For three years running, Breckenridge has pulled in more than 1.4 million skiers per winter. It achieves those astounding numbers by being most things to most skiers-and close enough to five other resorts to make up for its few deficiencies. "Great town, and a good home base to ski other areas," says one reader. But big numbers have a downside. "Crowds are a bit much during peak season," warns another. Hit it during non-holiday midweeks, however, and Breck skis big and clear. With lots of "nicely groomed wide trails" such as Spruce, and "different peaks for different levels of ability," Breck's the kind of place where beginners and experts don't have to collide. Ski 6 Chair early, before its steep, ungroomed chutes and trees get crowded. Then head to the south-facing ravines between Peaks 8 and 9, where bump-studded descents, such as Devil's Crotch, await. Peak 8 is a cruiser's dream. Here you can carve swooping arcs on long rolling corduroy boulevards such as Claimjumper. Or challenge your buddy on the Nastar course. Quit while you're still feeling strong, because exploring the Victorian town can be as strenuous as its toughest terrain. "After-hours, baby!" exclaims one reader. Start a big night with dinner at Rasta Pasta on Main Street, and then test your après legs with a microbrew at the Breckenridge Brewery. Still restless? Follow the locals to Cecilia's-where the dance floor and pool tables jam all night.
WHAT'S NEW Of the $7 million being spent this winter, roughly one-third builds a 13,000-square-foot children's ski school and nursery at Peak 9.
A GOOD DEAL Get three nights' lodging at The Village at Breckenridge, dinner for a buck at the Breckenridge Cattle and Fish Company and a bump clinic for two for $399; 888-268-0628; www.breckenridge.com.
MEDALS GOLD Challenge, Lodging, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities, Family Programs; Silver Snow, Grooming, Terrain, Lifts, Service, Weather, Access, On-Mountain Food.
HIGH/LOW RANK Off-Hill Activities (6), Après-Ski (8), Family Programs (14); Challenge (41), Value (44), Terrain (49).
DON'T MISS A moonlight snowshoe on Boreas pass, just five miles east of town, but worlds away.
READER REMARKS (+) "Great all-around resort that hits on all cylinders." "Nothing like a ski area that's in a real town."
(-) "Resort is way too commercialized and crowded." "Hard to get from peak to peak."