Keystone and Breckenridge ski resorts both offer great skiing in Colorado’s Summit County. Which is the better choice for a ski break and why?
Getting to Keystone and Breckenridge
Breckenridge and Keystone are only a a short drive away from one another so the distances and routes to Denver and the international airport are pretty similar.
The initial route from the city is the same for both ski destinations: up I-70 west of the city until the town of Loveland. If weather conditions are good, drivers can take the route over Loveland Pass and through to Keystone. Using this route Keystone Resort is around 70 miles from the centre of Denver and 94 miles from Denver International Airport.
Alternatively, drivers can continue on I-70 through the tunnel to the town of Silverthorne where Keystone visitors take the exit to the ski resort. (This route adds an extra five or six miles but is far less weather-dependent.)
Skiers heading for Breckenridge continue on I-70 to the town of Frisco, where they can turn off to the south for the short drive to the ski resort. Breckenridge is around 80 miles from Denver and around 100 miles away from Denver International Airport.
The Summit Stage bus service runs a shuttle between Breckenridge and Keystone, as well as the towns of Frisco, Dillon and Silverthorne. The state offers a weekend bus service to the Summit County ski resorts from Denver Union Station.
Comparing Keystone and Breckenridge
Ski infrastructure at Keystone and Breckenridge
Only 15 miles from one another, it is hardly surprising that the two ski resorts have quite similar statistics when it comes to elevation, vertical drop and skiable terrain.
Where the differences arise is in the number of ski lifts and the ‘official’ ski trails. Breckenridge has spent a lot of time and money developing the ski area on the different peaks, whereas Keystone Resort still has quite a large amount of terrain which is currently only available through hiking or by ski-cat.
Plans to develop a new lift into some of Keystone’s hiking terrain (originally scheduled to be open in 2022-23) have hit environmental obstacles and been delayed.
Ski resort accommodation at Keystone and Breckenridge
Keystone ski accommodation
Keystone Resort is very much a ski mountain village, with plenty of condominium developments designed to get families of skiers and boarders onto the mountain efficiently. There are three main base areas – River Run, Mountain House and Lakeside Village – which are connected by a ski shuttle service.
Check accommodation availability at Keystone Resort
Looking for lodging at Keystone? Use the search box below to enter your travel dates and you will get an overview of available accommodation options. Click on the accommodation you like and you will be taken to the booking page where you can choose your preferred room type and view additional information about the property. On the resort booking page you can also filter the results by price range, number of guests, star rating and amenities offered.
Breckenridge ski accommodation
Breckenridge is a little different as it is a former mining town which dates from the days of the Colorado gold rush and the historic downtown area is not far from the lifts and ski area. It is renowned for its apres-ski and nightlife and there is a free ski bus service which links some outlying areas to the ski lifts.
Check accommodation availability at Breckenridge
The search box below will show accommodation availability if you enter your proposed dates of stay in Breckenridge. Click on the accommodation you like and you will be taken to the booking page where you can choose your preferred room type and view additional information about the property. On the resort booking page you can also filter the results by price range, number of guests, star rating and amenities offered.
Skiing at Keystone and Breckenridge
Keystone and Breckenridge are both Colorado ski resorts which are run by Vail Resorts and are thus part of the Epic Pass lift ticket association.
There are various options on offer for those skiing at either resort. The Epic Day Pass is a non-holiday season pass which is available for the desired period of skiing or boarding.
Season tickets are available for various levels of accessibility.
Visitors to Keystone can pick the Keystone Plus season pass, which offers access to Keystone, spring skiing at Breckenridge and five days at Crested Butte outside holiday periods.
The Summit Value season pass expands availability to the full season at Keystone and non-holiday periods at Breckenridge.
The full Epic Pass also offers the option of skiing at Vail, Beaver Creek and Crested Butte as well as Keystone and Breckenridge. There is also an Epic Local Pass, which gives unrestricted access to Crested Butte, Breckenridge and Keystone during the season. (Access to Beaver Creek and Vail is only available outside holiday periods on this pass.)
Skiing for beginners at Keystone and Breckenridge
Keystone has a designated learning area at the base of the mountain for absolute beginners, with its own chairlift and a number of magic carpets. Once skiers have gained enough confidence to head up the mountain – or want to take in the views while learning – they can try another area designed for beginner skiers at the top of Dercum Mountain on the Ranger chairlift.
From here there is also a long green (easy) trail down the mountain either to the bottom of the Montezuma Express chair (which heads back up to the top of Dercum Mountain) or to either the River Run or Mountain House base areas.
The best beginner ski terrain at Breckenridge can be found on Peak 8 and Peak 9 and can be easily accessed from the town or from other parts of the ski area. The Peak 8 base area especially has a number of short trails suited to those learning to ski.
The QuickSilver SuperChair on Peak 9 leads onto a number of easy runs. The Silverthorne run, for example, is known as one of the better beginner runs in the Rockies. Over on Peak 8 off the Colorado SuperChair, a short initial blue (intermediate) section offers access to a number of green (beginner) runs, including the Sawmill trail which is a long traverse over to the base of Peak 9.
Intermediate skiing at Keystone and Breckenridge
This is why skiers head to both of these Colorado ski resorts. Both have a high proportion of well-groomed cruising runs sprinkled all across the mountains that form the ski areas.
Keystone’s intermediate terrain starts over at the runs served by the River Run gondola, with plenty of blue options back down to the base. If this area gets too crowded, it is easy enough to head over towards the North Peak area and then further across to the Outback Express chairlift. Although this area is known for its advanced runs, there are four or five good options at the intermediate level.
The skiing at Breckenridge is considered by many to be graded too severely (meaning improving skiers at one level can probably manage some of the easier runs at the next level.)
There are intermediate runs all over the ski area, but the best locations at Breckenridge are probably Peaks 6, 7 and 9, with a wide variety of trails at that level. Four O’Clock is the longest run on the mountain at three and a half miles of a mixture of green and blue sections. Peak 6 is probably the best for avoiding the crowds at busy periods.
Advanced and expert skiing at Keystone and Breckenridge
Keystone has no official double-black diamond lift-served ski runs but that doesn’t mean it lacks interest for expert skiers. Those looking for a challenge can try hiking from the top of all of the lift-served peaks into demanding tree runs (off Dercum Mountain) or up towards the alpine bowls. Cat skiing is also available from the top of the Outback Express lift or can be booked for Independence Bowl.
(Note that the planned lift expansion will probably turn the current advanced runs reached on foot in Bergman Bowl into intermediate runs.)
Those advanced skiers who are looking for demanding lift-served trails should head to North Peak and try some of the mogul runs.
There is a good selection of lift-served advanced trails off Peak 10’s Falcon SuperChair at Breckenridge. Those who are looking for something a little more challenging might like to head over to the Imperial Express SuperChair. As well as the stunning views there are a whole host of black and double-black diamond slopes and chutes above the treeline, including some terrain marked extreme in the Lake Chutes and Snow White areas.