Summer at Breckenridge
By George F. Karioris
While my skis are gathering dust and rust in the basement I’m going half-crazy with downhill withdrawal. It seems that I can’t do much about my beautiful ski edges slowly crusting over, but getting downhill?… well that’s a different story.
Leave your skis and boards alone for the summer and head out west to Colorado for some summer fun. If you’re thinking that Colorado without 100 inches of snow is like music without soul, you couldn’t be more wrong. The music of the mountains is played in a slightly different key in the summer, but it’s still powerful and enticing. The range of activities is a vibrant chromatic spectrum ranging from the simple to the sublime.
This summer my family & I packed up the mini-van, loaded the bikes on the rear-rack and pointed the nose west toward beautiful Colorado. Driving from Wisconsin to Colorado provides what seems like endless scenes of bucolic prairie, corn fields, and other flat (really, really damn flat) landscapes. It may seem like a scene out of “National Lampoon’s Family Vacation@” but I drove all of Hwy-80 West without once spotting Christie Brinkley in a red Ferrari convertible, and I assure that I looked!
We sojourned in the little village of Frisco, CO at a centrally located condo. Easy access to biking, hiking, and right down the road from one of the great summer recreation areas: Breckenridge. You can get to this gem in less than two hours from Denver following I-70 (just west of the Eisenhower tunnel) to Hwy-9. The center of summer activities at Breck is at the base of Peak 8. There one can find the lifts which will take you up the mountain on either chair-5 or the Colorado SuperChair.
Less than two months after concluding its 39th ski season, the Breckenridge Ski Resort ushered in summer with the opening of its Peak 8 Fun Park. Resort officials say summer attractions at Peak 8 have come a long way from 23 years ago when the resort opened the state’s first alpine slide, dubbed The SuperSlide, which is a half-mile long from top to bottom. Other day guest services include Amaze’n Breckenridge, a wooden maze where participants race against the clock, the SuperPutt miniature golf course and Alpine BBQ.
Mountain biking, hiking, and Colorado SuperChair rides are available at Peak 8 and Peak 9 activities include horseback riding and mountain biking.
SuperSlide single ride tickets are $8 for adults 13 and older and $7 for children 7-12 (children 6 and under ride free with a paying adult). Multi-ride tickets are available as well. SuperPutt is $8 per person for adults, $6 for children; Amaze’n Breckenridge costs $5 for adults and $4 for children for the first trip into the maze, additional same day maze visits are available for $2 each. Rides on the Colorado SuperChair cost $5 individually.
The Resort features more than 30 miles of mountain bike trails for abilities ranging from beginner to expert. Bike rentals include new bikes with both front suspension and full suspension. Rentals (which include a bike helmet) start at $12 for a front suspension bike and $18 for a full suspension bike. Children’s bikes start at $8 per hour. Trail and lift passes are available for $8 for single rides; $18 for all day. Children pay $6 for single lift rides and $12 for all-day lift and trail access.
And for those who wish to experience all the different possibilities available, there’s the Activity Pass costing between $45 and $50 (depending on the week) allowing the holder unlimited use of the SuperSlide, SuperPutt, and bike transport on the Colorado SuperChair. The Breckenridge Fun Park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day (the last ride up the Colorado SuperChair is at 4:30 p.m.). Once you’ve got your lift pass, you’re ready to hit the mountain and have some fun.
The SuperSlide is a set of three half-pipe tubes reached by Chair 5. If you can picture a bobsled run two-feet wide and half-mile long snaking its way down a blue ski run in the middle of summer, you’ve got a good image of the SuperSlide. The tracks are stratified into three general classes of “drivers”: slow, medium, and fast. I’d love to give you readers a review of the slow and medium tracks, but I only rode the fast track. Is there any other way to live? Each rider is given a “sled” to pilot while in the tube, this is a really clever device just big enough to get one’s butt and feet onto it. The only control the sled has is the speed-stick, a small handle sticking up between your knees. Control is simple: push forward – go fast, pull back – slow down, then just ride the track. Leaning into the turns helps keep the speed of the sled and provides that cool high-G feeling.
A properly driven sled can make the SuperSlide a heart-pounding adrenaline rush. On the other end of the spectrum, I saw grandparents with their grandchildren riding the slow track and having a great time, too. I saw one senior rider navigating the track with her knee in a hinge-brace, I wanted to applaud. Sure.. it lacks the total freedom of carving S-turns in fresh powder, but hey! it’s summertime. Relax and catch a sled ride under Colorado’s beautiful sapphire blue sky. Would you rather be at work?
If there’s a downside to the SuperSlide, it would be that the lines for the lift can get pretty long. the longest I waited was about 40 minutes, and that was during the middle of the day. Early and late in the day the line for the SuperSlide lift is almost non-existent. So, plan your day accordingly. When the lines for the SuperSlide start getting long, it’s the perfect time to grab a set of wheels and head up the mountain to do some mountain biking.
Breck has a great bike rental facility which will set each rider up with a great bike for the trails. My wife and I both got full-suspension Gary Fisher and Cannondale bikes and helmets (required) and prepared for my first time on any mountain ever. Before the rental guys let anybody out onto the slopes they require that you watch a short video. While I think that it’s probably a legal CYA thing for the resort, it provided some good hints for Breck’s rocky and rutted bike trails. We took the Colorado SuperChair to the Vista Haus where the lift turned around and prepared for the ride down. I chose the Pioneer Trail to ride, it is rated for all riders as beginner/intermediate. The Pioneer Trail is a 3.7 miles long pathway with mostly rocky and loose terrain with hairpin switchbacks. The great bike I had rented cruised over the rough crud and slippery dust covered stones easily. As we worked our way down the mountain we meandered in open slopes and through shady cuts through the trees. The ride seemed challenging the first time, but then as I acclimated to the geography of the incline my confidence increased and the ride became easier.
A quiet moment between sliding and biking was spent on the Breck’s SuperPuttm, a small putt-putt golf course at the base of the lifts. While not a heart stopping thrill, it did provide some truly needed relaxation time between mountain sports. Coincidently there is also a food vending operation here, too. It’s BBQ style food: burgers, dogs, etc. cooked up fresh in the mountain air, good enough to satisfy a high altitude hunger, and certainly conveniently located. Hiking around Breck you can discover stunning vistas and colorful fields full of mountain flowers. Be sure to take enough time to shed the shackles of your regular routine and really enjoy the atmosphere.
I’m glad that I had the opportunity to do Breck in the summer. In addition to the wonderful activities immediately at the Breckenridge resort, there is a cornucopia of other things to see and do in the area. Hiking and rafting are high on my list and I wouldn’t miss them for anything. Kayaking on still water is another very approachable activity for the inexperienced or the whole family.
In Europe the people refer to time away from home and work as a “holiday” instead of a vacation. I like that concept, and consider my trips to the mountains in winter and summer as holidays. The glory and majesty of the Colorado Rockies is a holiday from my Wisconsin reality which includes work and other mundane tasks. so, advice to my readers, go to the mountains. Summer, winter, or any time you can get away. Make your own special holiday.
Published August 2001