Tag Archives: Breckenridge

That Event You Always Find Yourself At

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We all have that one event in our lives. Typically it is somewhere in the general vicinity of where we live, but not in the same town. Year after year, we find ourselves there, despite never actually making plans around that event. For me, that event is the International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge Colorado.

I’ve been there while on weeklong ski trips with friends from the East Coast, staying at condos within walking distance of both the Riverwalk Center where the event is held and the ski lift.

I have been there on weekend trips, as was the case this year.

I have been there after day trips.

There have even been years where I was able to see the snow sculptures on multiple days, and while passing through town on the way home from destinations further away.

Of course, it helps that the event lasts ten days, right in the middle of the winter, in Breckenridge, one of the country’s most iconic skiing towns.

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It also helps that walking through the snow sculptures is not a huge time commitment. Even if one were to read every piece of information about each individual piece, the total time commitment would be well under an hour.

2019 was quite iconic. The event happened on an excellent weekend. Significant snow fell Thursday night, making for a fantastic weekend of skiing. Each portion of the day seemed to exude some form of picturesque natural scene, distinct from one another!

The sculptures themselves were amazing as well. Here are some of my favorites from 2019.

2017 was also a great year, with a lot of animal related designs.

2016 was also a great year.

2015 was the year that abnormally warm weather (several days with highs close to 50 in town) caused some of the sculptures to become deformed.

This year, the trip that found me in front of the snow sculptures was a weekend trip to Frisco, ten miles north of Breckenridge, and along I-70.

I love to stay in Frisco from time to time. There are a lot of amenities, but it is less crowded than many other places in winter, as there is no ski resort there. However, it is within about ten miles of Breckenridge, as well as several other mountain resorts, including Copper Mountain and Keystone.

The places we go, the people we see, and the activities we take part in have two origins. One are those in which we actively seek; the trips and activities we plan and the people we plan them with. The others are the ones we somehow get drawn into. The places our friends, family and co-workers chose for group activities. The people that show up at the events we go to. Events like this one, that always end up being where we are at the time we are there.

Some would advocate that we do all things with purpose, actively choosing every single action in our lives. That is quite exhausting, and nearly impossible. Instead, we must accept that some of the places we find ourselves and people we find ourselves around will be based on circumstance, and sometimes that circumstance will occur in repetition.

However, the nature of these circumstantial encounters is a good indicator of how well we have aligned our lives with our values and desires. If these circumstances habitually find us in places we do not want to be and around people we do not care to be around, it is an indicator that something about our overall situation is not well aligned with our true selves and true desires.

I am thankful to find myself around these snow sculptures year after year. They are a result of the activity that I did actively chose, skiing, as well as being around people who are up for wandering around to events like these.

Winter’s MidPoint (in the Central Rockies)

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Although we talk quite frequently about “seasons”, the concept of a season is actually far more abstract in nature than the manner in which it is typically discussed.  Consider this: while the most frequent discussions of seasons refers to a portion of the calendar year, a “season” can also mean a series of sporting events, TV shows, or plays, or even a chapter in someone’s life.  I’ve personally been involved in “seasons” that have lasted as short as three weeks, as well as “seasons” that persisted longer than a decade!

Even when referencing a “season” in its most common manner, to reference a portion a year, there is significant variance in how it manifests.  For a lot of people “seasons” means winter, spring, summer, and fall.  However, there are parts of the world where the year is far more accurately broken out into a wet season and a dry season.  Others even create seasonal references based on specific considerations, such as “mud season” or “typhoon season”.  In a way, every group of people has developed their own way to reference seasons, based on their lifestyle, location, and interests.

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While some groups of people have defined specific dates for the start and end of each season, for most, a season is more of a feeling.  There are plenty of years, where, on a day like March 25th, someone in Minnesota may feel as if it is still winter for them while someone in South Carolina may feel firmly into the Spring season.  Likewise, year to year variance has made November in Colorado feel like winter in some years, but feel like early autumn in others.

For winter as a season, just like a season for a sports team, or a chapter in one’s life, it matters less when the technical mid-point is defined.  It is more significant to reference a middle section, or a “hey-day”.  This is the period of time after most people have fully adjusted to the season, but before the end is in sight.

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In the Central Rockies, this is the time after most skiers and boarders have worked out their early season jitters, (and the resorts have gotten pretty much all of their trails open, which usually takes until January) but before spring becomes eminent.

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It is at this point in the season, where, I believe, skiing actually becomes more fun!  First of all, snow conditions get better.

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As winter progresses, the snow pack gets deeper and more consistent.  It becomes far less likely to find bare spots, which often form in the areas where skiers and boarders make turns around trees, or in open areas where wind can blow a lot of snow around.

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Also, as winter progresses, temperatures begin to warm (making it more pleasant), and the sun stays out a bit longer.  There are plenty of places in the Central Rockies, like Vail, where, according to local CO-OP data, December is actually the coldest month of the year.

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With mountains blocking the afternoon sun, in December, many of the ski trails become completely shaded sometime around 2:30 P.M.  By the final weekend in January, the sunset is about 45 minutes later, and the sun angle is higher, adding roughly an additional hour before the trails become completely shaded.

This is the start of the best of the best, the best time to ski at some of the best ski resorts in the world.  The trails are all open, the sun is shining upon us, skiers and boarders are doing their best skiing and riding of their lives, and towns are celebrating with additional winter fun.

When a “season” is a positive one, like a fun ski season, a good music or sports career, or even a very positive experience at a University or a job, there really is nothing like that period of time in the middle.  Everything starts to feel right.  We begin to move about our days and activities with a greater efficiency, and, in some cases make a lot of progress in a short period of time.  Memories are being created, and, in most cases, we are making gains in the all important battle for our own individuality and/or sense of self worth.  We’re at our best!

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But, alas it cannot last forever.  The happiest and the saddest, the most reassuring yet the most unnerving thing about the world is the fact that all things have a beginning and an ending.  Even the greatest of experiences must come to an end, as, well, continuing to do the same thing will eventually lead to stagnation, and a creeping feeling of dissatisfaction.  The only thing we can do in periods like this is be greatful that the “season” we are currently in is an enjoyable and/or rewarding one, and do our best to make the next one positive as well.

Christmastime in Breckenridge

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Last winter, I spent around a dozen days in Breckenridge, Colorado, including a week-long stay here in late February.  Only a 90 minute drive from Denver, I feel quite comfortable coming up here on a day trip, without spending money on lodging, on a regular basis.  To wake up, drive to Breckenridge, ski for six hours or so, and then drive back does not make for an overwhelmingly tiring day.

When traveling to a particular destination becomes as regular as this one has become for me, the lines become kind of blurred.  In a physical sense, I am most definitely traveling.  I prepare, I pack, and I get in a vehicle and go to a different location which is a non-trivial distance away.  It is not a run of the mill trip to the grocery store or a neighbor’s house.  However, there are a significant number of people who commute longer than 90 minutes each way to work every day.  For them, a trip that takes at least as long as my trip to Breckenridge (when there isn’t bad traffic), has become routine.  It is certainly not something that any of these commuters would categorize as “travel”.  A trip up to Breckenridge for me is without a doubt more interesting and exciting than a 90 minute drive to work, but it is only slightly less routine.  I know what to pack, I know what to expect, and I know where everything is.  So, a trip like this straddles some kind of middle ground between what most would consider “travel”, and what most would consider just a part of life’s routine.

However, for many, Breckenridge is most definitely a highly sought after travel destination.  In fact, according to a fairly recent Travel + Leisure article, Breckenridge is the second most visited North American ski resort, behind only Vail.  And, since the printing of that particular article, the resort has actually gotten bigger, with the opening of a whole new section of the resort- Peak 6.

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Despite its size, it is actually fairly easy to get around the resort.  Each peak on the resort labelled numerically, and both the ski lifts and trails are labelled quite clearly.

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A variety of great trails, and panoramic views, already existed before the opening of Peak 6.

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Peak 6 added something unique; essentially intermediate level skiing in a wide open area above the tree line.

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Even with Peak 6 rising to 12,300 feet, the highest point on the mountain is still the top of Imperial Express.

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At 12,840 feet, the very top of the mountain it often gets quite windy.  In fact, this part of the resort gets closed quite frequently due to high winds, even on some perfectly sunny days.  If there are relatively strong winds at any of the other parts of the mountain, I will often have no desire to come up here, and deal with even stronger wind at this elevation.  Luckily for us, Saturday was a relatively calm day, making it an ideal time to head to this part of the mountain.  For anyone that can handle the more challenging terrain up here, I would recommend making a trip to the top of the resort at least once on a calmer day, as there are very few places where you can overlook a ski area from above as you can here.

Town of Breckenridge in the Winter

In addition to the popular ski resort, Breckenridge is a pretty vibrant town, especially during ski season, and one that I greatly appreciate.  Main Street, which is lined with shops, restaurants, and even nightlife, is a mere two blocks from the ski resort’s main Gondola parking.  Numerous condos line the roads that offshoot from Park Avenue, providing many visitors with places to stay within walking distance of both the ski lifts and Main Street!

In addition, the town is fairly unique.  Surrounding nearly every other ski resort I have visited is a ski village that was built primarily to serve the ski resort.  These villages are typically pedestrian-only areas (usually buses can come in) that lie between the main parking lot and the ski resort.  Since these towns were built around the ski resorts, they typically have all of the amenities that anyone on a ski trip would need, often including numerous hotels and ski shops.  However, Breckenridge, having existed long before the ski resort, offers the experience of a ski town that has the layout, and feel, of a normal town.  It feels a bit less like one is visiting a resort village, and more like one is visiting a town that happens to have an incredibly popular ski resort next to it.

With the lighting of the Christmas tree Saturday night, Breckenridge “officially” kicked off the Christmas season.  For many, the Christmas season has already begun.  In fact, some do not even wait until Thanksgiving to begin preparing for Christmas.  However, now, for better or worse, the season has kicked into full gear.

On the drive back Sunday, after another nearly full day of skiing, some lamented that it was time to return to “normal life”.  But, did we ever really leave our “normal lives”?  All of us involved in this trip live in Denver, and ski up in the mountains quite regularly, carrying season passes to multiple resorts.  Having skied 22 days last winter, 18 the year prior, and with the expectation of skiing nearly as frequently this winter, I feel as if last weekend, I was simply enjoying a funner part of my “normal life”.  And, this Christmas, I can be thankful that something as fun and enjoyable as skiing in Breckenridge is not a “vacation” or “travel” from which I will return from, but a part of the cadence that represents my “normal life” in its’ current state.