“Above Treeline”

Breckenridge has enticing high alpine terrain, and a new documentary to prove it.

Breckenridge Resort, Colo.
Breckenridge is already known the world-over as an iconic ski town; now it’s making a name for itself as a destination for expert skiers looking for steep lines above treeline. Photo courtesy of Breckenridge Resort

Breckenridge Resort, situated just down the highway from its Colorado sister resorts of Loveland and Arapahoe Basin—mountains beloved by Front Range powder hounds and thrill seekers for their off-piste terrain—is often dismissed by that same crowd as being a tame ski vacationer’s mountain, its terrain catering more to intermediates looking for expansive groomers and fine dining than those seeking steep chutes and adventure. But that reputation is misleading.

Driving into the valley, you can’t help but notice the impressive high alpine terrain looming above Breck’s perfectly cut and manicured slopes. But back in 1961, when Breck was first established as a ski resort, that imposing above-treeline terrain spanning from Peak 6 to Peak 8 was only something to be ogled—not skied—by most Breck visitors. At the time, only a handful of pioneers and hot doggers with imaginations recognized the potential of the steep chutes and open bowls above the lift-served lower mountain and took it upon themselves to hike up from the top of the T-Bar to access the extreme terrain that was not technically part of the resort.

Breckenridge's Lake Chutes and more High Alpine Terrain
Crazy Ivan, a double-black diamond chute in Breck’s high alpine terrain, is now accessible from the Imperial Chair on Peak 8. Photo courtesy of Breckenridge Ski Resort

But as powder and extreme skiing grew in popularity in the 80s, more and more thrill-seekers began venturing into the high alpine areas beyond the established resort—risky adventures in such avalanche-prone terrain that was not controlled by Breck’s ski patrol because it wasn’t part of the resort. After an avalanche triggered by skiers traversing across the high alpine terrain to access the goods killed other skiers below, Breckenridge Resort operators knew they needed to do something to mitigate the danger and fulfill expert skiers’ desire for steep and deep. They decided the only responsible course of action would be to fold the high alpine terrain into the resort.

Breckenridge Resort’s new documentary “Above Treeline” chronicles the development of what is now one of the resort’s biggest draws: expansive terrain above treeline that is lift-served and avalanche-controlled. If you thought Breck was vanilla, this video will make you think again. 

“Above Treeline: The Story of Breck’s High Alpine”