On the afternoon of July 5, a wildfire flared in the Peak 2 area of the White River National Forest, and a thick cylinder of smoke loomed above Breckenridge. The entire town was put on evacuation alert, and 460 homes in the Peak 7 development were evacuated (and remain evacuated). But then the wind shifted, and while firefighters continued working hard from the air and the ground to contain the 84-acre fire, residents and tourists alike could breathe a sigh of relief.
That's because Breckenridge is a true Colorado treasure for a variety of reasons that haven't been mentioned in all of the fire coverage. Here are ten things that make Breckenridge one of the very coolest places in Colorado.
Peak 7 at Breckenridge in April.
10. Breckenridge Ski Resort
Breckenridge existed long before skiing came to this mining town. The idea of building a resort here didn't emerge until the late ’50s, when a group of locals created the Summit County Development Corporation and started exploring the possibilities. A report issued by the U.S. Forest Service in April 1961 recommended terrain below timberline on Peak 8; on December 16, 1961, the Peak 8 Ski Area opened with one Heron double chair and one short learners' T-bar; lift tickets were $4 for an adult and $2.50 for children. And it was all downhill from there: More than fifty years later, Breck is one of the most popular mountains in the world, with terrain for everyone and activities in both winter and summer.
Ice, ice baby.
9. Breckenridge International Snow Sculpture Festival
Breckenridge is home to many winter festivals, including the ULLR Fest, which will celebrate its 55th birthday next year. But when it comes to cool, you can't beat the Breckenridge Snow Sculpture Festival, which will return January 22 through January 29, 2018.
Breckenridge is home to one of Colorado's certified Creative Districts.
8. The Breckenridge Arts District
The Victorian storefronts and mining cabins of Breckenridge have been saved, sometimes moved, and are now part of the Breckenridge Arts District, which is one of 21 certified spots in the Colorado Creative Industries Creative District Program. The multi-facility, one-acre campus hosts performances by arts groups young and old, workshops, exhibits, tours, artists-in-residence and a variety of other activities for locals and visitors alike. And the public restrooms are in the old Burro Barn. How cool is that? Both Colorado Downtown Inc. and Colorado Creative Industries held their annual conventions here in May. And in April, SMU's National Center for Arts Research ranked Breckenridge as the top small community (population under 100,000) in the country in its third annual Arts Vibrancy Index, which ranks the country's cultural "hotbeds."
Breckenridge made waves with WAVE.
Breckenridge Creative Arts
7. WAVE: Light + Water + Sound
Breckenridge has plenty of summer festivals, too, including the internationally renowned Breckenridge Music Festival. And in the Best of Denver 2017, we proclaimed WAVE the Best New Festival. BreckCreate aims a little higher than the usual mountain-town arts organization, we noted, taking simple "festivals" to new levels. WAVE, an early-season spectacle inspired by Scottsdale's Canal Convergence that debuted in Breckenridge last summer, spread interactive artworks and music throughout the town, inviting tourists and townies alike to experience a big-city art experience at a higher elevation. We can't wait to see what 2018 brings.
Bright lights, little city.
6. A Real Main Street
Sure, Breckenridge has been invaded by chains. Still, beneath all that glitz and glamour, there's a real main street that dates back more than a century. And you'll find some homegrown businesses on that street, too, including two of our favorites: Crepes a la Cart, which slings crepes every day but Monday from its post at 307 Main Street; and Climax Jerky, which got its start on Fremont Pass in 1999 and today has carts at Denver International Airport, in Frisco, and at Lincoln and Main in Breck.
Keep reading for five more things we love about Breckenridge.
Most of Breckenridge turned out to celebrate Broken Compass's third birthday in May.
Not only is Breckenridge home to one of Colorado's first brewpubs, the Breckenridge Brewpub, which got its start in the mountain town in 1990, later merged with the Wynkoop group that had created Denver's first brewpub, and today is part of a big deal with AB InBev, but it also has the best craft brewer in the state, according to Buzzfeed, which honored Broken Compass earlier this year. Despite the town's beery namesake, David Axelrod and Jason Ford thought there was room for another craft brewery in Breck, and opened Broken Compass three years ago. It quickly became a town hangout...and recently a media hangout, since many reporters covering the fire parked right outside yesterday. Save some of that award-winning Coconut Porter for us!
The ratio looks about right.
The population of Breckenridge was once so male-heavy, it put Menver to shame. (And we're not talking the old mining days, either, but last decade.) Lately, though, the town has come closer to achieving a balance...and a better social life. The most recent census pegged the ratio at 1:45 men to women.
Early days in the Kingdom of Breckenridge.
Colorado Historical Society
3. The Kingdom of Breckenridge
In the early days, Breckenridge was known as a "kingdom" rather than a town, and there are still signs referring to the "Kingdom of Breckenridge." That's because even though miners first moved to the area in 1859, early Colorado mapmakers forgot to include the town on any official maps. Today, Breckenridge honors that royal screwup with the annual Kingdom Days every June.
2. The Firefighters
After the blaze was discovered by a mountain biker early in the afternoon of July 5, firefighters from across Summit County hurried to battle the fire, and Governor John Hickenlooper promised that the Colorado National Guard would come in if necessary. Through it all, the Breckenridge Fire Department — officially known as Red White and Blue — kept its cool. As a result, so did the folks waiting for an evacuation notice that never came. Today those local heroes have plenty of reinforcements fighting to contain the Peak 2 fire while the rest of Breck waits.
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Somewhere near Breckenridge...
Special to Westword
1. It's a Secret
Some of the very best things about Breckenridge are a secret. In fact, there's a running joke each year when the Summit Daily puts out the Best of Summit, and "It's a secret" wins in several categories: best hiking trial, best mountain bike trail, best powder stash, best fishing hole....