Breckenridge works to solidify winter amenity plans, including new sledding hill
BRECKENRIDGE — The town of Breckenridge has been discussing plans for winter activities at town council meetings since mid-August in an effort to ensure visitors can find a way to get outside during the pandemic. With fall nearly upon us, the town is working to narrow down the ideas, and Director of Recreation Scott Reid is working to execute them.
“We’re trying to plan safe, socially distanced outdoor activities partially in a response to the fact that we expect the ski area to have some sort of capacity limit,” Reid said. “Since people won’t be able to go to the hill as freely or as easily as they have in the past … we just want to try to provide alternatives for people that are safe, outdoor recreation concepts.”
In its announcement ahead of the season, Vail Resorts officials did not address capacity limits but did say the company anticipates being able to accommodate everyone who wants to ski or ride for the “vast majority of days.”
While lots of winter activity ideas have been thrown out, Breckenridge Town Council has opted to go after “low-hanging fruit,” or ways that the town can expand winter recreation without spending a lot of money. At the last Town Council work session Sept. 8, members decided against a “winter adventure bus” that would transport people to the Nordic centers, ice rink and other winter activities. Council member Dick Carleton said he thinks the town would get a better bang for its buck by pursuing other amenities, such as an additional snowcat for increased grooming.
Reid explained that Gold Run Nordic Center, which is owned and managed by the town, already has ordered additional fat bikes and snowshoes, which Reid said will allow the center to serve more people. The town also plans to expand grooming services and create a sledding hill, Reid said.
Currently, the Gold Run Nordic Center is groomed for paid use and the recpath, which runs from Breckenridge to Frisco, is groomed for free use. Reid said the plan is to increase the frequency of grooming on the recpath from two days a week to three days per week and to add distance to the path via a loop at the McCain property, which is north of Coyne Valley.
The town also grooms for fat bikes in the Golden Horseshoe area of the upper Blue River basin and plans to increase the grooming consistency in the area as well as add new trails. Expanding grooming services was estimated to cost $11,000, which would come out of Nordic and open space budgets, according to the memo presented at the Sept. 8 council work session.
While ice skating and hockey at the pond at Gold Run Nordic Center were brought up by council, Reid said the town is moving away from those ideas because of limitations, such as needing to buy a rental fleet of ice skates. However, Reid said there will be games of broomball at the pond.
Another idea was to create a sledding hill at the Nordic center, but Reid said the town is instead looking to the north of ski area parking for a sledding hill on Airport Road. The town plans to regrade an existing dirt pile and then make or move snow to create the hill.
The additional sledding hill is meant to take some pressure off Carter Park, a popular sledding and tubing destination during the winter. The park will see additional oversight by town officials to make sure people follow public health orders and maintain their distance.
To aid some of these efforts, the town is looking into renting an additional snowcat for the winter. At the Sept. 8 council work session, Reid said a snowcat rental was $140 per hour with a 200-hour minimum, bringing the minimum price to $28,000.
“We need to jump on this pretty quickly, within a few weeks, if we are going to rent another cat,” Reid said. “Time is of the essence in that regard.”
Some dirt work will need to be done on the potential new sledding hill, as well, which Reid said needs to happen before the hill freezes. Overall, Reid said staff is wanting to make decisions on winter activities in the next few weeks.
Town staff also is evaluating kid-friendly play spaces and activities, and is working on communications regarding activities through the Breckenridge Tourism Office. In addition, Reid said the town is trying to ramp up avalanche education and is working with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to get information to trailheads.
“We’re still obviously waiting on the ski area to make some final decisions … but regardless of what they decide, our job from a town standpoint is to try to provide safe, socially distant outdoor recreation opportunities,” Reid said. “There’s certainly some opportunities to utilize our existing infrastructure, like Gold Run Nordic Center, but I think it’s an opportunity also for us to be thinking creatively about how we might want to serve the community and the guests.”
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