The thing that comes to mind when I think about the Breckenridge Nordic Center (BNC) is family. The owners, Gene and Therese Dayton, and their extended family make you feel like kin when you visit the center.
We were greeted immediately with a smile and personalized customer service when we arrived. The staff even gave our daughter a bright pink balloon in celebration of the Snowshoe for the Cure event that took place at the Frisco Nordic Center (owned by the Town of Frisco since 2016). Plus, you’ll find the owners and family hanging out, helping in the lodge, or partaking in the outdoor splendors on the trails.
Before BNC, my experiences in the town of 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 I knew the area reasonably well. But I was pleasantly surprised to have discovered yet another reason to appreciate Breckenridge.
Located next to the Breck Ski Resort at 9 Grandview Drive, the BNC is a Colorado gem that reminds me of what the ski lodges must have been like decades ago. After visiting, I felt rekindled and more connected to the area, thanks to the hospitality of the staff and a snowshoe tour that gave me a more intimate view of the area. No wonder the Breckenridge Nordic Center has celebrated over 50 years of operation!
So, if you’re ready for a historical taste of Colorado on snowshoes, this is the place for you and your family.
Trails at the Breckenridge Nordic Center
The trails at the BNC start at 9,800 feet (2987 m) and weave through the surrounding forest. Due to the high elevation, you’ll typically find snow from November to April, which is one of the longest snow seasons in Colorado.
If you’d like a self-guided outing, easy-to-advanced trails appeal to all snowshoers levels. You can choose from groomed and ungroomed options ranging from 0.3 miles (0.5 km) to 2 miles (3.25 km). There are even a few dog-friendly trails if you enjoy snowshoeing with your dog.
All trails are open daily from 9 am to 4 pm, minus a few holidays.
Tours at the Breckenridge Nordic Center
One of the owners of the BNC, Therese, invited our family (including our one-year-old daughter) to experience a private guided tour. Tours operate seven days a week that offer an authentic and scenic taste of Breckenridge.
The guided tours are typically 1.25 hours long. Reservations are recommended for all guided tours, including group and private ones. BNC will accept walk-ins but on a first-come-first-serve basis. Children 12 and under can attend the private tours, but the BNC asks that individuals are at least 13+ for group tours.
Here’s what to expect if you head out on a tour.
For the tour, dress appropriately, and bring your snowshoes (like these beginner options) or rent gear for an additional fee. If you rent 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 their capabilities. Also, having a little training or refresh is never a bad thing.
A tutorial is especially helpful if you’ll be snowshoeing with children. You’ll learn how to operate your child’s equipment, and older children can hear the lesson from someone other than mom or dad. We were offered a pull-sled for our daughter on our private tour but decided to carry our baby girl in a child-safe backpack. If you want to go off-trail or through trees, pulling a sled may be difficult if you don’t have a path.
After being schooled on our equipment and checking our packs for a 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.
Learn About Breckenridge
Tom led the way for the tour, sharing tips and knowledge with us. The great thing about going with Tom is that he and Gene have lived in the Breckenridge Valley for over 45 years. So you know that they know what they’re talking about when they share the history and ecology of the area. They are not out-of-state or country owners disconnected from the local vibe. They are Breckenridge.
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. There are three benefits of the tours:
- Part science lesson: We learned about all the different kinds of trees, their names, and their origin. Also, we learned which trees are attractive as a snack to animals and which make the best log cabin lumber.
- Part mining town history: Tom told us what mining purpose the abandoned structures under the snowpack served. Maybe the most touching is the love story about a miner who struck it rich. However, he had to accommodate his wife before she would join him with their four children in a wild place like Breckenridge.
- And part workout: We also learned 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. During that time, I learned more than any other snowshoe hike I’ve experienced. As we pulled back up to the lodge, Gene serenaded us while playing the accordion and wearing lederhosen as he sat on one of the wooden benches near the lodge.
We geared down and turned in our equipment. Then we 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. Instead, I felt exhilarated and connected to nature. And I hope to get back to that feeling soon.
Tips If You Go
If you are an advanced snowshoer, the tour option might not be exhilarating enough to keep you entertained. Or, if you prefer a more serene side of solo snowshoeing, I would not necessarily recommend the tour option, as it is more of a social hike. It is, however, suited for those still learning or crafting their snowshoe abilities. The tour is also a great family event because most children can snowshoe easily, and the educational aspects of the tour spark 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 winter sports and nature together.
Partaking in ‘shoeing at the BNC adds a little more ease. 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 park at the center and then plot your course through the many miles of trails behind the center.
Would you snowshoe at Breckenridge Nordic Center? If you have already, what are your favorite trails and tours? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
This article was first published on March 27, 2016. It was updated and republished on October 14, 2022.