Summit County Travel Guide
Oh Colorado… if only I could take the whole city of Nashville move it to Denver, I would in a heartbeat. Rolling hills start to become rocky peaks just two hours outside of the city. There is so much of Colorado that I still have to explore, but my favorite place for a winter vacation is Summit County. There are four major ski resorts in the area, plus more within driving distance. As a gal who grew up snowboarding and now only does it once a year, it is a dream.
I spent Christmas with my family in my home state of Ohio, and we all flew to Denver on the 26th. Last year I also went to Colorado after the holiday, but I came down with some major altitude sickness and a sinus infection. This year I was determined not to get sick, so I drank copious amounts of water and took Acli-Mate once a day. I was a bit skeptical of the sports drink, but it seemed to work and kept me super hydrated. I also made sure to carry a mini bottle of hand sanitizer with me at all times because airports are a great place for lots of germs to live. Another thing to remember is that drinking at high altitudes is different. Take it slow and let yourself acclimate for a few days before popping open that tequila.
For ski trips, I highly recommend packing as light as possible because ski/board bags are so difficult to maneuver through the airport. We definitely did not follow this rule… and we struggled. We actually needed to get two rental cars to fit all of our things!
Where To Stay
Denver is about 2 hours from Summit County, and there are lots of places to stay. Last year when Kyle and I went to Colorado we stayed at an airbnb in Dillon, and then in a ski-in-ski-out lodge at the East base of Copper Mountain. If you are booking a trip, it is best to do it as far in advance as possible because prices sky-rocket during the holidays (if you are a working gal like me and have to travel when you have days off). This year we rented a condo (Lake Forest off of Dillon Dam Road) in Frisco, which is 20 minutes from Breckenridge and A Basin, and 10 minutes from Copper and Keystone. The views were great and the condo had a hot tub, so it’s safe to say I was happy with it :) If you have a bit bigger budget there are some amazing places to stay at the resorts, so you don’t have to drive and pay for parking.
If you have the time I highly recommend checking out the Sapphire Point Overlook and the Boreas Pass. To get to Sapphire point, you just drive around the Dillon Reservoir. Boreas Pass is closed in the winter, but if it isn’t too cold you can park and walk up at night to get amazing views of Breckenridge and the lights.
One thing I want to note before diving in to the details of each mountain is that there are two different season passes for this area of Colorado: The Ikon Pass, and the Epic Pass. If you are going to ski for more than a week, it is worth looking into getting one for the season. A Basin, Keystone and Breckenridge are all on the Epic Pass, and Copper is on the Ikon Pass. Before purchasing a season pass you should look into “black out dates.” This means that some resorts don’t allow you to ski with the season on peak days (holidays). It is also possible to purchase single tickets, but they are almost $200 a day at any of the various resorts. Before you plan your trip, lay out all the pricing options and pick the one that fits your budget the best.
I had been to Breck a couple times before this trip, so I was familiar with the terrain. There are relatively moderate blues and blacks, with a couple bowls at the top of the mountain (hiking required) that are considered double black, but aren’t necessarily too difficult. Most of the good views from Breckenridge are only on the top of the mountain, so it is worth going up there. The only way to get up and down to the lifts is by gondola, which can have a very long wait at the end of the day. There is one green run called four o’clock that takes you down to the parking area. If you can take this at the end of the day, DO IT! The gondola lines are not fun to wait in, and chances are if it’s a weekend during the holiday, you will have to also take a shuttle to your car. Overall, Breck is crowded, but has a great terrain park and moderate runs that everyone can enjoy.
I only got to ski at Keystone for one day, but it was definitely my favorite. The views are AMAZING. Since the mountain is facing Breckenridge, you can see a whole line of big, rocky peaks. It made me feel like I was on top of the world.
Keystone also has so many runs through the trees. It was almost like I could veer off the path on any given run and be in the glades. On the other mountains, there weren’t clear cut runs in the trees and they were too close together.
The only access to bowls at Keystone is by snowmobile, or mile hike, but there is plenty of steep terrain that’s accessible by lift. Another great thing about Keystone - Free parking close to the gondola!!
I am usually a big fan of Copper because it has steep terrain, but this year it disappointed me. It was extremely icy, crowded, and the lifts kept breaking down. On the plus side, it is easier to park and walk to the lift than Breckenridge. There is also a T Bar that will take you to the top, while in Breckenridge you have to hike. there are pros and cons to Copper, but check it out for your self and report back :)
I can’t speak too much for A Basin because we didn’t make it there, but if you visit Frisco, it is a great option. It is smaller than Copper and Breckenridge, but shouldn’t be as crowded.