By Amy Piper
When picturing Breckenridge, you probably conjure up images of skiers racing down Peak 10 on six inches of powder. However, beyond the snow-covered peaks, there’s a casual mountain town where makers have found ways to support their desire to remain in the mountains. We spent 48 hours in Breck exploring the town’s makers and the mountains they love.
FRIDAY – 3:00 p.m.
Craft Beer Scene
Breckenridge’s craft beer scene is second to none, so we kicked-off our Breckenridge makers weekend at Breckenridge Tap House. It has the largest craft beer selection in Summit County with over 35 choices. If you prefer liquor over beer, select from over 125 premium whiskeys or 130 premium tequilas. They have two happy hours daily.
We needed a snack before our tour Historic Saloon Tour. Travel and all that fresh mountain air made us hungry. Breckenridge Tap House’s slow-braised meat tacos took the edge off. The meats stay in the oven for 24 hours, so it’s tasty and tender.
Tour the Town
The perfect way to check out downtown was through the Behind the Swinging Doors Historic Saloon Tour. The tour started at the Welcome Center, showcased establishments dating back to the nineteenth century. For example, the premises of Gold Pan Saloon have the longest standing liquor license West of the Mississippi River. More than 200 Breckenridge structures are on the National Register of Historic Places.
We bellied up to the bar, a Brunswick mirror-lined beauty that’s been a tradition since 1879. Unlike those saloon-goers during the gold rush, we didn’t need to watch our backs in the mirror. We just enjoyed our libations. The north room contains a large safe so that a prospector could secure his gold while enjoying a drink in the saloon.
Cooking Classes and Personal Chefs
After our tour, we had two choices for dinner, both of which included a chef from the Colorado Mountain College. You can take the family for some team building by making dinner on-site at the college, or you can enjoy a meal in the privacy of your lodging – request a personal chef to shop, arrive at your venue and cook a feast for the family. We chose the first option and made our dinner under the supervision of Chef Ian Buchanan at Colorado Mountain College. Our banquet included Argentinian and Brazilian dishes. In teams, we made beef empanadas, locra, grilled flat iron steak with chimichurri, feijoada, grilled vegetables, Brazilian cheese rolls, and for dessert a creamy arroz con leche. The menus include a variety of cuisines, and the chef will tailor them to your family’s tastes. We left with the recipes so that we could recreate our memories and share some of our time away with family and friends back home.
SATURDAY – 9:00 a.m.
Morning Cuppa Joe
We enjoyed an early breakfast with our morning cuppa Joe at Cuppa Joe’s. The café is upstairs in a house-like structure. The makers here roast their own beans. The room was bright and sunny with wood floors, a counter trimmed in accordion-pleated metal, with bright yellow chairs punctuating the space. Some comfortable chairs and sofas made it a nice place to cozy up and enjoy some latte art. The café uses a counter to serve treats like breakfast burritos and oatmeal lattes.
With over 50 miles of biking trails in Breck, we chose to take a ride on the scenic Blue River Rec Path. Ridden’s Fat Tire Bike guided tour started at their downtown shop and ended at the Broken Compass Brewery. It was the perfect ending because after that ride we were thirsty. After a sampling of craft beer, we headed back to town on the shuttle for lunch.
After a morning of biking, Giampietro’s Pizzeria was the perfect place for lunch. Everything from the pizza sauce to the balsamic vinaigrette was house-made. It has a casual atmosphere, so it’s an excellent place to eat with kids. House-made pizza and plate-sized calzones made family-style sharing a budget saving option. We had leftovers to take to our rental for a bedtime snack.
Our next stop was the Breckenridge Creative Arts (aka Breck Create) at the Hot Shop. We spent the afternoon working on metal-smithing some jewelry creations. Another makers option at Breck Create was glass-blowing.
If you’re traveling with the kiddos, there are the monthly second Saturday hands-on art classes. These free first-come, first-serve (sign-up online) classes happen from 10 a.m. to Noon on the Art’s District Campus. The venue provides all art supplies, and the kids can take home their project as a Breckenridge souvenir.
We arrived at the highest distillery on the planet, Breckenridge Distillery on Airport Road, and checked out their shop while we waited for the complimentary behind the scenes distillery tour and tasting. The last distillery tour starts at 5:30 p.m., so get there in plenty of time, as it’s on a first come, first-serve basis. Tours begin as early as 11:00 a.m. and last for about an hour. Tours after 2:00 p.m. tend to fill up fast.
What makes the distillery’s spirits unique is the Rocky Mountain snowmelt water. It makes the hard liquor smooth. Vertical barrel aging is necessary due to the dry mountain air.
Dinner at Breckenridge Distillery Restaurant
After the distillery tour, we were ready to eat, and the Breckenridge Distillery Restaurant fit the bill perfectly for a special Saturday evening meal. The restaurant has a modern farm-to-table philosophy dedicated to the whole animal process. They serve American food complimenting Breckenridge Distillery’s spirits in a relaxed mountain setting.
Chef David Burke received a United States patent for the unique dry-age process. His process uses pink Himalayan salt to dry-age steaks for up to 100 days. Burke won the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef in New York, not once, but twice.
My favorite appetizer was the chickpeas three-ways. The chef morphs them from a silky-smooth hummus to a crispy golden-brown falafel, to fries, an all in one fun appetizer. The field greens salad had thinly sliced pears, bleu cheese truffles, smoked pecans, shaved fennel, with a yuzu-lime dressing. With so many great dishes on the menu, it was hard to pick a favorite. But, the Korean pork and fragrant jasmine rice with peppers and scallions were outstanding.
The chef incorporates the distillery products into the restaurant’s recipes. For dessert, there’s the bourbon float made with cherry syrup, Mexican coke, vanilla ice cream, and the Breckenridge Distillery bourbon.
The distillery runs a free shuttle from 11:00 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, so it made it a safe for everyone to enjoy the libations, as we already had a designated driver with the shuttle.
SUNDAY – 11:00 a.m.
Blue River Bistro’s Brunch
The Blue River Bistro offers earth-to-table dining through the support of local farmers and artisans. The items range from Colorado favorites like elk carpaccio and buffalo short ribs to international fares like Scottish salmon and paella. Stylishly presented dishes make the food as pleasing to the eye as it is on the palate.
Rocky Mountain Underground (RMU)
What’s a weekend getway without some retail therapy? We explored the Rocky Mountain Underground’s retail location before heading home. These makers are long-time Summit County locals and self-proclaimed ski bums. They sold their first set of custom skis for the cost of materials and 30 beers. Their business grew by word of mouth. People would say, “If you want a custom set of skis, go see the Rocky Mountain Underground guys.” The name came from pressing the custom skis underground, in their basement, in the Rocky Mountains. In winter there are ski demos. In summer, you can rent a bike, attend outdoor education classes, or enjoy their backyard beer garden.
If You Go
Due to the elevation, pre-trip hydration is critical. Start hydrating a few days before traveling with two to three liters of water per day. Continue to keep hydrated, throughout the trip.
Fly into Denver International airport (DEN), Breckenridge is about 100 miles west of the airport. Once you’re in Breckenridge you won’t need a car, so choose from a variety of private shuttle or van services that will take you from Denver International Airport to Breckenridge.
Vacation rentals from Pinnacle Lodging is an option. They have a variety of housing choices for any size group. Our location, the Bogart House, had five bedrooms, five and a half bathrooms, and sleeping accommodations for 16 guests.
Breckenridge is a walkable town. Biking is one way to get around, while other alternatives include the Free Ride Transit system that provides rides around downtown and to the mountain. Various free shuttles and a town trolley are also available, so no car, no worries.