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Expansion of the Breckenridge Ski Area

imagesThe most popular destination for British skiers in the USA will be nearly a quarter as big again next season thanks to a long planned expansion plan being realised. Work is due to begin imminently on an expansion on to a fifth peak at Breckenridge ski resort in Colorado, one of America’s most authentic ski towns as well as one of the world’s highest ski areas -it’s top lift, the Imperial express, the world’s highest chairlift, less than 90m short of 4,000m above sea level.

The project will see ‘Peak 6’ linked to the existing ski area at Peak 7 by two chairlifts – a quad and a six seater – and the creation of more than 20 new runs both above and below the treeline. Peak 6 has been a long standing expansion dream for resort planners but many years of planning, local consultation and environmental assessments have had to go in to the plan, particularly with trees needing to be cut to create the new runs below the treeline.

Altogether Peak 6 will unlock lift-served access to 543 acres of terrain, taking Breckenridge’s today ski area size to nearly 3,000 acres and placing it within the US top 20 on size. The new terrain will include five high Alpine bowls and some 23 runs, 13 of them located above three treeline, the remaining 10 cut through the forest.

The above treeline terrain will be intermediate level terrain and Breckenridge’s first above-treeline intermediate grade slopes.  The exact opening date of the new terrain is yet to be decided and Breckenridge, which formally closed for the season last weekend, will re-open this after several feet of powder fell in the last few days.  Great for skiing but less helpful for beginning construction for next winter!

Rocky Mountain National Park

imagesRocky Mountain National Park is located in north-central Colorado in the United States. The park holds 265,761 acres of protected land and is bordered by Routt National Forest in the northwest, Arapaho National Forest in the southwest, and Roosevelt National Forest in the east and west. The park is separated into two areas by the Continental Divide, giving the west and east areas different climates and habitats. It holds 450 miles of streams and 150 different lakes, as well as 72 mountain peaks that reach elevations over 12,000 feet. The northern area of the park contains smaller mountains that are part of the Mummy Range.

The climate of Rocky Mountain National Park varies greatly depending upon the season. The summer season brings high temperatures that can peak in the eighties and thunderstorms are common. The winter season often occurs between the months of October to April and brings heavy snows. This snow melts quickly at low elevations, but can persist at higher elevations, causing closings of some hiking trails. The spring season brings light snows and rain showers.

Rocky Mountain National Park can be accessed by State Highway 7 and U.S. Highways 34 and 36, although U.S. Highway 34 is the only road that runs throughout the entire park. This road is known as Trail Ridge Road within the park and offers a popular scenic view of the area. Visitors can partake in many activities including winter sports like skiing, snowshoeing, and other activities like camping, hiking, backpacking, fishing, and mountain climbing. Hikers can choose from 349 miles of trails that vary in length. Popular tourist attractions include mountain climbing on Longs Peak, hiking near and to Bear Lake, and visiting Paradise Park, which does not have any trails leading to it.

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Skiers, Riders Line up for Highland Bowl

imagesSkiers and snowboarders showed up to Aspen Highlands in force Tuesday after a massive snowstorm created some of the best conditions of the season.  The parking structure at Aspen Highlands filled up quickly causing city officials to direct motorists back to Aspen to take the free bus.

Photos of the 12,392-foot Highland Bowl circulated in social media showing an impressive procession of skiers and snowboarders snaking up it with wisecracks about town being empty because all of the locals were seemingly hiking and skiing the bowl. Other locals shared photos of an avalanche that slid sometime Monday night in nearby Maroon Bowl, which is out of bounds.

Aspen Highlands was originally scheduled to shut down for the season this Sunday but the Aspen Skiing Co. has decided to reopen the mountain the following weekend, April 27 and April 28, in appreciation of their customers and the bountiful April snow.

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Cycling Fans Invited to Create Poster for Pro Challenge

imagesAs Aspen and Snowmass Village gear up to host the USA Pro Challenge cycling race for the third year, professional and amateur artists have been invited to submit designs for the official commemorative poster.

The contest opened on April 15, and the deadline for entries is May 5. A panel of Aspen and Snowmass residents will select the winner from a pool of finalists. The winning design will be printed as Aspen/Snowmass’ official poster for the event, which will be available for purchase during the summer across Aspen and Snowmass and featured on Aspen Chamber and Resort Association, city of Aspen and Snowmass Tourism social-media platforms.

Aspen is the only city to host two stages in this year’s challenge, with the first on day one, taking place between Aspen and Snowmass Village. Artists are encouraged to highlight Aspen/Snowmass’ natural beauty, cycling terrain and outdoor-adventure culture.

Winners will be announced May 20. Each winner will receive a pair of VIP passes to the hospitality tent at one stage finish as well as recognition and exposure for his or her artwork.

Aspen Rental Vacancy Rates Drop to Four-year Low

imagesTeton County’s apartment rental market constricted to a point last year that hasn’t been seen since 2008.  Last year, the vacancy rate fluctuated between 1 percent and 1.6 percent, according to a new report published by the state Community Development Authority. In 2011, that rate was hovering around 10 percent.

Managers at two large apartment complexes in Jackson said they’ve seen their vacancy rates drop gradually over the last year.  “It seems like everything is coming back,” said Aspen Meadows Apartments property manager Sean Ryan.

Aspen Meadows increased its rent for a one-bedroom apartment, albeit slightly, in response to growing demand. A one-bedroom, deluxe apartment is going for $880 per month. Last year, the complex charged $825. The occupancy rate at Blair Apartments increased to 83 percent. During the same time last year, it was at 70 percent.

The county’s vacancy rate was the lowest in the state at the end of 2012. The state average was 4.2 percent, although central Wyoming communities had an average rate of 1.9 percent. Landlords in the southeastern corner of the state reported a vacancy rate of 2.7 percent. The vacancy rate survey comes in a bundle of economic data that seems to show that the valley’s economy is slowly on the mend.

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Do More in Breckenridge

SONY DSCFilling a day of activities has never really been a problem for those in Breckenridge, whether they are visitors or residents. The options are wide in range and scope. Keep in mind, Breckenridge has a fascinating past, a unique and wonderful story that makes our community what it is today. There is no other place in the world like Breckenridge, Colorado.

Learning some of that past, a bit of that historic story, can add a great deal of value to your Breckenridge experience. Museums and historic sites can consume your entire day, or a lazy hour. Offerings range from mining history, Victorian life, snowshoe treks, railroad history and our path to the ski industry. Try the Welcome Center Museum first. With displays that run the gamut of our historical timeline, a children’s loft, and a more interactive feel, you can gain an in-depth overview and still entertain them all.

The history literally surrounds you. Stopped in Starbucks while in town? The Main Street location used to be the home of Frank and Theta Brown, long time residents. Frank served as the Mayor of Breckenridge and as the Summit County Treasurer for many years during the 60s. Nearly all of the restaurants and shops you enjoy in this community have a story. As you explore Breckenridge, consider what may have come before; consider who may have come before.

Steamboat Springs Companies Earn Nod From Backpacker Magazine

031413_Backpacker3_t640Two local companies were honored as 2013 Backpacker Magazine Editors’ Choice Award winners.  The awards, which have been given out since 1993, honor the top products in the outdoor industry based on innovation, design, materials and performance.  Big Agnes won for its Scout UL2 tent, the company’s seventh Editors’ Choice Award since 2004.  Sweetwood Cattle Co. won for the first time for its jerky, marking its inclusion into the outdoor industry.  The companies were two of 14 manufacturers to earn the recognition.

“It’s our first award, and we’re super excited,” said Becca Fix, Sweetwood’s general manager. “We’re excited to see where it takes us. We were lucky to be included along the other companies. Anytime you’re listed alongside Big Agnes, you feel lucky and know you are doing something right.” Sweetwood was one of two food companies to earn the designation. The product, offered in four varieties, uses whole muscle cuts for its jerky and all natural flavors.

She said the editor of Backpacker Magazine was introduced to the product at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market a couple of years ago. From there, she said Sweetwood provided Backpacker with plenty of samples, and soon they became a hit.

For Big Agnes, the award was the status quo. The outdoor company has found a niche in tents and sleeping bags and has become a favorite of Backpacker. Big Agnes has won Editors’ Choice Awards from Backpacker in 2004, 2007 through 2009 and 2011 through this year.

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Looking Back at Breckenridge History

IMG_4499Long before white settlers from the east crossed the Continental Divide, the area that would become Breckenridge was part of the summer hunting grounds of the nomadic White River and Middle Park Ute Native Americans. Although there were a few white trappers, mountain men, and traders roaming the area as early as 1840, the establishment of a town was the result of America’s mid-nineteenth-century rush to settle the West. By 1859 the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush was on, and discovery of gold in the Breckenridge area brought miners and fortune seekers to the “Blue River Diggings.”

By 1862, the Civil War and increasing difficulty in locating free, accessible gold began to clear the camp of prospectors. By 1870 the population of Breckenridge had plummeted to 51. Breckenridge was quiet and would remain so until large-scale hydraulic mining created a boom in the early 1870s.

In 1879, rich silver and lead carbonates were discovered, and fortune hunters once again invaded Breckenridge. Miners, merchants, and professionals migrated to the mining camp for a different reason than in 1859. This time it was for silver rather than gold. Breckenridge became an important hard-rock mining location and a prominent supply center. There was plenty of “elbow room” to grow, and the community organized and incorporated a town government in 1880. An ambitious grid was laid out for the 320-acre town site. Breckenridge’s wide, main street easily allowed freight wagons to turn around, and soon it became the center of social and athletic activities. During this mining heyday, the downtown provided miners with a variety of attractions. Without diversions, life in the mining camp would have been an endless cycle of routine work.

A number of Breckenridge’s historic buildings were also lost during the “postwar” period for a variety of reasons. Some property owners demolished their structures to reduce their tax burden. Other buildings were lost to accidental fires, and some were purposely burned in practice exercises for volunteer fire crews. Some buildings were even torn down for firewood. While economic activity and population declined with the cessation of mining, Breckenridge never became a ghost town. Instead, it remained home to a few hardy, resilient residents.  A decade later, on December 16, 1961, Rounds and Porter, a Wichita, Kansas lumber company, opened the Breckenridge Ski Area, and a new boom era began. Transportation improvements fueled a new Breckenridge recreation “rush.”

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Lively Apres-Ski / Nightlife in Breckenridge

bartender2 Breckenridge’s liveliest apres-ski bars are Tiffany’s in Beaver Run, the Breckenridge Brewery for a great handcrafted brew, Park Avenue Pub in the Village, and Mi Casa, with thirst-quenching margaritas. Bubba Gump’s has a heated outdoor deck with a smashing view of the mountain. Fatty’s bar takes up the entire first floor and locals fill it to the brim. The Maggie holds her own among the apres-ski crowd with good drink specials.

Want to go where the locals go? Head to Blue River Bistro for the martini specials or to South Ridge Seafood for brews on tap.If you’re having trouble adjusting to the altitude, head over to the O2 Lounge in La Cima Mall, where you can enjoy an herbal martini and oxygen-enriched air in 10- 20- and 30-minute increments.

While Tiffany’s rocks until the wee hours, after dinner most of the action moves into town. At Eric’s you’ll find a rowdy crowd on TV sports nights. Sherpa and Yeti’s on Main Street is the hot spot for live music and dancing, with a variety of bands playing blues, jazz, funk and reggae, plus local musicians’ nights, all in an unfinished-sheet-rock atmosphere. This place really rocks, so if you packed your dancin’ shoes, head here. Salt Creek on East Lincoln has live music and a huge upstairs dance floor that brings in the younger crowd. There’s always a long wait line to get into the action. The Dredge, which is a replica of the dredge boats that churned the Blue River for gold in the early 1900s, has a classy bar.

Summit County’s 9:1 male-to-female ratio dramatically improves at The Quandary on Monday nights when those with two X chromosomes get free beer.

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Airports Near Aspen, Colorado

jet_slopesWhile Denver International Airport is Colorado’s largest airport and is generally the easiest and cheapest to fly into, it is a four-hour mountain drive to Aspen, and even farther from the western ski resorts of Telluride and Durango. Colorado High Country has a variety of airports that are closer to its world-class ski resorts, allowing for more direct, quicker travel.

The Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (aspenairport.com) is Aspen’s regional airport, just five minutes from the resort area. Take a morning flight and be skiing by afternoon. Two airlines service the airport: United Express, operated by SkyWest, and Republic, operated by Frontier. Direct flights are available from cities including Denver, Los Angeles and Chicago.

While Aspen/Pitkin County Airport is the most convenient airport to Aspen travel, there are other airports in the surrounding ski country that are much closer to Aspen than Denver. Further, so long as you don’t mind car travel, these airports will allow you to piece together trips with other famous Colorado ski resorts. Eagle County Regional Airport (eaglecounty.us/airport) is about an hour and a half north of Aspen and is located conveniently to Vail and Beaver Creek. To the south, Gunnison airport (gunnisoncounty.org/airport.html) is not much closer than Denver, but would allow you to combine a trip to Crested Butte, one of Colorado’s most challenging ski areas, with a trip to Aspen.