A February 2003 trip
to Breckenridge by Ellum Enopee
Quote: On a long weekend in Breckenridge, we found lots to do for everyone in the family, but nowhere to park!
Restaurant | "The Pub so nice, we dined there twice"
The food is classic brewery eats: simple fare made with high-quality ingredients, like sides of mashed potatoes with the skins still on, cooked with butter and milk, with a pool of gravy in the center. Salads range from the traditional (chicken Caesar) to the unexpected (mango spinach with delicious candied almonds on top). Burgers can be ordered with a variety of tasty toppings, including several cheeses and sliced avocado. Veggie burgers are also available. Fish and chips are freshly fried and filled with bright white cod, sitting atop mounds of delicious fries.
Apres-ski, sample one of their own microbrews, like a tasty Oatmeal Stout or an Avalanche Lager. The Pale Ale was also a hit at our table. There should be five or six microbrew choices on the menu at any given time. Happy hours, DJ nights, and other events ensure that you will be entertained while noshing on typical (but again, really nicely prepared) bar snacks like chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, and cheese fries with cheddar and Monterey Jack.
If you’re into souvenirs, this is a fun place to buy T-shirts, shot glasses, or pint glasses with the logos of their different beers. The beers, by the way, are also sold in several restaurants around town, but the souvenirs are not. The quality of the souvenir merchandise is just as high as the food, although the prices are equally high. Just one word to the wise: they will not seat you for lunch until the entire party has arrived, and are even a bit obnoxious about it if you try arguing "oh, he’s just parking the car!" I think our hostess actually rolled her eyes at us when we tried that angle.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 22, 2003
600 South Main Street
Breckenridge, Colorado 80424
Restaurant | "Mi Casa Su Casa - Kind of."
Our waiter, Eric, must have been given a mandate to push the trout. He pushed it pretty hard, too. En route to a neighboring table with a plate of trout in hand, he went so far as to pause at our table to show it off – to the dismay of the trout’s owner, I’m sure! It didn’t escape me that the trout was the second most expensive item on the menu. None of us ordered it, although it did look pretty tempting.
Eric’s efforts notwithstanding, the guidebook was right about the food. Our nacho appetizer, overflowing with beans, cheeses, fresh guacamole, and all the extras you’d expect, held us over until our entrees arrived. I was so full of appetizers, in fact, that I couldn’t manage more than the Southwestern corn chowder. Perfect for a light eater, it came in a modest but not skimpy-sized bowl, set on a larger plate which also held two tiny quesadillas. What a treat! The rest of our table stuck to the basics, and gamely dug into their oversized burritos, quesadillas, and tacos washed down with another round of margaritas.
With the festive, colorful décor you’d expect from a Mexican restaurant in a resort community and a lively, upbeat crowd, Mi Casa is a fun spot for a filling meal. Right across the street from the skier drop-off for Peak 10, it’s also conveniently located. Just be sure to get there early so you can get a table – and if you see Eric, and he’s still pushing the trout, order something else!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 22, 2003
Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant
600 South Park Avenue
Breckenridge, Colorado 80424
That impression is swiftly put aside along with checked coats and hats once you get inside. Breckenridge is a casual place, so even a chi-chi eatery like Hearthstone is a bit on the informal side. Despite the stern Victorian bones of the building’s architecture, the interior is at once formal and rustic – kind of a business casual or a shabby chic kind of look. Lace curtains in the windows, solicitous staff – I felt a little bit like I was in the formal dining room of a particularly dressy maiden aunt. It’s only been in business since 1989, but it feels like it’s been there forever.
I suspect the folks at Wine Spectator like to ski, because it seems to me they’re always doling out awards in ski towns out West. Breckenridge is no exception; Hearthstone has the Wine Spectator seal of approval, so you’ll find a selection of high-quality wines to go with your haute cuisine. Although Hearthstone specializes in serving denizens of the animal kingdom, vegetarians will be treated well. The chef even made me a special entrée the night we dined there. Meat eaters have their choice of wild game, hand-cut steaks, seafood, and their famous slow-roasted prime rib. Many ribs were consumed that night along with my veggie plate, believe me!
So if you’re dying to try an elk chop, hankering for seafood in the middle of the country, or just want to sit at a window table and enjoy the scenery, Hearthstone is a great place to splurge. (On a budget? Stop by Hearthstone’s Victorian Lounge Happy Hour, from 4-6pm daily, and enjoy discounted drinks and snacky food.)
Hours: Daily 5:30-10pm
Hearthstone Casual Dining
130 South Ridge Road
Breckenridge, Colorado 80424
Development continues at a rapid clip – our spotless, welcoming condominium rental at the Mountain Thunder Lodge was built only last year, and is owned by the same folks who own Vail. Our Peaks passes allowed us to ski at five different Colorado resorts, although in the three days we had to ski, we found Breckenridge itself more than adequate and didn’t even stray over to nearby Copper Mountain. We did, however, save a bundle - $90 off on three-day passes for five adults. Not bad!
There are some wonderful, unique things about Breckenridge. Driving by an oxygen bar and watching people reading the paper while getting their daily fix is always entertaining. A drive over to Lake Dillon will often reward you with a close-up view of snowboarders "kiting" across the frozen lake. You might spy a local climbing the ice chutes, or encounter a paraplegic or blind skier schussing down the hill alongside someone in one of those goofy hats that seem to have taken the winter-sports world by storm. Free buses whisk skiers from condos and hotels directly to the slopes. On the other hand, Breckenridge’s facilities have not been updated in some time. I never noticed how much I appreciated the plastic bins in the bathroom stalls that keep your gloves and goggles safe from harm’s way while you use the facilities, until I visited a resort that didn’t have them. The lack of public parking is an ongoing problem that gets worse every year. But if you’ve got non-skiers with you, Breckenridge is an exceptional choice for your ski vacation. With so much to do on AND off the slopes, and a great restaurant or bar around every corner, it’s a winter paradise for all parties involved.
We were picked up at our hotel, and driven about an hour out of town to a high-altitude headquarters of rambling trailers and sheds, perched on the border of the Arapaho National Forest. I suppose the relaxed minimum driving age should have been a hint that White Mountain’s management puts payment before people. We got another hint upon arrival, when we separated into two groups. A large horde of beginners had come for a regular tour and a few experienced drivers had signed up for the more costly "High Adventure" tour, a fast-paced, high-pitched "extreme" snowmobiling adventure with their very own guide. When the staff realized that due to an administrative error, the High Adventure group was not nine but three people, they promptly canceled the High Adventure tour and told the three experts that they could tag along with us newbies. They took it well - but personally, after spending an hour on the road to get there, I would have been really annoyed.
We were taken into a trailer to pick out our protective gear. We suited up in one-piece snowsuits, helmets with no face shields, goggles, and warm boots. Supplies of certain sizes of helmet and suit were perilously limited. The gear was old and grubby, but it kept us warm – although my husband was cursing the lack of a face shield when icicles started forming in his beard. The snowmobiles, or "sleds" in the lingo of the would-be High Adventurers, were shiny new Polaris models. Apparently since the last time I went snowmobiling almost ten years ago, some brilliant person invented built-in hand warmers! They were, in fact, so warm my hands started sweating, and I had to turn them down to low. Unlike other snowmobiles I’ve used, these were simple and painless to start up. Our guides gave us a quick safety lesson followed by a short, easy trail ride leading to a big practice loop where we could get used to bumps and curves in a safe environment. Meredith took advantage of the practice loop to taunt me loudly, taking care to point out how slow I was.
Operating a loud, smelly, expensive vehicle which I am very likely to drive into a tree is not my favorite way to spend an afternoon, particularly when I’m minutes away from some fantastic skiing. But it was the best and only way to experience the astonishing scenery at the top of the Continental Divide. For those of you who don’t remember grade school, the Continental Divide is a pivotal point in the United States, the central high point from which waters flow in opposite directions. When weather permits, you can see 125 miles away. Visibility when I visited was about 125 feet.
The trails were mostly on private land owned by the Climax molybdenum-mining company, which closed in the 1980s, as well as in Arapahoe National Forest. If you really want to know what moly-whatever is, I’ll tell you. It’s a metal which is added to steel to make it more durable. Sorry you asked?
Although we were fogged in for most of the tour, we did have a few moments of clarity in which to be astonished by the scenery around us, made all the more dramatic by the fleeting glimpses we were offered. The fog also posed challenges, as we followed our guide down a loosely linked collection of trails. He veered off the trails in places, letting us run wild over a succession of gorges and gulleys. Our narrow line of black, exhaust-spewing sleds drew dark, sinewy curves on the hillsides as we navigated harrowing hairpin turns and zigzagged through coordinated turns.
We got up to 45 mph at times, which was challenging given the poor visibility. The tour was recommended for all levels of experience, but slowpokes could easily lose sight of the group despite the wide open spaces we were often traveling through. They may have felt some pressure to keep up, and therefore might have gone faster than felt comfortable. At one point, Meredith skidded off the trail and hit a tree, causing some shaky nerves but only $75 in repairs. Any newcomer to snowmobiling could have easily done the same.
The Ride Home
Quiet and sleepy on the van home, I chatted with our driver and learned some interesting factoids about the surrounding area. I asked about the local wildlife and got two answers: One, that there is a herd of elk, some bear, and bighorn sheep in the hills. Two, that locals sometimes ski off the back of Copper Mountain and then hitchhike back once they hit the road (insane!). They are also known to cross-country ski the back bowls on full moons.
And Meredith? She was shaken, but not stirred. The snowmobiling bug seemed to pass out of her system, and the next day on the chairlift, she solemnly confided to me that snowmobiling "really wasn't that cool after all."
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