The easy way back to Peak 9, whose base is closest to the center of town, is the catwalk. Skiing down the narrow, gentle-grade Lower Sawmill at the end of the day is like driving through T-Rex at rush hour. Riders and skiers of all abilities cram onto the tight run, in a hurry to get down. Only no one can go very fast. Especially the snowboarders: Once they lose their momentum on the mild slope, they have to pull themselves along with their arms until the run gets steeper.
Once the clock strikes four, however, everyone turns their attention from powder to suds.
At 10 p.m., after the families have turned in and everyone else has had their post-slopes beers and eaten dinner, the only people roaming the streets are young men. Three guys walk by laughing as they tell people, "Caution -- icy roads." Trailing them are two more young men, one of whom is wearing yellow police-line tape around his head.
Another young guy, who has somehow separated from his group, stands in front of 129 South Activewear, a T-shirt shop on Main Street. He's chuckling at the clever phrases on the shirts designed to appeal to his demographic. One, bearing a green circle, reads, "I go down easy." Another one with a ski-patrol symbol states, "Chipped Teeth. Severe Bleeding. Broken Bones. Ride On." Across the street, The Shirt Mine carries more shirts geared toward young men. Piggybacking on the popular MasterCard ad campaign, one reads, "New Snowboard - $650. Dinner and drinks at the lodge - $110. Lift tickets for the weekend - $90. Noticing the snot bubble on the hot chick in the lift line - priceless."
About twenty minutes later, another group of guys heads south down Main Street, lamenting their inability to remember where the $4 pitchers are.
They must have been thinking of the Gold Pan Saloon, where an employee announces that special and one other -- $2 bottles of Miller Light. The scene in this packed bar, where the blues band Rocket Surgeons is entertaining a mostly older crowd, is markedly different from the youth culture portrayed on the resort's Web site. Middle-aged men acting like the twenty-year-olds most of them probably were when they first landed in Breck ogle the handful of women inside. One man puts his hands around a woman's waist as she tries to make her way through the crowd, then turns to his buddies and laughs.
Tourists in their twenties congregate in the adjacent room to play pool and foosball - and presumably to get away from the mullet-sporting ski bums. In the main bar are also several unshaven characters who look like they'd have fit in when the place first opened in 1879 as the Herman Strauss Saloon. The odds are good, but the goods are odd.
A few doors down, the Horseshoe is practically dead. But on the other side of Main Street, Sherpa and Yeti's is thumping with the music of Five Day 40, an East Coast funk band. The younger set there is well behaved. No barroom brawls on this night.
Maybe next time.