Gang, we had an amazing time at Breckenridge over the holidays. This was our second time going – we took the kids for Spring Break last year, too – and while there are a ton of different ski resorts to choose from…..we really, really love Breck.
There’s something so intense about a ski vacation – not only is everything so expensive (ski passes on top of plane tickets on top of rental cars), but much of your fun depends on weather, and god forbid anyone gets sick. Especially if you are traveling to the Colorado Rockies, where the altitude is no joke.
So Breck hits the sweet spot for us. It has the right mix of world class skiing, comfy places to stay close to the slopes, an apres-ski scene that’s also pretty kid-friendly, a charming downtown, fun activities off-slope, and……(and this is probably the biggest one for us)…..a seriously unique ski school experience for the kids. This ski school, to quote Raines, is ‘EPIC’.
Here are the highlights from our trip for some travel inspiration…..
Breckenridge Ultimate Four Ski Program
The premise is simple: one teacher, four kids, All. Day. Long.
The kids are first grouped based on skiing ability. But no group has more than four kids (and some groups end up with less!). This is an amazing way to learn how to ski (they’re literally out there from 9AM – 3PM, with lunch breaks, etc. obviously), but what impresses me the most is that the Ultimate 4 program can handle kids with skiing abilities that range from 0 (beginner) to 10 (expert).
My 9 year old Raines, for example, is a level 7. Last year for Spring Break he was placed into a group with three other kids at his level and a seriously fun instructor. They skiied everything. Raines did all the terrain parks (even the big crazy nuts ones), as well as back bowls where you have to drop in. The instructor was able to take him skiing in places that I wasn’t comfortable taking him – I’m not nearly that good. (Not yet, anyway, haha.) But be sure to tell the ski school what your expectations are (and how your kid likes to ski). I messed up this year – while checking Raines in I made an unfortunate joke about it being a long summer for Raines, and that I wasn’t sure if he remembered how to ski, har har har. Oops. He ended up being put into a lower level group and didn’t have quite the experience as the year before. Of course I didn’t catch it until it was too late, so lesson learned: if you have a daredevil kid who wants to be challenged….TELL THEM.
Not to worry…Raines got his bowl time in with Mike and I
Ultimate 4 lessons are also available to the 6-and-under crowd, but they’re separate from the big kids, so your four year old will never end up in a group with a ten year old, no matter the levels (and more importantly, if your ten year old hasn’t yet learned to ski, he won’t be embarrassed to be in a group with the young ones). My youngest, Pax, is six, and is also a really good skier. As it happened, Pax was the only Under-6 at his level that week, so it was just Pax and an instructor for three straight days. The difference in his skiing is astounding. (And if you are looking for an amazingly fun instructor for your little, ask for Jon. Pax still talks about him almost every day. They totally bonded, which is the best possible situation for wanting to get kids excited about skiing.)
If you guys are interested, here are direct links to Ultimate 4 lessons for 7-14 years olds, Ultimate 4 lessons for 5-6 year olds, and Ultimate 4 lessons for 4 year olds. All other kid lessons are here.
Oh and hey: Adult lessons, too. Hmmm….one of the adult offerings is family lessons, as well as adult versions of the Ultimate 4. I’m tempted. Next year, perhaps?
Sleigh Rides With Breckenridge Stables
Coming from the East Coast, we’re always dealing with the time change as well as the altitude. So by 5PM, we’re all EXHAUSTED. One activity that’s fun even when tired, is a sleigh ride up Peak 9 with Breckenridge Stables. They take off from the base of Peak 9 (the same place that the Ultimate 4 lessons start from), have hot cocoa available before the ride, and tons of blankets (you’ll need ’em). The ride is just partway up the mountain, but by the time you’re almost over the whole sleigh ride thing, they head back down, so the whole event is well-timed. Kids can sit up front with the driver, and take turns driving the sleigh. My boys loved it (and fell asleep promptly after).
Personally, I’d skip the sleigh-ride-with-dinner option. Dinner is just at Spencer’s (base of Peak 9) which is fine….but nothing exciting.
Stay: Beaver Run Resort
We love staying at the Beaver Run resort. It’s a set of ski-in, ski-out condos right at the Base of Peak 9. Which, incidentally, is where both the Ultimate 4 lessons and the sleigh rides depart from, so we can get to both easily without being late. (Lateness is a theme in our life.)
Ski-in, ski-out is admittedly a pricier option, but we’re pretty die hard skiiers, so for us, it’s worth the extra cost. Most days we’re on the slopes at 9AM, and don’t come back until the lifts close at 4PM. It’s nice being able to run back to the room for emergency clothing changes or quick lunch, etc.
In addition to the stellar location, Beaver Run has several sets of outdoor hot tubs, a big pool that has both indoor and outdoor sections, a steam room, sauna, a game room, and a market that has both doughnuts in the morning (this is Raines’ tradition – running out for AM doughnuts with Dad), and pizza at night. (It’s not East Coast pizza, but works if you are desperate). Also? Most rooms have humidifiers, which is crucial for us East Coasters.
We also appreciate that the pool is open really late, and that there are fireplaces in most rooms (and the lounge area next to the pool). We typically stay in Building 4, because it’s the closest to the lifts and also, uh…..that VIEW.
Where To Eat
Denver Pit Stop: Marcyzk’s
Sure, Breck has a Whole Foods close by (in Frisco, actually), but we love doing a quick pit stop in Denver at Marcyzk’s Fine Foods. Not only are the owners, Pete and Paul, the nicest guys ever (this was one of our go-to spots when we lived in Denver), but their prepared foods are stellar. Stock up on ready-to-heat homemade soup, or just tell the meat guys that you “need something you can cook quick, just in a crappy pan on the stove”. They prepped (chopped and seasoned) something yummy for us to stir fry into easy tacos.
Also grab some hoagies for the road. Pete and Paul are East Coast boys originally, and Marczyk’s has some of the best in Denver. (I love the Denver influences – like fresh arugula – on their decidedly East Coast Italian sub. YUM.)
Fav Breakfast in Breck: Kava Cafe
Um…I still dream about this place. Kava Cafe is teeeny tiny (and not *really* a sit-down breakfast per-se), but they do made-while-you-wait mini doughnuts (SWOON) and some of the best (and biggest) breakfast burritos around. The coffee is great, too. My only complaint is that they’re not within walking distance of Peak 9. Ah, well. Still worth jumping in the car.
(NOTE: They’re closed on Wednesdays….)
Fav Night Out, Breck: Downstairs at Eric’s
So…Downstairs at Eric’s is a Breck institution where it’s almost impossible to get a table without a major, hour-long wait. But here’s the secret: we don’t care. Mike and I lurk at the bar, and hand the kids $20. They run off to play at the attached arcade, and Mike and I have a drink and talk like real adults. The food is pub food, but good pub food (and they don’t seem to mind if you bring the chicken fingers over to the kids in the arcade). This place is just easy and super fun for kids….while maintaining a cool atmosphere for the adults.
On-Slope Dining: Just Get the Chili
The on-slope dining is pricey, but it’s totally worth getting the chili on the top of Peak 8 or 9. Not only is it totally part of the experience – coming in all windblown and cold for chili and a beer – but the chili is really good. You can pick from vegetarian, regular, or – our hands’ down fav – green chili (so very Colorado and not to be missed). It’s a little spicy, but so freaking perfect for warming up between runs.
Gosh, we had fun. We keep scheming on how to get back, SOON.
There’s just never enough vacation, is there?
Anyway, I highly recommend Breck and Beaver Run for families – especially for Spring Break when the temps are a *little* warmer, and the days a little longer. That hard-earned hot tub + glass of wine + sunset is…just….bliss.