2003 Number 10 Resort in North America: Breckenridge, Colo.


More than 90 percent of readers cite Breckenridge's "wonderful ski town" as one of the resort's major strengths. They're right: In the age of purpose-built Bavarian-style resorts, Breckenridge's authentic Victorian Main Street creates an ambience that is "refreshingly real." For every ticky-tacky T-shirt shop, there are two homespun restaurants (Rhasta Pasta, Café Alpine) and stores (Tom Girl, A Racer's Edge). On the slopes, as in town, "there's lots and lots of variety." Credit Breckenridge's four mountains. Test your limits in the bowls of Peak 7 or on the steeps of Peak 8. Love to cruise? This season Breck adds 30 percent more intermediate terrain and a high-speed six-pack on Peak 7. With seven new trails on 165 acres, the whole family can have fun here. The resort has also installed a high-speed quad above Beaver Run Resort on Peak 9 to whisk riders to Peak 8, near the Vista Haus. And a mid-station loading point allows skiers to board the lift where Chair 4 previously began. This should quell those who gripe, "Long liftlines! Too many people!" This is a fact of life on busy weekends and holidays. After all, Breck does draw more than a million skiers per season. But that's because Breck is big (2,043 skiable acres), has "affordable slopeside lodging" and "great nightlife." What's not to like? -Natalie Kurylko

WHAT'S NEW $12 million in on-mountain improvements buys two high-speed lifts, a terrain park and halfpipe on Peak 8, two snowcats, and renovations of the Vista Haus and Maggie restaurants.

A GOOD DEAL $320 per person buys four nights' lodging and four days' skiing, Jan. 6-Feb. 28, Feb. 14-16, with blackout dates (800-936-7359).

MEDALS GOLD Grooming, Challenge, Access, Lodging, Dining, Après, Off-Hill Activities, Family Programs, Terrain Parks; SILVER Snow, Terrain, Value, Lifts, Service, Weather, On-Mountain Food, Scenery.

HIGH/LOW RANK Terrain Parks (5), Après (7), Off-Hill Activities (9); Lifts (32), Challenge (38), Terrain (40).

DON'T MISS If the 9,600-foot base elevation makes your head hurt, grab a seat at The O2 Lounge, where flavored oxygen is on tap.

READER REMARKS (+) "Hands down, best ski town." "Keeps everyone happy, low-end to high-end, beginner to expert."
(-) "In a low-snow year, expert terrain suffers." "Needs about half the visitors."

Great Lodging Deals here.