In the mining town turned ski town of Breckenridge, Colorado, obey this golden rule: if you’re coming for a winter getaway — or really any time of year — stake your claim to a villa at Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge.
Overlooking Maggie Pond at the south end of downtown “Breck,” Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge is the lodging closest to the lifts at the Breckenridge Ski Resort. During our recent stay, my ski buddies and I could walk right out the back of the resort, check our gear (or rental equipment) at the Charter Sports outlet and then cross a short bridge to the Quicksilver SuperChair lift providing direct service to Breckenridge’s Peaks 9 and 10. It was literally just a few steps to first tracks each morning.
Walk two minutes in the other direction — right past the resort’s heated outdoor pool and quartet of hot tubs — and you’re in the heart of downtown Breckenridge with its mother lode of shopping, dining, bars and entertainment.
Stretch, Ski, S’Mores and Soak
Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge offers studios and one-bedroom villas with views of the ski mountain and the Maggie Pond waterfall on the Blue River. The resort also features a fitness center and game room. Guests can review and choose from a daily schedule of activities for all ages, on- and off-site.
During a winter 2018 guys’ ski getaway, we started our days with an 8 a.m. pre-ski stretch at the resort’s ClubTHRIVE. After spending time on the slopes, we stopped for s’mores in the Columbine Courtyard and for wine and cheese in the resort’s Fireplace Lounge. Then, it was off to the hot tub to sooth our sore muscles, bathing in the sun reflected off the snowfields of the 13,000-footers looming above town.
Easy Access to Breckenridge Ski Area
With 34 lifts serving 187 trails and nearly 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, Breckenridge Ski Area has more than enough variety to keep skiers and snowboarders busy for a week of winter fun. Beginners can comfortably explore the lower mountain on Peak 8 and 9, with trails like Lower 4 O’Clock and Snowflake providing a scenic slide through mountainside condominium communities. Peak 7 is nearly all intermediate runs below the tree line, with Claimjumper and Monte Cristo affording wide, uninterrupted turns from top to bottom off the Independence SuperChair Lift.
A trio of terrain parks provide the trick fix to skiers and boarders of all abilities with small, medium, and large jumps and rails. And, of course, you’ll find Breckenridge’s famously snow-filled bowls above the tree line on Peaks 6, 7, and 8 — skiing virgin snow up here requires an early wakeup, but it’s an experience you’ll never forget, especially if you’re a powder-skiing novice like me.
Back in Time to Breck’s Mining History
Breckenridge may be a ski town, but it’s not solely a tourist town; plenty of people live here year-round, including descendants of the miners who founded the gold rush boomtown along the Blue River in 1859. There also are many who still remember when mining was king and the ski resort wasn’t much more than a tow rope and a couple of trails.
Nowadays, history buffs will love exploring the old saloons, hotels, museums and mining-town buildings along Main Street. We explored the area with a local guide, June Walters of the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance, who pointed out the false building facades used to lure investors out west by making the town appear more prosperous than it was. She also showed us small details like the inset doorways that once accommodated the swinging doors of saloons. Secret tunnels still run from uphill buildings to the riverside; these were once utilized by the town’s “respectable” gentlemen to discreetly sneak off to drink, gamble and womanize.
Visitors can also tour several historic mines near Breckenridge. Take a 200-foot plunge into the Washington Gold & Silver Mine and try your hand at gold panning at the Lomax Placer Mine.
Hit the Trail in Sun and Snow
The Blue River Recpath, which begins just across South Park Avenue from Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge, offers 7.5 miles of year-round activity. Cross-country ski and fat-tire bike in winter, or go cycling, running, and inline skating in the warmer months. The trail traces the path of the river as it bisects downtown Breckenridge, offering glimpses of old mining tailings and a historic river dredge. We explored the route via a bike tour with Ridden (Breckenridge), which included tasting stops at the Breckenridge Distillery and Broken Compass Brewing.
If you’d prefer to set off on foot, trailheads for dozens of hiking trails are within easy walking distance of the resort. The Marriott’s Mountain Village Lodge activities team leads guided hikes on the Burro Trail, the Select 10 trail and more. We joined a trek to Illinois Creek and enjoyed spectacular views of downtown Breckenridge along the way. (The resort activities crew can also arrange local history tours as well as snowmobiling, sleigh-ride, and snow-tubing tours).
In summer, take the Colorado SuperChair lift to the top of Peak 8, where you’ll find the new Epic Discovery adventure park with its ropes challenge course, zipline, climbing wall and other active attractions. Mountain biking is also popular in Breckenridge, and there’s an alpine slide and mountain coaster for those who prefer to take the easy way downhill.
A Treasure Trove of Restaurants and Nightlife
Marriott Vacation Club® Owners and guests can stop by the Breckenridge Market to stock their kitchen or grab supplies for the grill (which is located just outside the resort’s fitness center). Or dive into Breckenridge’s excellent dining scene, beginning in the resort plaza surrounding Maggie’s Pond — where restaurants like Sauce on the Maggie (Italian) and the Quandary Grille (steakhouse) are sprinkled among the ski shops and boutique stores. Across South Main Street in the multilevel La Cima Mall, you’ll find Empire Burger, the town’s top burger bar and one of my favorite spots for late-night eats.
In a town where nearly every other building was once a saloon, there are still plenty of places to get a good meal and a beer. Several bars in town, like the Gold Pan and Briar Rose Chophouse & Saloon, seem largely unchanged since the days where miners would pay for their drinks with gold panned right from the river. You can even channel your inner ‘59er by sampling the locally-crafted spirits from Breckenridge Distillery.
For classic après-ski, take your last run of the day down the Four O’Clock Trail, which ends at the edge of downtown. Then, pull up a stool at Downstairs at Eric’s, a combination sports bar and arcade that became one of our favorite hangouts during our week in Breck. Additional options include stopping by one of the on-mountain hotspots at the ski area, like the legendary T-Bar, or riding the gondola down from Peak 8 to North Main Street.
Whether you’re in town to ski, shop, spend a summer day on the bike path, or explore the town’s galleries, breweries and history, the best way to dig into the gold rush of experiences found in Breckenridge is with a stay at the Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge.