Breckenridge, Colorado: A personal perspective
By Susan and Don Gunnin
We wake up in the morning, and through floor-to-vaulted-ceiling windows, view the sun touching the tips of the 12,000 foot above sea level mountain tops west across the valley. In the summer, the scene is of rock formations above treeline, and in the winter, it is of the purest white snow you’ve ever seen. In the evenings, the sunsets are like John Denver’s “fire in the sky”. The air is rarefied, both literally and figuratively, and our morning coffee seems to taste better because of it.
Breckenridge, the county seat of Summit County, is a community of about 3,200 permanent residents, snuggled in a valley culminating on the south end at Hoosier Pass on the Continental Divide about 85 miles west of Denver. On either side of the valley are 12-13,000 foot mountains, the west ones of which comprise the Breckenridge ski area, one of the most popular ski resorts in North America. During peak ski season, the population can grow to 35,000 people as skiers flock to town.
Living in this rarified atmosphere is like no place else on earth. All the winter activities associated with skiing, ice skating, sledding and throwing snow balls, are complimented by summer activities of hiking, camping, music and art festivals, biking, fishing, rafting, and simply observing the beauty of wild flower covered mountains beneath the cobalt blue skies characteristic of the Rockies. A common thought among locals is “we came here for the skiing, but summers are why we stay”.
The town of Breckenridge was not originally a ski area. Unlike most ski areas, which were towns, created as ski areas, Breckenridge began as a Victorian mining town back in the mid 1800s. By 1880, there were eighteen saloons and three dance halls on Main Street. Gold and silver mining kept the town prosperous until the early 1940s, after which Breckenridge suffered a ‘post boom’ recession and decline in population.
Referring to the snow, the era of “White Gold” began in 1961 when the Breckenridge Ski Area opened. By 1973, Eisenhower Tunnel was bored through the Continental Divide allowing traffic on what is now Interstate 70 to make the trip from Denver in about an hour and a half.
As far as real estate goes, more than 60 percent of the homes in Breckenridge are second homes for absentee owners, many of whom plan ultimately to retire to Breckenridge. Many of these homes offer short-term rentals for destination vacationers visiting Breckenridge. This creates an investment opportunity for many, and at least helps second home owners cover some or all of there mortgage payments with rental revenue.
This real estate market is pretty hot, with projections that total buildout (when all the land available for residential building has been developed) could happen in the next 10 or so years. When that happened in Aspen, real estate values went through the roof, so this is a great place to be a realtor today!
The biggest disadvantage to all the new construction is the fear of losing some of the old-fashioned, down-home historical character of the town. Although building codes and guidelines are in place to keep this loss to a minimum, the old Victorian town still can become a settlement of million dollar estates. Perhaps this is just the price of growth!
To learn more about Breckenridge and real estate opportunities, check out Susan Gunnin’s web site at www.breck4sale.com.