Many travelers primarily think of skiing and snowboarding Breckenridge, Keystone and Copper Mountain, but these Summit County resorts, at the top of the Rockies, are terrific year-round destinations. There’s unlimited hiking on 14,000 foot mountains, mountain biking on rugged trails, and biking routes that climb and descend between towns. The region also offers excellent golfing, fishing and rafting. With to-die-for scenery, excellent hotels and enough restaurants to keep foodies happy for a year, Summit County attracts worldwide visitors.
Breckenridge is an old gold mining town, ski town, resort town and more. Called “Breck” by locals, it’s approximately 70 miles from Denver. Heading into town you’ll see huge mounds of river gravel dredged up by gold boats.
There’s still a lot of gold under Breck, but it’s more well-known now for white gold (snow) and tourism. The historic Main Street and immediate side streets are still lined with original buildings, now housing restaurants, galleries, boutiques and sports shops.
Beyond the historic core, newer homes sprawl up to the base of Breckenridge Ski Resort’s peaks. In winter there’s downhill and cross-country skiing and snowmobiling to the Continental Divide. In summer there’s hiking, mountain biking, golf on a public Jack Nicklaus course and lots of music.
Copper Mountain, just off I-70, opened in 1972 but most was constructed between 2001 and 2009. It has the advantage of a compact core; upon arrival, you can park your car and forget it. Copper claims to be the largest ski area in Summit County (although Keystone disputes it) and is more self-contained than Breckenridge. Copper’s slopes naturally separate skiers and boarders by ability. Beginners and intermediates favor western slopes. More advanced skiers stay east at the Alpine and Super Bee lifts, although they also migrate to the western Sierra lift.
Copper also offers extensive cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Summer visitors hike, mountain bike and golf. Coloradans flock here for ski/snowboard festivals and summer music festivals. The resort is also super family friendly.
Keystone, which opened in 1970, is about 100 miles from Denver via I-70. Its slopes sprawl across three mountains, reachable from two base areas: Mountain House and River Run. Most skiers and snowboarders park near River Run because its gondola climbs up the face of Dercum Mountain. North Peak and the Outback mountains are accessed from there. Keystone also offers night skiing on Dercum.
Keystone offers lots of condos and a main lodge surrounding a small lake. Ice skating here is a family focal point of apres skiing/boarding. Keystone has a gamut of summer activities and two exceptional golf courses. Look for year-round family friendly packages that include lodging, skiing and more.
Summit County is a straight shot from Denver up I-70 and through the Eisenhower tunnel. Denverites head to the high country to ski and escape summer heat, so weekend traffic can be terrible. Try to visit on a weekday. Otherwise, go very early or in mid-morning, and as savvy Front Range folks often do, stay up high for dinner.
Top of the Rockies: Breckenridge and Summit County … a perfect summer or fall weekend