Let’s face it: with its Gold Runner alpine coaster, Breckenridge has long been a step ahead of other local ski resorts when it comes to giving summertime visitors things to do on the mountain that are almost as thrilling as skiing. Now, Vail Resorts is upping the ante with a proposed expansion of Breck’s Peak 8 Fun Park and summer terrain.
Epic Discovery, the master plan the skiing behemoth submitted to the US Forest Service this spring, calls for a series of zip lines, fourteen more miles of mountain bike trails, a bike park, a climbing wall, off-road tours, and self-guided nature trails at Breckenridge. But even if everything on that list is approved, the project won’t be complete until at least 2015. Until then, as a taste of improvements to come, this summer Breck will add another mountain bike trail, this one geared specifically toward beginning riders, augmenting the offerings of the mountain bike program the resort launched last summer.
Why fast-track singletrack instead of zip lines? Breckenridge Resort COO Pat Campbell has said that one primary goal of Epic Discovery is to “enhance” the resort as a biking destination. True, Breckenridge is already a must-do for serious mountain bikers, but for anyone interested in trying out the sport for the first time, the mountain’s steep, loose trails can be a little intimidating. Remedying that situation was the goal of last summer’s bike program addition at Breck, which came on the heels of the passage of Sen. Mark Udall’s Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act in November 2011, legislation that allows ski areas operating on federal land (such as Breck and Keystone) to augment mothballed skiing infrastructure with new ropes courses, zip lines, and other recreational amenities for summertime visitors.
Although it’s an integral piece of Vail Resorts’ overall Epic Discovery expansion plans for Breck, the bike program’s debut was, admittedly, a baby step.
“It was really small last year,” says Jeff Lifgren, Breck’s skier services manager. “We conducted most of the lessons on a small pump track and then used existing trails. What we ended up getting was a lot of moms with their 10- to 13-year-old sons and daughters. We usually spend about an hour refreshing people’s skills, then we spend the second part riding on the trails—we want to make sure nobody gets intimidated.”
Another expanded program at Peak 8 Fun Park this year is a summer day camp for children that allows parents to embark on their own adventures after they drop off the kids for theirs. The kiddie crowd may pursue anything from scenic hikes and wildlife talks to, on rainy days, the finer points of soda-bottle rocketry.
“The camp offers something for both destination travelers and locals,” Lifgren points out. “Being a parent, one thing that frustrated me about summer day care is that I had to sign up for the whole summer. Here, if you want to call us the day before, you can still make a reservation.”
Besides the obvious benefits for the resort’s bottom line and year-round business, the Epic Discovery expansion brings much-needed summer jobs, which benefit locals who often grapple with making ends meeting from season to season.
“We have 2,000 employees in the winter, and we go down to 500 in the summer,” Lifgren says. “It’s going to be a big operation, and it’s exciting to us as an employer to be able to keep people year-round.”