Breckenridge is a town that is the county seat of Summit County, Colorado. It covers an area of five square miles and has a population of twenty-four hundred residents. Since the town is a vacation area, it has many part-time residents. Breckenridge attracts many people during the summer months due to its extensive collection of hiking trails and because of the many activities that can be done here. Summer activities include Blue River fly fishing, boating on Lake Dillon, superb mountain biking courses and white water rafting. The town also has several annual festivals which include their Fourth of July parade and the Breckenridge Film Festival.
In 1859, the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush attracted many prospectors in the area. A settlement soon sprung up to service the miners working along the Blue River, where gold was just discovered. This settlement was founded in 1859 by General George E. Spencer, who named the settlement after Vice President of the United States John C. Breckinridge. He named it after the vice president in hopes of garnering the favor of the Federal government and securing a post office for the new town. It evidently succeded because a post was promptly granted to the town and it became the first post office between the Continental Divide and Utah. The name of the town would be changed slightly during the Civil War. This was because John C. Breckinridge joined the Confederacy as a brigadier general.
So, the residents of the town, who were staunch pro union advocates, replaced the ‘i’ with an ‘e’ and changed the name of the town from Breckinridge to Breckenridge. The mining operations originally began as gold panning, but soon evolved into hard rock and hydraulic mining. One of the most notable prospectors during this time was Edwin Carter. In 1875, he decided to give up gold mining and become a naturalist. He then built a log cabin in the area and began collecting wildlife specimens. His cabin still stands today and has since been restored by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance and features a small movie room that chronicles his life and interactive exhibits. Extensive gold mining operations ran until 1908, until the supply of gold ran out. Over the forty-nine years that mining took place in the area, its credited with the production over one million troy ounces of gold. All the gold mines have long been shut down, but there are a few around the town that is open to the public.
During the year, Breckenridge is a bustling town with plenty of activities available to tourist. In January, the town host the International Show Sculpture Championships. This competition features artists from around the world who take twenty ton blocks of snow and turns them into works of art. During the winter months, visitors can enjoy skiing and winter fun in the snow. In the summer months, the town has the Breckenridge Music Institute and the National Repertory Orchestra. During these times, regular concerts are scheduled three times a week. Visitors can also see the performances at the Riverwalk Center which include contemporary artists, orchestra productions and ensembles. Also during the spring and summer months are several art fairs. The town is also becoming known as one of the most progressive towns in the United States. In November of 2009, Breckenridge residents passed a ballot measure which legalized possession of an ounce of cannabis by adults and also decriminalizes cannabis oriented paraphernalia. This measure takes effect on the first of January, 2010.
A popular attraction in the town is the Breckenridge Ski Resort. This resort is operated by Vail Resorts, an operation which also runs other ski resorts in Colorado which include Beaver Creek, Vail and Keystone. Over the past few years, Breckenridge Ski Resort has become one of the most popular resorts in North America. During the 2008-2009 season, this ski resort received almost two million skiers. This resort is frequented by in-state, North American and international visitors. It is so popular with European tourists that the BBC named Breckenridge Ski Resort as one of the top five ski resorts in the world. The resort has also been ranked one of the top ten American resorts by SKI Magazine.
Breckenridge Ski Resort has a top elevation of thirteen thousand feet and has a base elevation of ninety-six hundred feet. The skiable area of the resort is over twenty-three hundred acres and it has over one hundred and fifty-five runs. Of these runs thirty-six percent are expert level, nineteen percent are advanced level, thirty-one percent are intermediate level and fourteen percent are beginner level. Breckenridge Ski Resort receives over three hundred inches of snow a year and has twenty five acres of terrain parks. The resort also contains thirty lifts which include one gondola, two six passenger super chairs, seven quad chairs, six double chairs, thirteen surface lifts and one triple chair.
Another popular attraction in Breckenridge is the Country Boy Mine. This mine and museum allows visitors the chance to see what it was like to be a Colorado gold miner during the eighteenth century. Tour groups are held down in the tunnels and visitors get to wear authentic mining helmets. Groups can also try their hand a gold panning, and anything they find they get to keep. Country Boy Mine is the only authentic mine in the area that is open to the public. As of the time of this writing, the cost of joining in the tour is about $19.00 per person and the tour takes about an hour.