Breckenridge's roots have grown from gold, brothels, booms and busts to tourist-attractions, snow and shopping.
It is known as being ranked among the best ski resorts in the world, and why not?
The resort boasts 34 ski lifts with 2,908 acres of skiable terrain and runs for skiers and snowboarders of all levels and ages.
And beyond all that powdery perfection is a 4.68-square-mile town home to about 5,000 permanent residents and about 450 businesses — including boutiques, stores, lodges, restaurants/bars and more.
Join us Friday on Instagram for our #9Neighborhoods tour of Breckenridge.
PROSPECTING HISTORY AND LOTS OF SNOW
The town began in the 1800s, as a small group of prospectors settled in the area in 1859.
It was first called, “Breckinridge,” but would change its spelling to Breckenridge in 1861 after its former U.S. Vice President namesake became a Confederate Brigadier General in the Civil War.
Breckenridge has one of the largest historic districts in the state, with more than 200 structures on the National Register of Historic Places.
You can see many of these in Main Street's colorful facades, where modern restaurants, bars, and shops all operate in historic structures.
In the 1880s, Colorado's gold rush boomed, and Breck was no exception.
Its historic fire department was established in 1880 to help prevent a raging forest fire from reaching the town's wooden storefronts and homes.
By 1900, phones and electricity came to town, and the population continued to climb.
Tom's Baby (and a big scandal)
The town has not been without scandal and mystery.
One of the most interesting town legends is the story of “Tom's Baby.”
On July 23, 1887, miner Tom Groves walked into town cradling the largest piece of gold ever found in Colorado: a whopping 13.5-pound nugget.
He walked into town cradling the find in a blanket-wrapped bundle which earned it the nickname "Tom's Baby."
Three days later, the nugget was put on a train to Denver and not seen for 85 years.
Its locations were only rumored for decades.
Then, in 1972, the Colorado History Museum examined gold specimens that were deposited in a Denver bank in 1926. Tom's Baby was found, but more than five pounds remain missing to this day.
No man's land
While today the town is extremely popular with vacationers, tourists, and snow enthusiasts, Breck used to be a bit more of a well-kept secret. Almost too good, in fact.
Breckenridge was inadvertently left off a U.S. map in the mid-1800s and became known as “Colorado's Kingdom” until the mistake was discovered nearly a half a century later.
It was discovered in 1936 that the initial U.S. map surveys had miscalculated the Continental Divide (one survey had it to the west, one to Breck's east).
Kingdom of Breckenridge or “No Man's Land” had therefore been excluded in a strip of land 90 miles long and 30 miles wide. Oops!
In 1936, Breckenridge was finally included on its first U.S. map as the “Kingdom of Breckenridge.”
For many years, there was a heritage festival held every year in August celebrating sovereignty – and the proclamation of the town as the “Kingdom of Breckenridge”.
79 straight snow days
In 1898, it apparently snowed in Breckenridge for 79 days straight, which forced the townspeople to build snow tunnels to get around!
There are pretty fantastic historic photos of townsfolk getting around through the tunnels using ski poles, snowshoes, and anything else to get to stores and businesses.
From ghost town to ski town
After World War II, the population dwindled in Breckenridge dramatically.
In 1960, just 393 people called the town home.
A year later, Breckenridge Ski Area would open Peak 8, and soon the completion of the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate 70 would help establish Breckenridge as a premiere tourist spot and ski town.
Granted, lift tickets were a bit less pricey back then - just $4 for an adult and $2.50 for a child to ride the resort's one double chairlift or a short t-bar.
In 1963, the town's first “Ullr Dar” festival was celebrated, a tradition that continues today as “Ullr Fest.”
By 1999, the population of Breck was just under 2,400, and in 2003, it had climbed to more than 3,000 full-time residents.
On the big screen
Breckenridge also has a bit of a cinematic claim-to-fame.
Featured in the Chevy Chase Christmas classic “Christmas Vacation,” Breckenridge ski area's Four O'Clock run is where the famous sled ride into a Walmart parking lot scene was shot.
Breck's A Chair is also where Harry, in Dumb and Dumber, gets his tongue stuck on the chair and goes round and round.
THE MOST BRECKENRIDGE THING: ULLR FEST
When you see thousands of people wearing horned Viking hats attempting to take the world's largest shotski (really), you'll know it's Ullr Fest in Breckenridge.
The annual tradition celebrates its 55th year in town from Jan. 10-13, 2018.
It began in 1963 when a few locals lobbied the Breckenridge Town Council to star “Ullr Dag” (Ullr Day in English) to show appreciation for Ullr's gift of snow.
A Norse god, no one could best Ullr in skiing.
Each winter, according to legend, he would coat the earth with snow to cover it from harm.
According to town lore, “One of Ullr's travels found him in Breckenridge, Colorado. Breckenridge seemed a likely place for Ullr to settle down, since he wasn't looking to return to Norway any time soon. Ullr fit right in and took to the mountains. And every year, Ullr blesses Breckenridge with some of the finest snow in the world.”
Ullr Fest aims to repay the Norse God of Winter for the snow he bequeaths upon the town each year.
There's a wild and crazy weekend of activities including the breaking of the world record for “longest shot ski,” an Ullr parade down Main Street, a giant Christmas-tree burning bonfire, an ice plunge, and even a talent show, film festival, comedy night and other family activities.
As the city describes it, “During Ullr Fest in Breckenridge, don't be surprised to see horned Viking hats adorning the heads of skiers and snowboarders, the biggest bonfire in town, and more than 12,000 Ullr enthusiasts filling the streets for the Ullr Parade with crazy float participants skiing off jumps on Main Street or gliding along town in a hot tub. Join us to rejoice with Ullr himself... he's ready for a good party.”
Traditions have come and gone: the Ullr Ball, the Ullr Bonfire, the Ullr Parade, Snow Sculpting, Ullr King and Queen, the Ullympics and the Ullr Dating Game.
Some traditions have stayed, such as snow sculpting, which has become its own event called the International Snow Sculpture Championships.
Other traditions have gone by the wayside.
HISTORIC MAIN STREET, MODERN BUSINESSES
Breckenridge's Main Street is packed with colorful, historic buildings reminiscent of the town's mining roots.
With nearly 100 restaurant/bars to choose from, Breckenridge has no shortage of spots to whet your pallet.
Among the best-rated are the upscale American spot Blue River Bistro (305 N. Main St.); the historic Hearthstone Restaurant (130 S. Ridge St.); and Downstairs at Eric's (111 S. Main St.), a family-friendly Aprés ski pub.
Tons of locals recommended Eric's on our Facebook page.
For pizza, Giampietro's has been serving pies and giant calzones from its Main Street digs since the 1960s. Everything is made in house, from the pizza sauce to the balsamic.
Empire Burger (500 S. Main St.) is great for grabbing lunch, and Daylight Donuts (305 N. Main St.) is worth the (inevitable) wait. Its counter-serves freshly made donuts daily (cash only).
If you've got time to wait in its practically ever-present line, Crepes a la cart is worth the investment. Serving both sweet and savory crepes from a tiny little food cart (get it?), locals and tourists alike will wait more than an hour for the griddle-baked goodness.
For reporting purposes (of course), this writer waited in line and tried the blueberry muffin and crepes benedict - and can confirm they were delicious.
It wouldn't be a visit to Breck without a stop at the Breckenridge Brewery & Pub (600 S. Main St.), the best-known microbrewery and pub in the city.
Breckenridge Tap House (105 N. Main St.) and The Canteen Tap House & Tavern (208 N. Main St.) are also a great place to kick back with a beer after a day of hitting the slopes.
Locals loved Broken Compass Brewing, too, located at 68 Continental Court.
Their beers are best served with friends after a day on the slopes, but anyone can appreciate their Ginger Pale Ale or Mosaic IPA. You can bring your own food to the tap room, too!
There's much more than beer in town, too. Sip on some spirits at one of two local distilleries: Breckenridge Distillery or Dancing Pines Distillery, which both have tasting rooms on Main Street.
For shopping, check out Marigold's Farmhouse Funk & Junk (215 S. Main St.), a gift shop with vintage, shabby-chic type collectibles and decorations.
Breckenridge Hat Co. (411 S. Main St. #9) is also a fun spot that locals as well as tourists seem to love.
If socks are more your jam, there's a store for that too. Check out Joy of Sox along Main Street! They've got funny footwear, accessories, and gift ideas.
Coffee lovers, there's plenty more than Starbucks here. Try The Crown for coffee, tea, baked goods, or even lunch.
Its cozy dining room is perfect for chilly mornings and features community games to play as well. Although it's been around for 14 years, it was renovated in 2014 to feature a more modern menu, bar, and charm.
Cabin Coffee also came highly recommended from 9NEWS Facebook fans.
BEYOND THE SLOPES
Breckenridge also has a dog park, skate park, two Nordic centers and three parks with playgrounds, including the newly built North Main Street Park.
Locals recommend heading to the nordic center to snowshoe, or bring the kids over to Carter Park for some sledding.
On a pleasant day, stroll through the town's Riverwalk, which makes a great picnic spot in the springtime, or a fun place to make a snowman in the winter. It sits adjacent to the town's arts center.
Living in Breckenridge can be pricey — the median home price for all-size properties is $670,000 according to Trulia.com. The median price for a one-bedroom condo, however, is closer to $400,000, while the median rent for all-size properties is about $3,500.
In the summer, the adventure continues. Breckenridge has hosted the Colorado Classic cycling race and its predecessor, the USA Pro Challenge, for several years.