Denver to Breckenridge: 1.5-2 hours
Despite a majority of the drive’s airtime being given to petty heat adjustments, there were a good ten minutes of conversation between an elderly couple and myself regarding my lodgings: Doubletree by Hilton. The wife assured me that I would be flabbergasted by the hotel’s layout, and that the rooms were “all the way in the back,” said in a tone that seemed to convey my room was only accessible after a series of advanced rock climbs and flaming obstacles.
Regardless, her ranting meant nothing to me at the time, and once I made it to my room and reflected on the steps I took to get there, I concluded that she was either highly neurotic, completely insane, or high on PCP – either answer would have sufficed.
Overall, I was very pleased with my stay at the Doubletree. The lobby was laid out in a comfortable arrangement of couches and chairs, all anchored around the large fireplace which sat to the right of the front desk. A restaurant/bar lay directly in front of the entrance and offered a tasty breakfast, although $18 dollar buffets are a tad ridiculous.
After I set my bags down in my room, I headed out in the cold to meet the people who had, up until now, appeared only as email addresses in my inbox. I caught the shuttle to Fatty’s, a pizzeria and pasta place right down in the main part of town. The free shuttle service was something that offered endless satisfaction, seeing as walking at night when the temperature were just above zero was not the most pleasant experience.
At Fatty’s, all but Seth were sitting at the restaurant, pizzas and drinks spread out across a large wooden table. I greeted the group with relief and sat down for a beer and some pizza. Drew was overflowing with kindness as she made sure I had adequate food and drink, all while inquiring on what my trip over was like.
“It was a bit hectic,” I let them know, masking my nerves as memories of traffic-filled accelerations and robotic airline attendants flashed in my mind.
Now that the team was almost fully acquainted (Seth wouldn’t arrive until the next morning), we parted ways once again and headed back to the hotel to gain some sleep before the following day’s events.
Looking to rent your ski/snowboard gear?
One of the most convenient aspects to the Doubletree was the fact that there was a well-equipped rental shop connected to the lobby. Even the most civilian attire could be remedied with a trip to the rental shop – a mere 15 steps from the fireplace. Now there was literally nothing to excuse your lazy ass from not hitting the slopes.
Curious about hotel-to-slopes distances? I know that by experience, I can only speak for the Doubletree, however the layout of Breckenridge was not rocket science, and it was easy to see the hotels that weren’t a stone’s throw from skiable terrain were few and far between. It seemed that every lodging and employee in the area was cognizant of the fact that skiing/snowboarding was a central fixture to the entire winter Breckenridge experience, and making accessibility to the mountain easy for visitors was of the utmost priority.
In our case, the time it took from the front lobby to the chairlift, if walking at a brisk pace and getting onto your skis/snowboard in a timely manner, was about five minutes or less. It was no more than a parking lot of walking before you could throw down your sliding apparatus and get buckled in for a fun ride.
Breckenridge boasts a massive landscape, with almost 2,500 acres of skiable terrain. On almost every run we took, from the most modest blue to the steepest double black, high-speed lifts catapulted us high above the tree line. Resorts that have the means to make such upgrades are always appreciated because there are few things more excruciating then having your already frozen corpse be pelted mercilessly with snowfall as you slowly expire aboard the lift that has a single-speed capability similar to that of a 90-year-old with a walker; and don’t forget the bad ankle. On top of that, I never experienced a wait in line more than a couple of minutes – something that cannot be said when analyzing wait times at some of Lake Tahoe’s resorts.
Dane and I were given a guide, Ben, and he was stellar in his knowledge of the mountain and enthusiasm for Breckenridge. He would be the first of many I met during the stay that seemed to be completely elated at what they were doing and where they were doing it at. Breckenridge pride, perhaps?
First real night out
After an amazing day on the slopes, our group retreated back to the hotel to get ready for a night out on the town. I took this time as an opportunity to not only shower up, but walk some of Main Street. I was in the market for some forgotten toiletries and perhaps a good bottle of whiskey, both of which were available a couple of blocks from the first light I came to.
Downtown Breckenridge is pleasant, to say the least. A multitude of shops, bars and restaurants line the icy main road and offer up an inviting, lively atmosphere. If unmoving, cleverly lit appearances weren’t enough, the constant churning of people, all ping-ponging from door to door, was the icing on the cake of hospitality. Taking all of this into account, I made my way into a small market and purchased the needed supplies and a decent portion of whiskey – which sadly only about a shot or two made it out of the glass.
The Dating Game: Breckenridge style
Prior to this night, a heads up was given to each of our group on whether we wanted to participate in one of the Ullr events: a dating game put on at a bar on Main Street. I chose to remain a spectator throughout the scene, yet Daphne ended up behind the curtain as three eligible bachelors took their seats on the right side of the stage.
To her credit, she had some pretty entertaining questions. “If you were to have a mating call to attract me, what would it be?”
Bachelor #1: Awkward lion roar.
Bachelor #2: Not even memorable enough to recall, the guy was a douchebag.
Bachelor #3: “Ca-caw! Ca-caw!” He immediately won my vote, and apparently hers as well because she ended up going for him after about ten extra minutes of interrogation.
Restaurant #1: Twist
With a slight buzz reeling from the Dating Game, we made our way across the snowy sidewalks and down towards an awesome restaurant called Twist. The food was insane, and I mean that with the most positive of connotations. The chef, Matt, was a great guy, and he took the time to come up and hang out with us for the tail end of our meal. The drink menu was extensive and, coupled with the comfort food we had just enjoyed, left my mind and body in a happy place for the rest of the evening.
The big one: Ullr Parade
Before this day, when I pictured dog sledding in my head, I had little idea that it would be as fun and enjoyable as it actually turned out to be. Daphne picked up Seth, Dane, myself and Heidi (a great looking British girl who was new to our team that day) before making a short drive to the outer reaches of Breckenridge.
Once there, we confirmed our reservations and waited outside in the snow for a few minutes, excitedly trying to cast gazes towards the barking that emanated from behind the trees. Not five minutes had passed before three sleds flew by us, all towed by sets of eight dogs, two on each side of a line. A boyish excitement caused my heart rate to spike briefly, and we made our way over to the Huskies.
I volunteered to “drive” first, and soon Daphne and I clamored aboard the sled and waited for our guide, Tim, to give us the green light. Once he had done so, I let off the spiked brake and the dogs dug their paws into the snow, pushing powerfully off the ground and vaulting us down the path. The sheer cardiovascular power of these dogs would make a doped Tour de France winner blush, and they soon led us around a five-mile trek, with each set of two people getting a turn – one to drive and one to sit in. The rest sat in the seats, which Tim pulled by snowmobile and watched.
Watching did pay dividends, though, and before long, a crash was at hand. Dane and Seth were amidst a fast section of the course, and right as they were taking a hairpin right turn with considerable speed, Seth lost contact with the sled, briefly tried to run himself up to the current speed he was travelling through the air at, then made a chest-thumping collision with the snow, all while Dane and the dogs kept hurtling down the path. At this point, everyone behind the snowmobile was dying with laughter, yet Seth played it off as a good sport.