and have features like castles, giant spiders, and tunnels. The younger kids in our group loved being able to ski "in the trees" like their older siblings.
7. Have an epic day on the slopes. Of course, you're in Breck to ski, and the mountain does not disappoint. For my family, Peaks 7 and 8 were the places to be. The big boys headed up the Imperial Lift, the highest lift in North America at an elevation of 12,840 feet. The rest of us enjoyed the wide, meandering intermediate trails that offered ample opportunity to scoot to the side and ski through small sections of trees for a low-risk thrill. If you're an advanced skier, don't miss the back of Peak 9.
And be sure to take advantage of Epic Mix. This feature is embedded in your lift ticket and its app allows you to track your vertical feet, buy and/or share photos on Facebook and Twitter, and earn pins for feet skied or expert trails conquered.
Shannon Entin is a family travel writer and lover of snow. Passionate about road trips, her goal is to drive through all 50 states in America, chronicling her adventures at 100 Routes Across America.