Ski Resorts

Hitting the Ski Slopes in Breckenridge: What to Know

So, you are getting ready for your first ski vacation to Breckenridge. You’re excited, of course. And maybe a little nervous about what to expect. There are a couple of things you will want to know. Experience itself is the best teacher, and you may wish to have an instructor. But, a little knowledge ahead of time may be nice to have. Here’s just a couple tips on what to expect, how to be prepared, and a few things to know.

When you get to Breckenridge, get yourself a current winter trail map, which you can also find online if you prefer to do so ahead of time. This map will give you the most up to date visual guide to where to go. Other than just being a visual map, the maps themselves can be so informative in other areas. It will show you each mountain, each peak and their numbers, where the lifts are, the trail difficulty, how to transfer between peaks, transportation in the area, a list of restaurants, etc.

There are 4 peaks to ski in Breckenridge: Peaks 7, 8, 9, and 10. You’re going to want to check that map out and determine which you may prefer. You may want to purchase a ski pass ahead of time. You can often save by buying early online. And you’ll want to determine how long you plan on skiing. You’ll also want to determine if you are going to have an instructor or not and either set that up or have a plan for your day of skiing, if not. If you choose to have an instructor, he or she will let you know about the color and trail difficulties. If not, this is info you will want to be aware of.

The bunny slope or bunny hill is the very first place you will start. Don’t even worry about the trails and their difficulties yet, until you begin with the bunny slope. This is a very small hill designed just for beginners, where you are simply getting used to what it feels like to be on skis and the basics of skiing. This is where your instructor will begin you anyway, if you choose that route. You will learn how you need to keep your knees slightly bent, how to steer yourself, and how to stop yourself by pointing your skis like an upside down “V”. You will also be working on getting yourself back up that bunny hill using somewhat of a pulley system that you hold onto while standing, that will pull you back up that slope. At this point, an instructor will move on to more tips and tricks that you will practice and work on before you beginning skiing an actual trail.

But before you can even learn what it feels like to ski down an actual trail, you are going to have to experience riding a chairlift, which wouldn’t be a big deal if you weren’t wearing skis and carrying around poles. But, since you are, the chair lift becomes a learning experience, in and of itself. You need to know where to go, you need to make sure you have your lift ticket to be scanned or checked, you need to know how to line yourself up while waiting for the chair, quickly ski to it and sit down and bring the bar down. You’ll get a nice leisurely break from learning, at that point, to relax and ride up to the trails. But, you need to be prepared, because when you come up to your trail, you need to get off quickly. Getting off the lift can sometimes be tricky for beginners. Be prepared for that quick moment when you need to get off, to try to maintain control so you don’t knock others down that are getting of the lift with you.

So, on the lift, you need to know where you will be getting off and/or how to navigate to the next chair lift if you need to get to another level. However, as a beginner, you will of course be beginning on the green trails. Those are the easy or beginner’s trails. These color coded difficulty ratings are standard in North America, and will always be as follows:

  • A green trail is an easy, or beginner, trail. These trails are not very fast and aren’t too long.
  • A blue trail will be your intermediate trail. There may be some obstacles and they may be steeper.
  • A black diamond is a difficult trail. It’s going to be filled with obstacles, and it will be steep and narrow.
  • A double black diamond is really only for those very good skiers. It’s still a good idea to go with someone else on these, even if you feel you are good enough for these. And even if you are ready, you still aren’t ready for the ones marked with an “EX” for “Experts Only.”

Another thing to remember is that these difficulty ratings are to be compared to other trails in the area. Even though it will always go from green to blue to black, a blue trail at one resort may be more difficult than a black at another resort. You should always start with green and work up, until you determine what the trails are like at each resort.

If you are skiing on your own, only you will know when you are comfortable and ready to move on to the next trail of difficulty. But, don’t expect to move up on your first day. And don’t move up on any day until you are completely confident and comfortable. You don’t need to just consider whether you feel like you could handle it or not, you also need to remember that you are going to have much more experienced skiers in front, behind, and all around you when you move up to the next trail level. But, if you have an instructor, you won’t have to worry at all. They won’t move you up until they are sure you are ready and will be there along the way, if you need any help on the current trail or the next one up.

Whatever level of difficulty you choose at a given time, you need to become familiar and comfortable with those slopes. Because even on, say a green, you may have different trails on that green that have varying degrees of difficulty and you want to take the easiest one when you are starting out.

This is just a very basic intro to skiing. But, ask plenty of questions, do your research, be well prepared, go with someone else who knows skiing or get an instructor. But, you will be guaranteed to have a blast on your first skiing experience. That’s for sure!