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Breckenridge Ski Resort's Peak 6 offer new thrills in Colorado (w/video)

While ski fanatics across the country are cheering on the US Ski Team at the Olympic Winter Games in Russia, there's another big celebration going on in the Colorado Rockies.

Breckenridge Ski Resort has just opened Peak 6, one of the biggest ski area terrain expansions in North America in the past decade.

Peak 6 offers 400 new acres of lift-served terrain and 143 acres of hike-to terrain, representing a 23 percent increase in the resort's skiable acreage. In addition, two new chair lifts, including a six-person high-speed superchair, transport skiers to this vast powder playground. Peak 6 is above tree-line intermediate and expert bowl skiing — which means plenty of powder and lots of butt-kicking challenge. Peak 6, in other words, is not for weenies.

But it is accessible to intermediate skiers who want an alpine bowl experience, says Breckenridge communications director Kristen Stewart. "Below the three new bowls on Peak 6 our premier run is called Bliss, and it's actually a groomed bowl run," she says. "Nearly a third of our skiing is above tree line, so we wanted to give intermediate skiers a chance to experience that high-alpine feel."

Serious skiing

Breckenridge is undeniably a skier's mountain, one with attitude and altitude. With the highest chairlift in North America depositing skiers and boarders on a summit just short of 13,000 feet, flatlanders often need a day of adjustment to avoid the symptoms of altitude sickness. It's a serious ski resort, spread across four mountains with no-nonsense names: Peak 7, Peak 8, Peak 9, Peak 10 — and now Peak 6. And it's got a reputation for some pretty fierce winds.

For advanced skiers and boarders, Breckenridge offers some of the toughest slopes in the Colorado Rockies. Black diamond and double black diamond runs with names like Amen, Adios, Psychopath and Boneyard make up more than half of the terrain.

But intermediate skiers will find plenty to keep them happy, too, with wide open groomers, glades and powder runs. Just be sure to keep a trail map handy; this is one massive resort spread over 2,900 acres, so getting from one peak to another can take some time.

Old West charm

I like Breckenridge as much for its laid-back Old West town as for the challenging and varied skiing. This is a real mountain town with a population of more than 3,000 residents complete with a movie theater, museums and a library. It's got a hip vibe with lots of friendly locals and an amazing diversity of restaurants, bars, galleries and shops.

The college-age crowd that's attracted to Breckenridge likes to party as hard as they ski and snowboard. Visiting a few saloons is mandatory. Fatties, a former bordello turned sports bar, and the Gold Pan Saloon, circa 1879, are both steeped in local history. I always stop by the Breckenridge Brewery, too, for a tasty microbrew and some excellent pub food.

The new Breckenridge Distillery is causing a major commotion among locals with its award-winning craft bourbon whiskey. "Our hooch is made at 9,600 feet with snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains," the distillery claims in its advertising. Rock on, dudes.

Despite its youthful energy, Breckenridge takes pride in maintaining a sense of Victorian charm that dates back to 1859, when the town was established as a mining camp. Pastel gingerbread homes line the streets along with renovated saloons and coffeshop storefronts. Many homes and structures are on the National Register of Historic Places, and a walking tour is a must for anyone who admires exquisitely renovated Victorian architecture.

Marcia Biggs of Safety Harbor is a freelance writer specializing in travel.

IF YOU GO

Skiing Breckenridge

Getting there: Round-trip air fare from Tampa to Denver is around $400, with 14-day advance reservations. Breckenridge is two hours from Denver International Airport. There's no need for a car if you plan to stay in Breckenridge thanks to a free bus system. Colorado Mountain Express offers shuttle van transportation from the airport to Breckenridge for $66 each way. Call toll-free 1-800-525-6363 or coloradomountainexpress.com.

Lodging: A variety is available from condominiums to vacation homes and bed and breakfasts. The Breckenridge Resort Chamber/Central Reservations can provide information on most properties and package deals at toll-free 1-888-251-2417 or gobreck.com. Look for some great spring package deals in March and April.

Dining: Options run the gamut from pub grub to gourmet. One of my favorites is the tiny Italian bistro Giampietro, where the owner treats everyone like old friends. With only a dozen or so tables, intimacy here means sharing ski stories with your neighbors at the next table and chowing down on the largest calzone on the planet.

For ski resort information, go to Breckenridge.com, or for general visitor information, try the Breckenridge Resort Chamber at gobreck.com or toll-free 1-888-251-2417

Marcia Biggs

Avoiding altitude sickness

If you arrive at a high-altitude destination and soon feel a headache, nausea and fatigue coming on, you may be experiencing the first signs of acute mountain sickness, commonly called altitude sickness. Drinking alcohol and soaking in hot tubs will only make it worse and possibly lead to a life-threatening situation.

AMS is caused by less oxygen at high elevations. Ski resorts above 8,000 feet pose the highest risk to those who are not acclimated. If you are feeling the signs of altitude sickness, rest and drink lots of water. Symptoms can hang around for one to four days. If the symptoms have not improved in 24 hours, then descend in elevation. If symptoms become acute, then descend immediately and head to the emergency room.

Dehydration compounds the ill effects of altitude. You can minimize the risk of altitude sickness by drinking water heavily up to 48 hours before departing from low elevations.

Breckenridge Ski Resort's Peak 6 offer new thrills in Colorado (w/video) 02/04/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 3:22pm]

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