By John Leach
Breckenridge is a major skiing center in the winter, with five Summit County ski areas within easy driving distance – Keystone, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain on the
west side of the Continental Divide and Arapahoe Basin and Loveland on the east side.
In the summer, Breckenridge remains a recreation center, with boating, hiking, fishing, bicycling and camping. It’s also located in a prime spot, just 80 miles west of Denver on
Interstate 70 and a few miles from the massive Lake Dillon, which covers 3,233 acres.
Breckenridge also features the kind of Victorian-era historic buildings that can be found in former gold and silver mining boomtowns like Aspen and Telluride, both of which
turned into ski resorts after the decline of the mining industry. Breckenridge’s downtown historic district covers 155 structures on nearly 50 city blocks.
Breckenridge is decades older than either Aspen or Telluride because its roots date back to the start of the Colorado Gold Rush in 1859. Prospectors began with placer
mining along the Blue River, switched to hard rock mining for veins of silver and lead tucked into the mountains, and then turned to gold dredging operations on the river.
The mining district is credited with the production of 1 million troy ounces of gold.
The town was established in 1859 as Breckinridge, after U.S. Vice President John C. Breckinridge, and a ploy by founder George E. Spencer is credited with landing the
first post office between the Continental Divide and Salt Lake City for the new town. But Breckinridge sided with the Confederacy in the Civil War, prompting pro-Union
townspeople to make a one-letter change in the town’s name – to Breckenridge.
Breckenridge shows up in scenes from two recent film comedies, 1989’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and 1994’s Dumb & Dumber (masquerading as Aspen).
In 2009, the town voted overwhelmingly to pass a ballot measure that legalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults. However, marijuana possession
remains illegal under state law.
Population: 4,540 (2010 Census).
Land area: 5 square miles.
County: Summit (Breckenridge is county seat).
Altitude: 9,600 feet above sea level.
Climate: Cool summers, very cold winters and abundant sunshine year-round. Annual
precipitation of 20 inches, including average snowfall of 164 inches. Snow depth of
12 to 16 inches from January through April. January averages: high 30, low 0. July
averages: high 65, low 37. More weather >>