I’m gonna be honest. I was very anxious about this trip to Breckenridge.
My first foray into the mountainous land of Breckenridge, Colorado was kind of crazy. I had only been snowboarding for about 2 years prior to that (I learned how to ski when I was 4 and transitioning from skis to a board was NOT easy) and the most adventurous place I had been to shred the gnar since learning was Wisconsin. Aka the land of cheese and moderately steep rolling hills. SO, needless to say, the powder-filled slopes and gorgeous scenery were a bit overwhelming to someone who hadn’t been back in 10 years.
My Attitude about the Altitude
I also weirdly felt the effects of the altitude – probably more than anyone else I was with on that first trip. So I was a little stressed out about the thought of being short of breath, fatigued and dehydrated during my second visit. However, I took a TON of steps to prepare and even put together this quick guide of tips you can take advantage of at the bottom of this post for getting used to the thinner, drier air. It also comes in handy for hiking!
First is the Worst, Second is the Best
Being as prepared as I was, I had a blast this most recent time. Not to say I didn’t have a blast the first time, but I was much better at boarding and staying hydrated and headache-free!
Additionally, the second visit was during what’s known as the spring ski season (we went the second weekend of April) which meant that the snow conditions were still fabulous, but we enjoyed our après ski in sunny 50-degree weather, which was different from our New Year’s Eve trip the first time around. Here is a breakdown of some must-try ski spots and restaurants in Breckenridge, Colorado!
Stay & Shred
Riley and I went with a group of 6 other people for a total of 8 staying in the Airbnb we rented. It was amazing. We were a quick 10-minute walk to the chairlifts on Peak 9 and a short 15-minute walk to the center of downtown Breckenridge.
There were two master bedrooms on the lower level, a huge family room/dining room with a fireplace, kitchen with room enough to prepare meals, a loft upstairs that slept 4, and two full bathrooms. The unit was also part of an association and we had access to the hot tubs and pool facilities – the perfect post-slope soak situation! You can check out the listing here.
Where to Hit the Slopes
As I mentioned, we were only a quick 10-minute walk to the chairlifts at the base of Peak 9. The Breckenridge Ski Resort is home to 5 “peaks” of trails ranging from easy green runs to elite double black diamond runs – spanning across Peak 10 – 6 (I’m just as confused as you are – especially since Peak 6 was the most recent peak to open. * shrug *) as well as a terrain park, tubing runs and more. I only stayed the first weekend and did two days of boarding, and made it to Peaks 9, 8 and 7. It was plenty for me!
Lift tickets can be a bit expensive but the Vail Ski Resort Group owns a ton of resorts (including Wilmot in Wisconsin as well as the popular Vail, Beaver Creek and Keystone resorts in Colorado, Whistler Blackcomb in Canada, Heavenly in Tahoe and more – you can see the full list here) and offers passes that, depending on how often you want to go, can get you a great deal.
Life Pro Tip: food and beverage on the mountain can be EXPENSIVE. If you want to save some moolah, head to the local grocery stores and stock up on Cliff bars and other snacks to tide you over. Many bases have complimentary water near their guest stations and restaurants, but you might also want to bring small bottles of water to stay hydrated!
Okay, But What About the Food?
As you can imagine, after spending the entire day boarding and burning upwards of 1200 calories each day, we were more hangry than Tom Hanks on that desert island when we got back. Since we had been somewhat frugal and brought some snackage with us each day, we decided to go big or go home when it came to dinner. Check out some of our favorite spots to grab a bite & unwind!
In queso emergency, I pray to cheesus to find a place like this in every city I visit. If you are looking for some killer Mexican food, head to Mi Casa and you won’t be disappointed. Their margaritas are amazing – and so is the guacamole. Not to mention the chile con queso.
As far as entrées go, I got the steak chimichurri tacos and never looked back. They were out of this world! The other great thing about Mi Casa is that they are conscientious about dining needs and have a gluten-free dinner menu. Though the kitchen is not gluten-free, they do have cooking techniques to make every attempt.
For dinner on the second night, Riley, my brother-in-law and his girlfriend decided to break off from the group and do a couples dinner date. We wanted to up the anti a bit, so we chose Hearthstone – known for its game-centric meat options and unique fine dining selections. (Side note: I DID wear jeans and a comfy sweater, and so did everyone else in our party of 4. Breckenridge totally gets me.)
This meal, again, did not disappoint. To start we got the charred octopus and the stuffed medjool dates (if you guessed that they were stuffed with cheese, you know me too well). For my entrée, I opted for the butcher’s cut steak and nearly died from an out of body experience.
My dish not only came with meat cooked to perfection, but also a ton of other goodies including beer cheddar twice-baked potato medallions, maple-glazed shredded brussle sprouts with pancetta and a panko breaded fried egg. That last bit was super intriguing to me because I’ve recently acquired a more advanced taste for eggs cooked various ways. I definitely recommend trying it. It was like a cheese curd, kind of, but a soft-boiled gooey egg. It was amazing all over all of my food.
Other Stuff You Can Put in Your Mouth
For most other meals we either ate at the house and cooked meals using the groceries we purchased at the beginning of the stay, or ate at the various eateries on the mountain. But what would a vacation be without a little more culinary exploration? Two of my favorite spots included the Coffee Depot and Mary’s Mountain Cookies.
The Coffee Depot
Situated right on the outskirts of the main downtown strip is an adorable little caffeine refill station called the Coffee Depot. I opted for the Chai Tea Latte because lately full-strength coffee has been making me feel kind of weird (and I also was very preoccupied about staying properly hydrated because of the altitude) and it blew my mind. The inside is just as cute as the outside and is full of goodies baked in-house and local swag.
Mary’s Mountain Cookies of Breckenridge
I’m a frosting freak and Mary’s Mountain Cookies delivered. There must’ve been something in the mountain air because I’m normally complacent being the only sweet-tooth of all my friends, but everyone was down to get some dough in their lives. Not only are there piles of fresh-baked cookies, but they also have sandwiches that feature their famous buttercream frosting smooshed between two cookies. I had the Ullr (named after the Norse god of winter, but in modern times is known as the god of skiing and is celebrate quite a bit in Breckenridge), which was the chocolate chip sea salt caramel with buttercream frosting. It was insane and I highly recommend.
Have you been to Breckenridge? Is there a spot I missed?! Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to check out my guide below for tips on how to deal with altitude.
5 Tips for Avoiding Altitude Sickness & Fatigue During Your Next Colorado Ski Trip
* Please note I was not ambitious enough to get a degree in medicine and you should most definitely consult with your medical provider before following any of these recommendations.
Call Your Doctor
This one’s the most important to consider for timeliness, especially if you are worried that the altitude will have a substantial effect on you. There are a number of prescriptions that can help you acclimate to the altitude on your next ski trip, but none of them are available without a prescription from your doc. Many times you can just phone your doctor’s office and they can call in a prescription for you without an appointment, but it may still take some time to complete the order. It’s probably a good idea not to wait until 12:30 PM when you’re leaving for the airport at 3 like I did. (Still face palming.)
Stock Up On Ibuprofen
Given the fact that I have won competitions for procrastinating (basically) and waited until the night before we departed to research any remedies, I figured I should also have a plan B should the prescription not come through (which it didn’t). A number of articles I had read noted that although there has not been any super concrete evidence or studies conducted, taking ibuprofen (Advil) can help to decrease inflammation, which is thought to be a response to the lower oxygen content of the air and a cause of some altitude symptoms. I took some on the plane ride to Denver, as well as during the car ride up to the mountains and over the first day or two of the trip and felt like it helped.
Acclimate at a Lower Altitude If Your Timeline & Budget Allow
Pretty much any guide to preventing symptoms of altitude sickness will tell you to spend at least a night at a lower altitude before heading up to the mountains. Seeing as the elevation of Breckenridge is 9,600 feet and the altitude of Denver is 5,280 feet, it would be ideal to stay over for a night so you can get used to the elevation.
Hydrate Like It’s Going Out Of Style
Because the humidity levels are lower at higher altitudes (the air is thinner and thus has less oxygen molecules) sweat evaporates more quickly and the thinner air causes you to breathe more rapidly and lose more water through respiration, it is essential that you hydrate more often than you normally would. It’s also important to take caffeine and alcohol consumption into account when at higher altitudes. I chose to abstain from coffee and only had a glass of wine or two at dinner and felt like it helped quite a bit. *Important: it’s also possible to drink TOO much water, which can be dangerous, so please be aware!
Get Some R & R!
Listen to your body. Higher altitudes mean that you may feel fatigued, or get fatigued more quickly. It’s best to listen to your body and give it what it needs. So maybe I fell asleep at 9:43 PM on a Saturday night. Sorry not sorry!
Basically, after following all of these guidelines, I realized my high-altitude self was the kind of person my regular-altitude self wished I could be with more exercise, water and sleep and less alcohol and caffeine. The trip definitely gave me some healthier habits to take home to Chicago!