The thing that comes to mind when I think about the Breckenridge Nordic Center (BNC) is family. I think of family because the winter sport facility and lodge is great for families. The owners, husband and wife Gene and Therese Dayton and extended family, make you feel like kin when you visit the center.
Gene and Therese own and operate the BNC and the Frisco Nordic Center. Therese recently invited me and my husband and our one-year old daughter to experience a guided tour at the Breckenridge Center. The center offers an authentic and scenic taste of Breckenridge. While Gene’s brother Tom Dayton is the head tour guide, Gene and Therese’s sons can be found hanging out, helping out in the lodge, or partaking in the outdoor splendors on the trails.
My experiences at Breckenridge have been mini vacations in the mountain resort town involving downhill snowboarding and enjoying the nightlife. In fact, my husband and I were engaged on Peak 7 of Breckenridge. Because of my many outings to the town, I thought that I knew the area fairly well. But I was pleasantly surprised to have discovered yet another reason to appreciate Breckenridge, the Nordic Center.
The center, located at 9 Grandview Drive, Breckenridge, is a Colorado gem that reminds me of what the ski lodges must have been like before the resort grew too popular for tourists and Denverites. Anyone from Denver knows this to be true if you’ve sat on I-70 after a day of skiing. After visiting the BNC in early March I feel rekindled and more connected to the area, thanks to the hospitality of the Dayton’s and the snowshoe tour that gave me a more intimate view of the area. If you’re ready for a historical taste of Colorado on snowshoes this is the tour for you and your family.
When we arrived, a smiling Gene driving a four-wheeler golf cart greeted us wearing a BNC jacket. He led us to the entrance where we were greeted immediately with a smile and personalized customer service. We were checked in for equipment and our daughter was given a bright pink balloon, in celebration of the Snowshoe for the Cure event that took place at the Frisco Nordic Center earlier that morning.
As we set out to get our gear, someone looking a lot like Gene greeted us, this was Tom, Gene’s brother and the head tour guide at BNC. If you are renting gear I recommend getting a tutorial on your equipment. The reason is all brands of equipment are a little different and it’s good to know what the capabilities are of your equipment. It’s also never a bad thing to have a little training or refresh. This is especially true if you have children, as then you know how to operate their equipment and the older ones can hear the lesson from someone other than mom or dad.
We were offered a pull sled but decided to carry our baby girl in a child safe backpacking backpack instead. If you want to go off trail at all, or through trees pulling a sled may be difficult. Should you want a sled both the Frisco and Breckenridge Nordic centers offer sleds children. They also offer all sizes of equipment for all ages.
After being schooled on our equipment and checking our packs for travel diaper changing pad, diapers, sunscreen, snacks, water and extra layers we started our tour. Word to the wise, like any activity, when snowshoeing with children you need to be prepared for anything. During the spring this is very true as the weather can change on the drop of a dime. This particular day was a prime example of spring in the Rockies. When we walked out to the back of the center to secure our snowshoes we removed a layer of clothing, it was a sunny 50 degrees with not a cloud in the sky.
And so our tour began. Tom led the way, sharing with us tips and knowledge along the way. The great thing about going with Tom is that he and Gene have lived in the Breckenridge Valley for some 40 years, so you know that they know what they’re talking about. They are not out of state or country owners disconnected from the local vibe. They are Breckenridge. Gene moved here from Minnesota in 1969, Tom came out a few years later and they haven’t left since. Can you just imagine what the trails were like when they started? You likely saw more wildlife and less human traffic and affect.
As a curious person who enjoys burning calories and learning something while the sun shines on my face I found the tour to be thoroughly enjoyable. Being on the tour had three benefits, it was part science lesson, part mining town history lesson and part work out. Tom can tell you about all the different kinds of trees, their names and origin, which ones are attractive as a snack to animals and which ones make the best log cabin lumber. He can tell you what mining purpose the abandoned structures under the snow pack served. Maybe most touching is the love story about a miner who struck it rich but had to accommodate for his wife before she would join him with their four children in a wild place like Breckenridge. He can also teach you snowshoe techniques in varying conditions, including traversing hills, staying on top of loose powder and going down steep hills with a child on your back.
We trekked for nearly two hours, I learned more in that time than any other snowshoe hike I’ve been on. As we pulled back up to the lodge we were serenaded by Gene playing an accordion wearing lederhosen as he sat on one of the wooden benches near the lodge. We geared down and turned in our equipment then sat at the cabin like bar to enjoy a Colorado microbrew and snack. It was the perfect end to the perfect day. And I didn’t feel rushed or crowded. I felt exhilarated and connected to nature. And I hope to get back to that feeling soon.
If You Go
If you are an advanced snowshoer the tour option might not by exhilarating enough to keep you entertained. Or if you prefer a more serene side of solo snowshoeing then I would not necessarily recommend the tour option, as it is more of a social hike. If is however suited for those who are still learning or crafting their snowshoe abilities. The tour is also a great family event because most children are able to snowshoe with ease and the educational aspects of the tour keep sparks the curiosity of people young and old.
The center’s available activities are also more attainable, logistically and financially. The cost and effort it takes to go snowboarding just hasn’t justified time away from the baby during our precious weekends. However, snowshoeing is a stress-free way for our new family with a small child to enjoy a winter sport and nature together. Partaking in shoeing at the BNC adds a little more ease, as it is an organized system of trails, clearly marked and mapped. This is a more popular location for snowshoeing, especially on the weekends. So if you enjoy the solitude of the backcountry you can just park at the center and then plot your course through the many miles of trails behind the center.
The BNC and FNC are open seasonally, approximately November through early May, pending on snowpack etc. With the recent snow accumulation in the mountains there should be time to enjoy the trails.