When you reach Summit County, you’ve ascended to Colorado’s Playground — the sign on Interstate 70 proves it.
Summit County lies about 70 miles west of Denver and consists of five main towns (Silverthorne, Dillon, Frisco, Keystone and Breckenridge) and four main ski areas (Breckenridge, Copper, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin). Here's a little guide to help you navigate where you are going, or where you may have never thought of going.
Silverthorne: About 8 miles to Keystone, 12 miles to Copper, 15 to Breckenridge
If you like outlet shopping, plunk yourself at one of the hotels right off the highway, and head toward The Outlets at Silverthorne. You’ll find nearly 60 stores grouped into three villages, linked by a free shuttle.
Silverthorne is home to the gold-medal fishing waters of the Blue River, and you’ll see those crazy fly-fishermen wading in the chilly stream year-round. Silverthorne also provides free ice-skating near Silverthorne Elementary, as well as free, groomed cross-country skiing at the Raven Golf Club, both off Highway 9. (The golf course, designed by Tom Lehman, is extremely popular in the summer.)
A handful of restaurants dot Silverthorne, from historic steak houses to Indian and Asian food. It also has the most fast-food joints. (See my article on Summit County dining for the best places to eat in all of these towns.)
Dillon: About 3 miles east of Silverthorne, toward Keystone
If you’re looking for an almost sleepy town to rest in, head for Dillon. Short-term rental condominiums sit above the reservoir, offering views of Keystone and its night-lit mountain. Dillon comes alive in the summer with free outdoor concerts, live theater and weekly farmers markets. In the winter, it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat. Across the highway, the Skyline Cinema shows the latest movies, City Market is the main grocery store, and chains like Borders and Ruby Tuesday’s meet consumer needs.
Keystone: About 15 miles from Breckenridge, 18 from Copper, 7 from Arapahoe Basin
Keystone Resort is similar to Copper Mountain, in that its “town” is really a ski resort. Keystone’s main village consists of condominiums, shops and eateries surrounding a small lake, which turns into the largest Zamboni-maintained rink in North America in the winter.
If you love award-winning cuisine, consider staying at Keystone; it boasts the historic Ski Tip Lodge, the award-winning Ranch, fondue atop the mountain, and the amazing Alpenglow Stube.
Copper Mountain: About 16 miles from Breckenridge, 7 miles from Frisco
Courtesy of Copper Mountain ResortIf you’re going for the feel of a self-contained ski resort, head to Copper. Its main village ignites with parties (including fire dancers), bands and great restaurants. It’s also the closest Summit County lodging to Vail Resort, about 20 miles west. Copper Mountain is home to Woodward, a state-of-the-art, off-snow training facility for gnarly snow sports.
Frisco: About 9 miles from Breckenridge, 13 miles from Keystone
Frisco lies in the heart of Summit County. It’s the only town in Summit County, other than Breckenridge, that has a true Main Street, lined with specialty shops, restaurants and historic buildings. It’s a quaint town, near the reservoir. (It also has practical stores, like Safeway and Wal-Mart to cover all your other needs.)
Courtesy of The Town of Frisco
Breckenridge (top photo) is probably the hottest place to stay in Summit County, since it really has it all. Victorian buildings line Main and Ridge streets, filled with boutiques, ski shops, restaurants and bars. Carriage rides and historic saloons will transport you back in time, trendy bars will bring you back again. The town has plenty of rousing festivals filled with local color, including Ullr Fest, a week-long event designed to appease the Nordic god of snow, Breckenridge - Courtesy of Breckenridge.comthe International Snow Sculpture Competition, U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix and the Spring Massive Festival, a fusion of competitions and concerts. The town is also a bit of an artists’ Mecca, a summer classical-music-lover’s delight and a historic buff’s dream.