Thursday, February 23, 2017

Breck Trek

Breck Bowl Skiing - Photo courtesy of Vail Resorts/Breckenridge
Going back to school is good for everyone, especially in terms of snowsports where bad habits can sometimes overtake technical prowess. A ski lesson can either help supe your skiing up a notch or, as in our case, provide more tips for skiing longevity. Yes, technique tactics can give you a few more seasons on skis!

Dr Simon Hudson and Louise Hudson at Breckenridge - Photo taken by Mikey
Dr Simon Hudson – ski tourism expert and author of Winter Sport Tourism – and I were in Breckenridge, stage two of our Colorado ski safari, when we met Mikey Bobby – aka Michael Roberts. The consummate instructor – with level 3 in skiing, snowboarding, and soon-to-be in telemark – took us under his watchful wing for a demanding detail-oriented day, touring around Breck’s five peaks while schooling us in the latest technical tactics.

Having both learnt to ski on very long, thin skis back in the 70s, we were not using the latest ski technology to its fullest effect and, in fact, wasting strength and energy to turn and stop. After a whole host of dedicated drills on the groomers – and the reality-check of a videoed run - we ended the day facing both shoulders downhill more, with a wider leg stance, a new comprehension of early turn initiation using the uphill edge, A-frame eradicated, and new muscles aching.

Breck's newest onhill eatery

Chatting over lamb pie and Mediterranean gyros at lunch in the brand new Pioneer Crossing high-mountain restaurant, we found out a bit more about our instructor. “I knew from a very young age that I wanted to teach,” said Mikey who is Breck born and bred. “I started skiing at two and as I grew up we had a day a week off school to go skiing.” After an IT degree and a few years in the tech industry, sure enough Mikey came back to Breck to pursue his passion and has been working at the Ski & Snowboard School ever since. 

Imperial Chair - Photo courtesy of Vail Resorts/Breckenridge

Having grown out of a youthful penchant for big air and radical ramps and rails, his fave runs these days are off the Imperial Express SuperChair (North America’s highest chairlift at 12,840 feet) and the T-Bar where he is an expert in finding stashes of windblown snow - what he calls “chalk-and-cream” - in the various gullies: a bonus bonanza when the powder is past its prime.

Terrain Park at Peak 8, just above One Ski Hill Place - Photo courtesy of Vail Resorts/Breckenridge

Back at One Ski Hill Place right at Peak 8 base, we jotted down all our notes from the day at The Living Room bar. Here, half-price Happy Hour drinks and appetizers lure locals as well as hotel guests from 2-6pm and then again 8-10pm every night (the area is linked to the other areas of Breck by regular buses and on-call shuttles).  With a great garrulous vibe, this is possibly the best value après ski in town.

You also can’t beat the cushiness of staying at this ski in/out hotel. The hearty breakfast - with free Starbucks - is served overlooking the Peak 8 base and slopes. Go to breakfast dressed to ski as, through just one door, you are at the ski valet with the lift system right in front of you.

At day’s end, you slide into your plush hotel robe for a visit to the luxurious indoor pool area with steam rooms, thick-padded loungers, hot pools and fountains. To watch the scurry of the ski scene morphing into the magic of a starlit mountain night, there’s an al fresco hot tub where you can review the downhill day with a bevvy in hand. 

Breckenridge Distillery's new restaurant
Talking of bevvies – the Breckenridge Distillery is the latest in-place to drink - and eat. The world’s highest distillery (at 9600 ft) now has a trendy restaurant serving sharing dishes to go with creative concoctions made from house vodka, whisky, gin, brandy and rum. The secret ingredient for the beverages, according to founder and CEO Bryan Nolt, is Breck’s pure mineral water, coupled with flavourings made during the summer from fresh Colorado Western-Slope fruits. And the secret to the food is Chef Daniel O’Brien - newly arrived from Washington DC’s Seasonal Pantry and a charismatic contestant in the 10th season of Bravo TV’s Top Chef - who works to harmonize the cocktails with shareable delicacies made from local ingredients, using whole animals. Dishes include, for example, slow-cooked pork belly seasoned with sage, rosemary and garlic served with Bourbon plum jam. I particularly loved his paté. When asked by the waitress how it was tasting, I said “It tastes like France!” – the highest accolade.

Breckenridge Distillery Shop in downtown Breck
 There are regular tours, tastings and events at the Distillery, and the adjoining shop – or its counterpart downtown – is perfect for picking up Breck souvenirs to take home. Tip: if travelling with glass bottles, swaddle carefully in tissue and plastic and wedge inside a ski boot to avoid breakages in your luggage. Ranked among the Top 10 Fastest Growing Craft Distilleries, Breckenridge Distillery is constantly expanding, with plans this year for a small brewery, utilizing home-grown hops, and a winery featuring varietals from local grapes. You can get to the Distillery from central Breck via the free Yellow bus service but I would advise Uber for the way home – just $12 and no icy roads or snow banks to negotiate (tipsy) to get to the bus stop. 

Having learnt the linked-up lay of the land with Mikey on Day One, next day we took to the slopes solo to practice our new ski skills and see if we, too, could find all the best windblown snow. Luckily it was pretty much in the same places as the day before and we made sure we timed it like Mikey to get optimum texture on the steep inclines. Our take on Breck’s skiing: extensive, relatively simple to orientate once you figure out the numbered peaks (ie you don’t have to get the piste map out of your pocket too often plus most of the lifts have the map on the pull-down bar), lots of great groomers with rollicking rollers, burly blacks off the T Bar and Imperial in wide, open bowl format above the trees and then challenging, forest-lined bumps terrain lower down - particularly enjoyed Spitfire off the Falcon Chair for an interesting black and Claimjumper, a long and leisurely blue. Fun areas for kids include the track winding through the woods to CJ’s Cabin which used to be a weed retreat but now is a designated ski school area. And, of course, the award-winning terrain parks and 22ft superpipe which are right near One Ski Hill Place at Peak 8. Needless to say, Simon and I don’t indulge in those at our stage of knee surgery but we could see why these are among the best and most expansive in the world.
Breck SuperPipe
Bowling Lanes at One Ski Hill Place
That night, after competitive camaraderie at the bowling alley at One Ski Hill Place, we used the on-call shuttle to take us to Relish in the heart of downtown Breck. Sister restaurant to Twist, Relish is all about intimate fine dining, spot-on service, and reasonable prices. Think $29 for Angus sirloin entree and $7 for a glass of house wine or Prosecco. Overlooking the twinkling lights of a pretty, tree-lined square, Relish is owned by long-term locals Matthew and Lisa Fackler, whose lifetime of culinary experience has been reinforced by Chef Clint Ketchum since 2006. Food philosophy at the 60-seat eatery: local, fresh, seasonal and artistically arranged. "I've been cooking on a Himalayan sea salt block at the moment," Clint explains. "It's really cool, it works like a cast iron pan. You can do many things with it, for example sear fish like salmon." He is always on the look out for special ingredients, wherever possible from local environmentally-friendly farms. "We try to pair things from certain regions of the world, for example Mediterranean pairings or Asian themes or Spanish. I believe fusion food becomes confusion food," says Clint. Another important aspect at Relish is artful arrangements: "We try to arrange things in a meticulous manner, you definitely eat with your eyes first!"

Relish Restaurant Breckenridge
Relish Restaurant Breckenridge
For more about Breckenridge, do read Simon's latest tourism industry article athttp://hotelexecutive.com/business_review/5170/hotels-getting-social-to-compete-with-the-sharing-economy

And make sure to check out my latest article for The Wayward Post at:

If you're thinking of skiing Breck this season, here's the Spring Fever lineup:

Spring Fever March 18 through April 23, 2017
The conditions are great, the sun feels stronger and the competition heats up. The mountain is full of contests from parks to peaks during Spring Fever and the festivities are on with après parties and celebrations.

Spring Fever Lodging Savings Up to 40 Percent Off
The Spring Fever lodging deal saves guests up to 40 percent off lodging. Guests can book by March 31 for stays between March 3 and April 13 to save big on a spring getaway. Lodging deals are subject to availability and may have blackout dates and minimum lengths of stay. Book at www.Breckenridge.com/deals or call the experts at (866) 438-5702 

GoPro IFSA Big Mountain Challenge, March 18-19, 2017
In this spectator-friendly event, watch as some of the best big-mountain athletes take on Breck’s newest terrain, The Six Senses. Athletes will draw steep lines through tight chutes and big cliff drops as they compete for points in the IFSA Series.

Breck Pride, March 22-26, 2017
For all who support Breck, Breck supports you. A week of music, après, comedy, connection and the most colorful run you’ll ever take.  Breck Pride is for everyone – LGBT, straight, skiers, snowboarders, beginners, experts, supporters – come one, come all. Come as you are. www.breckpride.com #BreckPride

Mtn Dew Spring Open, April 1, 2017
The second annual Mtn Dew Spring Open returns to Breck this April featuring a slopestyle competition for both pros and amateurs. Athletes will try to impress the judges for cash prizes on Park Lane’s Triple Jump Line. TBar restaurant hosts the after-party at the base of Peak 8 and the competition is sponsored by Mtn Dew. 

Breck Chili Cook-off, April 2, 2017
The top chefs from Breckenridge Ski Resort and Breck Hospitality face off against each other to see who has the best chili in Breck and guests get to enjoy and taste all of it! The competition is judged on two categories: guest and judge’s favorite. Event starts at 12 p.m. at the base of Peak 7, accessed by the free BreckConnect Gondola from town and Peak 8.

Spring Fever Park Jams, April 7, 14 and 21, 2017
Friday afternoons from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. mean prizes, free food and music in the day’s selected Terrain Park at Breck.  Jam-style contests will be judged by the special guest judges and prizes will be awarded.

Spring Fever Park Jam - courtesy of Breckenridge Ski Resort
Breckenridge Town Spring Fever Beer Festival, April 8, 2017The 11th Annual Breckenridge Spring Beer Festival takes place Saturday, April 8 on Ridge Street in Breckenridge with more than 35 breweries featured and live music. Enjoy a weekend of skiing and a Saturday afternoon of beer tasting. Purchase tickets ahead of time at www.breckenridgebeerfestival.com.  

Easter Egg Hunt, April 16, 2017
Join the Easter fun with the kids’ Easter Egg Hunt on Peaks 9 and 8 SundayApril 16 morning. An early sunrise on-mountain service will also be held starting at 6:30 a.m. No lift ticket required and foot passengers allowed on the chairlift only (no ski or snowboard equipment.) More details on Breckenridge.com to come.

Imperial Challenge - courtesy of
Breckenridge Ski Resort



Imperial Challenge, April 22, 2017
The 2017 Imperial Challenge enters its 26th year. Participants ride their bike six miles from Breckenridge Recreation Center to the base of Peak 8 (or run); ascend on skis, split-board, Telemark gear or snowshoes to the top of T-bar lift or Imperial Express SuperChair and then ski or snowboard down. More information is located on www.breckenridge.com.





Closing Day, April 23, 2017
Celebrate the end to an amazing 2016-2017 ski and snowboard season. Join the fun at the base of Peak 8 with music, food, drinks and great people!






Connect:

Spring Fever Concert at Breck - courtesy of Breckenridge Ski Resort

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