Breckenridge, Colorado: Winter Travel Tips

Combine mountains and snow in the United States, and you likely have a popular winter travel destination. From skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and tubing, there are plenty of activities for adventurers of all skill levels. Not to mention fireside dining and hot toddies!

While Mike is an experienced skier, I was not really prepared for our trip to Breckenridge. Thank goodness we were staying at our friends’ amazing Airbnb, because I would’ve been scrambling the whole week without their thoughtfulness and generous amenities (everything from a fully-stocked chef’s kitchen and heated garage to a spa-quality sauna and high-speed internet).

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A view of Peak 8 from the Breckenridge Nordic Center’s snowshoe trail

Here’s what we learned from our experience that will help you enjoy your Breckenridge adventure:

  • Altitude. Breckenridge sits at nearly 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) above sea level, and each of us experienced different reactions to the altitude. Mike was a little queasy, Ben was sleepy, and I felt dried out. It typically takes your body three to six weeks to adjust to the effects, so we never really got over it. When people advise you to take it easy at high elevations, take them seriously.
  • Hydrate. The best thing you can do for yourself at altitude is stay hydrated. I drank at least double the amount of water and tea that I normally do, and it still probably wasn’t enough. Cut back on the alcohol, too. You won’t need as much to feel a buzz anyway!
  • Dry skin. With the altitude, sun, and wind, my regular moisturizers and lotions didn’t stand a chance. I applied them twice as often and in thicker layers, but it still wasn’t enough. Pack some heavy-duty creams and balms, and be sure the daytime formulas have sunscreen. You can still get a sunburn in the snow.

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  • “Colorado casual.” I brought a few outfit options for dressier dinners, but I needn’t have bothered. Even the nicest restaurants we visited in Breckenridge had patrons in boots, jeans, and hats, which our friends call “Colorado casual.” It’s cold, and most diners are heading straight to the restaurant from the slopes.
  • Grocery store glut. If you opt to cook rather than eat your meals at restaurants, then plan to do your grocery shopping earlier in the day. Once the last ski runs wrap up around 4 p.m., the grocery stores are a nightmare. The same goes for package and convenience stores.
  • Restaurant reservations. Just as the stores are spilling over with patrons when the slopes shut down, the restaurants and bars are filling to the brim, too. Even an early dinner for two can require a reservation at the popular eateries, and it’s absolutely necessary for larger groups. Call at least a day or two in advance for the best choice of time and table.
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Bring your best bud to the brewery in Breckenridge. There are tons of dog-friendly spots! (image: Summit Daily)

  • Pet-friendly spots. Coloradans love their dogs, and you’ll see them in stores, restaurants, and breweries throughout Breckenridge. While this is common in lots of U.S. cities during patio weather, it’s a year-round occurrence in Colorado. Our friend Steve and his dogs love to hang out at Broken Compass Brewery.
  • All-wheel drive. If you’re visiting Breckenridge in the winter, an all-wheel drive vehicle is a must. It’s worth the expense to make sure you can get up and down the mountains without sliding into a ditch, which we saw happen several times during our stay. 
  • Not all pass prices are equal. Check all of your options when you’re buying ski passes, lift tickets, and the like. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tube when we visited Keystone Resort, but it turned out to be a dollar cheaper to buy a tube pass than it was to buy a lift ticket by itself. At the Breckenridge Nordic Center, two friends and I shared a multi-punch pass that was much less expensive than three individual tickets for snowshoeing.

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Have your own tried-and-true winter travel tips for Breckenridge and other snowy spots? Share them in the comments!