By Senior Airman William Nash
50th Comptroller Squadron
As Airmen, we have the opportunity to be based anywhere from the deep south to the northern reaches of Alaska, small atolls in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and to the leafy English countryside. With such a plethora of locations, it’s easy to forget how breathtaking Colorado is, and how lucky we are to live here.
Colorado is full of vast vistas, great sand dunes, endless trails, raging rapids and mountains laden with powder, giving us year-round opportunities to be an explorer.
The Air Force encourages Airmen to embrace local cultures and environments, becoming more productive and dynamic warfighters.
One exploration avenue is the 50th Force Support Squadron’s Outdoor Recreation Information Tickets and Tours office, located in Building 300, Room 133.
The ODR/ITT offers a multitude of discounted tickets and trips to places such as Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Colorado’s world-renowned ski resorts.
“The ODR/ITT is not exclusive to providing tickets, but to also provide information on local and national deals that you couldn’t necessarily find online,” said Juliana Yim, 50th FSS ODR director.
One such ski resort town is Breckenridge, Colorado. It is North America’s highest altitude ski resort, with a bustling historic village at the base and ribbons of some of the finest ski and snowboard runs on the planet. It also has other family activities such as snowmobile tours, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and tubing.
Breckenridge is nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, just over two hours away from Colorado Springs. The majority of those two hours are spent along one of the most scenic highways in America, U.S. Route 24.
“On the drive to Breck, everyone should stop at the summit of Wilkerson Pass to take in one of the coolest views in Colorado,” said Senior Airman Nathan Saelens, 50th Comptroller Squadron Financial Management Flight technician.
Arriving at Breckenridge is akin to jumping into a postcard. The town is framed by five towering snowcapped peaks, making it impossible to miss.
Free parking can be found in the Airport Road lot with a free shuttle ferrying you to the BreckConnect gondola and village every 15 minutes. There is additional paid parking and street parking throughout the village, but be wary of meter times, as sometimes cars get towed.
Once you are parked, hop onto the free gondola to be taken above the clouds. The ride itself can be fun for children, dogs are welcome and if you’re lucky, you may spot a moose. You can choose to get off at peaks seven or eight. You don’t have to ski to ride the gondola.
Peak 7 is home to the Grand Lodge, with a host of indulgences and spa packages that are perfect for a romantic getaway. The Independence Super Chair is within a one minute walk from the BreckConnect gondola waiting to whisk you up to the ski area above.
Peak 8 sits at 9,600 feet and is the main gateway to the ski territory. The T-Bar offers American and Mexican eats along with sports and music; it is also a welcome refuge if the weather turns arctic.
The Rocky Mountain and Colorado Super Chairs will take you seamlessly into ski terrain for all levels.
“My favorite bowl to ski at Breck is the Empire Bowl, accessed by the T-Bar, it does not get icy and always has good powder after a snow storm,” Saelens said. “It was also my first double black diamond run.”
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, there’s an abundance of leg burning moguls, tight tree runs and titanic powder filled bowls. However, be cognizant of your skill level, as you don’t want to be caught in an area you are unable to traverse out from.
Once the ski lifts close at 4 p.m., the fun continues in the town of Breckenridge, with a bounty of restaurants and shops to keep you busy. The run meanders all the way into town, or you can hop back onto the BreckConnect gondola.
A recreational ski package can be rented through the Peterson Air Force Base Outdoor Recreational Center for as little as $15 for one day and $30 for a weekend. Snowshoes can be rented starting at $6 per day. Day passes for military adults (13- years-of-age or older) are $111.82 from ITT compared to $169.00 at the window and $73.15 for children (5-12-years-old) from ITT compared to $110.00 at the window in Breckinridge.
Breckenridge is one of the many amazing places you have the opportunity to take, whether or not you have skied before. It caters to all ages and skill levels. It is close enough for a day trip, but far enough away to feel like you have escaped to a winter wonderland.
For more information, call ODR/ITT at 567-6050.