Breckenridge Ski Review

Breckenridge, Colorado claims to be one of the largest and most-visited ski resorts in North America, but it is not easy to get much information on the mountain related to ski trail reviews. All the search engines spew out is sales info on condos and travel packages. Here are some usable reviews: NYTimes, Dom's Skiing Breckenridge, Epinions.

So, here's a collection of brief points and answers a first-time traveler might want to know. Mostly from the point of view of intermediate skiers, who may also handle a few of the black diamond expert trails.
Here's a (large PDF) Breckenridge trail map.

  • Altitude-sickness is real! There is a lot of information on this on the web. For recreational skiers, not a serious problem, just take headache medicines every day - good chance of a splitting headache everyday. Climbing uphill is also a strain, so avoid it.
  • It is not called Brecken-wind for nothing. Extremely windy and blustery at the top of the lifts. One of the days, the important Beaver Run Superchair was closed all morning, causing major backups on other lifts. And Peak 10 Falcon Superchair was also closed - which meant no Peak 10 skiing.
  • Pre-peak season such as end of January is nice - not very crowded, but still great packed powder conditions. Most lifts had no waits, or very short waits, except for some of the key Peak 8 and Peak 9 lifts. Definitely nothing like the reported 45-minute waits during peak season here. Entry to lifts is not always well organized - just a mass of people all converging to the chair and merging crowds. Easier to squeeze in from the outer rows.
  • Peak 7 is great for intermediates, and much less crowded. Peak 8 has easier trails, and is very crowded. Peak 8 has expert areas at the top. Peak 9 is also crowded, with more intermediate trails. Peak 10 has mostly expert trails, with a few advanced-intermediate blue-blacks that are great for adrenaline rushes for intermediate skiers.
  • There are some relatively easier expert black diamond slopes - Shock on Peak 9 is steep, but is very short (less than 200 feet). The T-Bar accessible and groomed Pika on Peak 7 is supposed to be not very tough too - though the long T-bar ride at this height in the high wind conditions on this mountain may be more of a challenge than the Pika trail itself.
  • Peak 9 has decent base lodge area - most others do not have large public areas to rest (Peak 7 for example, has a "wait to be seated" restaurant). Restrooms available in all base areas.
  • The mountain overall has very good signs, easy to figure out trails and bases. Avoid the yellow-black dashed lines on the trail map - these indicate catwalks, and are one way to get from one peak to another. But there are alternate ways too, taking the lifts for example - the trail map at the site has all the details. In a pinch, catwalks are fine, but again, given the altitude, unless you are used to hiking up at 2 miles above sea level, it is good to avoid these.
  • Renting from, which is the Breckenridge Sports shop, is very convenient. They have shops on S Park St, as well at the base of every Peak (at least 7, 8, 9). So, very easy to change equipment and/or return it.


  • Alarming signs on the road and on the web, about "chains required". On the day we were there, Vail Pass had Chains Required conditions. But - from what I can tell - chains are required for commercial vehicles only - I-70 itself is nicely plowed so the tires hit bare pavement and cars/SUVs should be fine, and are not required to put on chains. Still, a 4-wheel drive is a good thing for in-town driving and getting to the condos. On I-70 itself, there are long 6-11 mile 5-6% gradients from Denver to Breckenridge, and even steeper if going to Vail. Note that rental car companies do not provide chains, and I understand they also do not approve of adding chains to their cars. But, at least based on a web search, chains have not been necessary for cars on I-70 in any recent period.
  • Regular is 85 Octane in Colorado and not 87 like rest of the country! But that is just fine, something to do with the altitude. So, if renting a car/SUV that takes regular, ok to fill with 85 Octane, no need to upgrade to 87 Octane.
  • In town, a car is not needed at all, there is excellent public transportation, and it is free. Living in-town, everything is within walking distance.
  • There is a shuttle from Denver airport to Breckenridge - but at $80 per person each way, it may be cheaper to rent a car/SUV.
  • TripAdvisor has a lot of reviews of the lodging, but some seem to be overwhelmingly negative - but there is also some helpful information at that site. These are owner occupied rentals, so there will be differences, but at least one of the condos - one two-bedroom unit at Pine Ridge Condos - was well kept, clean, and certainly looked old, but had very new appliances, everything was working, and even had a steam bath. And the location was very good - ski-in, bus to ski-out (though one could climb 400 feet to the Snowflake lift!), and walk to Main St.


Peak 8 tip and uphill access

A tip: Peak 8 tends to be more crowded and it gets crowded early b/c most people take the gondola up. Instead, take the bus to Peak 9 and dodge a few crowds.

And for those comfortable w/altitude and the idea of hiking uphill, check out some skinning routes in Summit County, including a few at Breck.