Escape Room Breckenridge first of its kind in Summit County | SummitDaily.com

Escape Room Breckenridge first of its kind in Summit County

Nicolette Cusick opened Escape Room Breckenridge this month. The activity involves locking participants in a room with clues and puzzles to solve to "escape" before time runs out.
Heather Jarvis / hjarvis@summitdaily.com |

IF YOU GO

What: Escape Room Breckenridge

When: Open Wednesday-Saturday, go online for reservations

Where: 233 S. Ridge St. Suite C, Breckenridge

Cost: $25/person

More information: For more information or to purchase tickets, go to escaperoombreckenridge.com

There were only 30 seconds left on the clock when we finally found the last box. With two different locks keeping us from the satisfaction of beating the clock, my coworker Jessica Smith and I wrestled with the combination of numbers and letters that would signal completion. We had come so far — spending the last hour ransacking this room in Breckenridge, searching for clues, finding keys to the locks and combinations of numbers to open drawers and suitcases.

As the clock ticked down to the final seconds, our other cohorts began screaming at us to hurry, and we desperately turned the lock to what we thought was the correct combination.

We were in the final seconds before completing Summit County’s newest entertainment option, Escape Room Breckenridge, opened last week by Silverthorne resident Nicolette Cusick. Rising in popularity, escape rooms are popping up around the world, with a few companies located in nearby Denver, but none in Summit County until now. Locking participants inside a room, critical thinking skills, teamwork and observation are necessary to find the clues and solve puzzles leading to escape before time runs out.

We finally heard the satisfying click of one lock being opened, and, as we figured out the final numbers we needed, the second lock clicked. It couldn’t have been a more exciting finish, ripping open the box right as the timer hit zero. We might have been a few seconds past, but it didn’t matter, the satisfaction of finishing pretty much right on the money was there. We all screamed and whooped as Cusick unlocked the door.

A GROWING TREND

Inspired by video games with the same concept, real-life escape rooms originated in Japan in 2007. The idea migrated to the U.S. in 2012, first in San Francisco, although most of the estimated 60 escape rooms across the U.S. have opened in the last year alone, according to an article by the Denver Post.

Cusick opened her first escape room in Tucson, Arizona, in February, after reading an article about how well these businesses were doing. She was living in Denver at the time, but relocated to Summit County last week after opening the second location in Breckenridge.

“It’s gone well — people love the concept once they get it,” she said.

Cusick said escape rooms can be addictive, proven by escape room enthusiast groups, the fact that people are willing to travel to new rooms and the growing business concept.

From design, theme and clues to running the room, Cusick has done everything to get the business going. The theme for Escape Room Breckenridge is a Hollywood actress’ dressing room in the 1950s. The actress has been murdered, and participants must figure out the whodunnit mystery before 60 minutes is up. Cusick decorated the room to fit the theme, hiding the clues and puzzles throughout in maddening fashion.

THE ROOM

As Cusick explains how the room works to our group of four, we are all eager to get started. Once she leaves the room, I stand there, slightly confused. Wait, we don’t get a first clue? How do we figure out how to start? My question is quickly answered as my friends begin scouring through objects in the room, searching for the first clue. I run over to the bookshelf and start pulling books off and searching through them. We start panicking a little as we realize it’s been six minutes and we still don’t have any idea what we are doing or where to begin.

On the front wall sits an old ’50s-style television with a computer monitor inside to communicate with participants by typing out hints if needed. Cusick has given us a walkie talkie to press if we want one of our three hints she’s willing to give us. She sits in an adjacent room like the Wizard of Oz, watching our progress on a screen through cameras installed around the room. I picture her laughing maniacally like a superhero villain as we continue to unsuccessfully search for our first clue.

At this point, we just need help getting started. I know we are one of the first groups to do this particular room, but I start to wonder about how we are stacking up compared to others. Jessica is full of all sorts of useless knowledge and book smarts, surely she can steer us through. As the timer runs ominously on the monitor, we decide we need our first clue, just to get us going. One of us pushes the walkie talkie, and we watch as a hint is typed out on the screen. Once we get that first clue, we are off — tearing through suitcases and flying through the drawers. We all laughed at the beginning when Hailey Michelsen, one of the members of our group, asked Cusick whether she had ever seen a couple break up after going through the room — but now I could see it happening.

As we start to progress through the clues, we get lost in the game. An hour seems like a while when you are counting the minutes, but each time I looked up at the clock, I was amazed at how little time we had left. The sense of urgency increased the excitement, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a manic look in Jessica’s eyes before. And I work in a pod sitting right across from her.

The room becomes a mess as we scatter items over the floor while searching for clues. Our next big challenge confronts us when we get to the puzzle that involves math. It’s a well-known fact that journalists are terrible at math — my boyfriend makes fun of me for counting on my fingers when adding a tip to my credit card slip at a restaurant. And this involves ounces, prices — so many numbers. Hailey, the only non-Summit Daily member of our group, jumps up to take charge. She’s writing figures across the white board like Matt Damon from “Good Will Hunting,” and I stand there with my mouth hanging open. I go to the camera and take a picture to pretend like I’m doing something productive rather then admit this puzzle would be the end of me if I were doing this alone.

As Cusick opens the door after we finish, we all immediately start talking at once in flustered excitement. We head out the door to celebrate our victory over a round. I’m addicted — there may be a trip to Denver in order to visit other escape rooms. Cusick said she is working on opening a second room in her Breckenridge location with a pirate theme — you can bet I will be first in line when she does.


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