In short, Park City beats Breckenridge in luxury, dining, and accessibility, while Breckenridge wins out on expense and nightlife. Breckenridge has a slight edge in snowfall, but Park City has more skiable acreage than any other USA resort. Both resorts have great weather, but Breckenridge tends to be a bit cooler year-round.
That’s our way-too-short summary. Realistically, there’s a lot of nuance to cover to accurately depict the strengths and weaknesses of each destination.
This comprehensive guide covers the in’s-and-out’s of everything each of these legendary ski towns has to offer. Whether you’re hitting the fresh powder in winter or getting outdoors in the summer sun, we’ve included everything you need to know.
Park City made a name for itself when it hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 2002, but way before this it began as a humble silver miners town. It was initially settled by early Mormon pioneers and over time developed into the popular ski destination we know today. Park City is currently the main base for the United States Ski Team and draws tourists from all over the country.
Breckenridge has a similar story, beginning as a prospector’s haven during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush era. The town was officially established in 1859 with just a few settlers and named for one of the gold mining leaders, Thomas Breckenridge. Today the town is home to over 4,000 residents and remains a staple tourist destination in the United States.
Best Village & Lifestyle: Draw
Park City is only a 35 minute drive from the Salt Lake City International Airport, which makes this an extremely convenient vacation spot. It’s filled with award-winning restaurants, free transportation, and loads of activity with mountain areas that offer four-season availability.
Park City actually has three main base areas or villages that visitors can take advantage of. Park City Resort and Canyons are relatively close on the mountain, but a short drive between base areas. Down the road lies Deer Valley Resort, which is by far the most upscale of the three and offers the largest variety of luxury restaurants and accommodations, along with a more exclusive ski experience.
Park City isn’t an inexpensive vacation (especially the Deer Valley area), so guests with a more limited budget may have a better chance of saving money in Breckenridge. This goes for everything across the board from lodging to transport, lift tickets and dining. However, the charm of Park City is unbeatable and the Old Western style of the infrastructure and scenery is breathtaking.
To get a good feel for what the town is like, picture beautiful 19th century Western architecture with vibrant downtown life and many different boutiques alongside factory stores for ski apparel and other well-known brands. The nightlife ranges from relaxed to lively, inviting both travelers and locals to revel in live entertainment or spend a cozy evening sipping local brews.
Breckenridge is located a little over an hour away from Denver, making it equally convenient for travelers to access, but also for locals to daytrip pretty frequently. Given it’s ideal location and easy access, Breckenridge tends to stay very busy, especially during peak seasons. The village and slopes can get crowded at times, but this can be avoided if you travel during the slow seasons of late spring and early autumn.
A trip to Breckenridge is a trip to a quintessential Colorado mining town that grew into a world-class winter destination. There’s a ton of charm that’s totally different from what you’ll find at any of the country’s purpose-built ski resorts. One look at the city’s numerous historic Victorian-era buildings and you’ll know what we mean.
Dining and shopping in Breckenridge range from very casual on the low end to quite lavish on the high end. You’ve got a sea of options and you really don’t have to think twice about whether or not you’ll find something up your alley, or that fits in your budget.
The general lifestyle of Breckenridge is pretty lively and fun, with residents who enjoy satire (as displayed in many of their events) and tourists who come to have a good time. Unlike many ski towns, Breck and Park City are real municipalities where people live, work, and play in all year long. This creates a sense of comradery among the locals and the visitors alike.
P.S. – If you’re looking for a more purpose-built, “Disney-World-of-skiing” resort, take a look at our comparison of Vail vs Breckenridge.
If you want to go for an even ritzier vibe for your trip, check out how Aspen compares to Park City.
Best Accommodations: Park City
Park City has a lot of different kinds of accommodations to choose from in their three main base areas. Lodging along or near Park City’s Main Street will put you right in the center of the action so you can easily walk to bars, shops and restaurants, while accommodations in the Deer Valley Village will place you near sophisticated hotel lobby bars and upscale dining. Canyons has more of a resort atmosphere with plenty of amenities inside their multiple hotels and rental properties.
Stein Eriksen Lodge is one such accommodation in the Deer Valley Resort that has a great history along with beautiful lodging. It’s also a ski-in/ski-out resort and features several different dining options and stores inside it’s main building. The Lodge is designed in a picturesque European alpine style and each aspect of the hotel is luxurious. Pricing is anywhere between $500-$1500 per night, depending on the time and season.
Hyatt Centric is a condominium hotel in Canyons Village. It’s a short drive away from Park City’s Main Street, but it will grant you ski-in/ski-out access to the Canyons Resort. Hyatt Centric is typical of Hyatt’s luxury brand hotels and includes a range of amenities, including pet-friendly rooms, a fitness center, pool and business center. Pricing will typically be upwards of $650 per night during ski season, and around $350 during slow season, making this a more affordable option.
Main & Sky is a boutique hotel on Park City’s Main Street that puts vacationers right in the center of it all. It’s not connected to the mountain, but skiers can take advantage of the Town Lift that transports skiers from downtown to the West end of Park City Mountain. Rooms have delightful views of the mountain range and amenities include a pool, spa and the Courchevel Restaurant. Pricing will range from $350 – $500 per night on average.
Breckenridge has a wide range of different accommodations which can suit very low budgets up to very high budgets. It’s most ideal for those looking to save a buck by crashing with a group in one rental location, or for families seeking a deal on great hotel rooms in an action-packed city. For the most part, you can expect to find decent options across the board in Breck.
Crystal Peak Lodge is one of the top signature properties on location for about $300 per night in the summer and up to $800 during ski season. It’s located at the base of Peak 7 with ski-in, ski-out benefits in a beautiful alpine lodge setting. Visitors love the stone fireplaces and private balconies here.
Mountain Thunder Lodge is another beautiful on-mountain hotel that will cost $400 per night in the summer, up to $700 per night in ski season. It has a more secluded feel, has a ski-in/”gondola-out” feature, and a free shuttle to Historic Main Street.
River Mountain Lodge signature property is ideally situated on the banks of the Blue River. It’s a little farther from the walkable areas of Breckenridge, but free transportation is offered and you’ll save money at $200 per night in the summer and around $400 per night during ski season.
Best Snow: Breckenridge
Snow quality can be hard to quantify from year to year, but Breckenridge receives the most on average and keeps it’s runs open for a longer ski season. If you’re going in the key months of January, February and March, there won’t be a huge difference here – the main factor applies to those trying to ski in early November and late April.
Breckenridge gets about 366″ of snowfall annually and, in addition to having this higher annual snowfall, Breckenridge also has a higher summit elevation of 12,988ft compared to Park City’s 10,026″ off the Wasatch Back of the Rocky Mountains.
Breck can also blow snow across 600 acres on days when natural snowfall didn’t happen as planned. It’s considered one of the sunniest resorts in Colorado, seeing more “blue bird” days than most other resorts around the state. Despite the sun, the cold temperatures keep the snow for a long period of time, giving Breck one of the longest ski seasons of the year with great late season conditions through April.
Park City gets approximately 355″ of snowfall each year, resulting in a 48-55″ snowpack on the mountain that lasts all season long. Park City can generate 500 acres of snow across its 341 runs, and while it doesn’t quite match the capabilities at Breckenridge, the sheer magnitude of Park City’s multiple mountain areas compare pretty evenly with Breckenridge’s wide expanse of terrain.
Best Terrain: Park City
Park City is the largest ski resort in North America with 7,300 acres of skiable terrain. Nearly half of the runs are blue, so intermediate skiers will have an incredible time traversing this terrain. However, there is 3,200 feet of vertical drop, 13 bowls and 8 terrain parks that experts will thoroughly enjoy. Park City is broken up by three different ski areas, so we’ve listed each in detail.
Park City is best known for it’s expansive terrain with varying levels of runs with nearly half of them geared toward advanced skiers. There’s a variety of snowshoeing and cross country skiing paths that intertwine with the groomers, as well. Some of the runs are even open for nighttime skiing. But perhaps the most fun part for expert skiers are the terrain parks. There are three of them that include half pipes, jumps, boxes, rollers and berm turns, and one even has a rail garden.
Canyons Resort is a little smaller than Park City, but spans nine peaks. It’s also connected to Park City via the Silverlode Gondola system, creating one huge Park City Mountain area. The Canyons are pretty horizontally spread, but feature lots of steep verticals and beautiful glade areas. There is significantly more expert terrain and decent terrain parks than there are beginner trails, so keep this in mind.
Deer Valley Resort is unique in that it only allows skiers on the mountain – no snowboarders. This is welcome news to avid skiers who want to enjoy decent runs without bald patches caused by novice snowboarders. The resort is set on six different mountain peaks and has a very even amount of runs designed for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers. The resort itself is stunning and has some of the most well-kept runs of the three Park City ski areas.
Breckenridge terrain is extremely well-balanced by type and ability level. Whether you’re looking for long corduroy groomers, glades, terrain parks, etc, you’ve got plenty of options. This Ski Resort boasts one of Colorado’s larger ski areas with 2,908 acres of skiable terrain and the longest run in the state at 3.5 miles long. The terrain parks include halfpipes, varying rails, jump lines and boxes. The large network gondola system can get you to each part of the resort – but read the maps in order to stay on course!
Breck has 1,400 acres of groomers on the mountain, 25 acres of terrain parks, and over 1,000 acres of bowls. It’s even said to have the longest ski run in the state of Colorado at 3.5 miles long. There are suitable runs for all levels of skiers, including a 3,398 vertical drop, a 22′ superpipe and 187 different trails to experience.
The varied terrain is not only suitable for experts; beginners will love the 1,400 acres of groomers built for them. Plus there’s 1,000 acres of bowls. Overall, Breck boasts 187 different trails that all athletic levels can experience.
Best for Beginners: Draw
Breckenridge’s five peaks come equipped with different accommodations for various skier levels. Peak 9 has been dubbed the best for beginners, with flatter runs and plenty of variety down the mountain. It’s loaded with greens, so beginners won’t get bored skiing the exact same trail with every trip up the chairlift.
The wide variety of terrain means that Breckenridge gives you plenty of room to grow over the course of your trip. As soon as you’re ready to move on from the mildest green runs, there are a ton of easy-intermediate to bridge the gap between true greens to true blues.
However, Breck is the busiest ski resort in Colorado, so the slopes are almost guaranteed to be filled with people which can make the runs a little more intimidating for beginners. Also, they only estimate about 13% of the total runs are well-suited for beginners. Lessons start at $126 for adults and $200 for children. You’ll get premium access to ski lifts and discounts on lift tickets and rentals.
Park City Mountain has only 8% of the runs considered green and appropriate for beginners, so Park City is probably not going to be the top choice for young children or adults who are just starting out. The best resort for beginners in Park City is going to be Deer Valley Resort, since it has approximately 30% green runs on the mountain.
Deer Valley Ski School has a large variety of ski classes geared toward specific age groups, with the youngest being three years old. These lessons can last a half day or full day and begin around $280 plus a $40 lift ticket. The classes are shaped toward the age and ability level of the skiers, especially if you select private lessons for your trip. These one-on-one sessions will pair you with one of Deer Valley’s expert teachers who can guide you through special techniques and skills.
Breckenridge has cheaper lesson prices with crowded slopes, while Park City’s Deer Valley Resort has higher lesson prices with fewer people and more focused learning.
Best Apres Ski & Nightlife: Breckenridge
Breckenridge’s apres ski is awesome, with plenty of nightlife made up of everything from local dive bars to high-end tourist spots. A good representation of Breck’s liveliness comes every year during the town’s famous Ullr Fest. It’s essentially a giant party celebrating the Norse god of snow.
There are several on-mountain offerings available to ski right into as you end the day. On-mountain favorites include Robbie’s Tavern for curated wines and local beer and Coppertop for beautiful views and live music. Peak 9 is home to several popular hangouts, like Cabin Juice Elevated Eatery and Bar, featuring hand-crafted cocktails on the daily.
In town, you can get comfy at Rocky Mountain Underground’s backyard beer garden, or try the local apres hot spot, Quandary Grille – a steak house with 12 beers regularly on tap and great dinner specials to go with them. Breckenridge Distillery and Breckenridge Brewery, among a vast number of lively pubs and sophisticated bars, are also great options.
Park City is well-known for having different alcohol laws thanks to their Mormon-influenced government and regulations. This doesn’t mean that nightlife is subdued, but it is important to know the rules for the area so you’re better prepared for the experience. Alcohol pricing will also be higher on average, while drinks may not be quite as strong, resulting in more money spent overall.
Despite this, there are tons of different great places to have a drink after a long day of skiing. Park City’s Main Street area is home to the majority of the top bars in the area, including High West, North America’s only ski-in/ski-out whiskey distillery. The High West Saloon offers a cozy atmosphere with loads of craft cocktails inspired by their multiple whiskey labels.
No Name Saloon is perhaps one of the most famous bars in town with three stories to party in. Each floor has a unique look and feel and gives patrons a great variety in not only seating, but also drink choices. There’s also a restaurant attached where you can order some delicious burgers and fries alongside your choice of local beer or signature cocktail.
For a more secluded and upscale atmosphere, we highly recommend visiting the Deer Valley area after a full day of shredding powder. The Troll Hallen Lounge at the Stein Eriksen has delectable small plates and drinks while the Goldener Hirsch Inn has an amazing apres ski fondue spread.
Nightlife fun will depend on the kind of vacation your having or the group you’re traveling with. Generally speaking, Breckenridge is the better party town and therefore has better nightlife overall. But if you’re looking for a more relaxed atmosphere with fun, casual drinking spots Park City has plenty to offer.
Best Weather: Breckenridge
Breckenridge is gorgeous in the summer with average highs around 70°F and average lows around 35°F at night and on the highest peaks. Weather tends to be mild overall, with occasional rain showers and thunderstorms rolling in throughout the week. Storms will usually appear in the afternoon and trail off before sunset.
Park City averages a high of 78°F in the summertime and comes down to around 43-50°F at night, with the hottest temperatures being experienced in July. Overall, it’s hotter than Breckenridge and might be a tad less comfortable for vacationers.
Best Activities: Draw
Park City is like many Colorado towns in the summertime where the activities revolve around outdoor fun like hiking, biking, golfing, swimming and fishing. Water sports and river rafting are great pastimes, while hot air ballooning will be a more unique adventure for the family.
Several of Park City’s coaster and zipline parks are really popular in the summer. Incredible Zipline Adventure Tours will take you on a ride through the mountain ski trails while Utah Olympic Park Zipline will take you on a 40mph journey. Even more thrilling is the chance to ride Comet Bobsled, which was used in the 2002 Winter Olympics.
In fact, Olympic Park is Park City’s newest public area that offers summertime fun. While Olympic Park has been in operation since the 2002 Winter Olympics, it was recently opened to the public. Guests can not only use the bobsled track, but they can also zip on the Nordic ski jump, sail incredible tube slides and use the ropes courses set up on the mountain.
Breckenridge has many different offerings throughout the summer that any outdoor enthusiast would love. From hiking and biking trails, to fly-fishing on Blue River and white water rafting, this mountain town has something for everybody to enjoy. Hiking is a local favorite and Flower Haven at Upper Straight Creek is a popular trail to take for viewing wildflowers in full bloom. Breckenridge also has miles of waterfall trails that are totally worth the hike.
Golfing is another great past-time and Breck has the only Jack Nicklaus designed 27-hole course in the world. Exploring the town’s history and taking a ghost tour are also among Breckenridge’s fun daily activities for visitors. Boating, paddle boarding and kayaking are available on Breck’s lakes and rivers.
Another great suggestion for adventurous families is to try Epic Discovery at Breckenridge Resort. Summertime allows visitors to scale the naked mountain on ropes courses and ziplines. There’s even a mountain coaster and alpine slides during the warm months.
Best Events: Park City
Park City has more nationally recognized events than Breckenridge does, making there’s a bit more well-known and well-attended on average. The biggest event of the year is Sundance Film Festival, which is extremely well-known around the country by both fans and non-fans of the industry. It’s actually the largest film festival in the United States and brings in around 50,000 visitors to the Park City area in the month of January.
While Sundance is going to be the biggest event you’ll see in Park City, there are also a few more local events that have a tendency to draw visitors from around the country. Their summer concerts, like the Deer Valley Concert Series and the St. Regis Summer Concerts, host a vast array of different artists that have yet to be discovered and those who’ve already made a name for themselves.
In addition to these, the Tour of Utah is another large event specifically made for cyclists. Every August, Park City is host to cycling teams from all over the world who come for this competition. Teams compete in several different legs between the Canyons and Park City over the course of a week, with the winners awarded for several different races throughout the multi-day event.
Breckenridge is known for taking a highly humorous approach to most of it’s events, making them fun for all ages at multiple points throughout the year. The most anticipated event of the Winter season is a 10 day tribute to a Norse god who controls the weather, called Ullr Festival. Snow Sculpture competitions and other various activities offer loads of fun and laughter for residents and visitors alike.
Film Festival is another big event which celebrates the art of filmmaking and features many renowned and up-and-coming directors, producers and actors. It’s been held every summer for 40 years and draws a huge crowd to town.
In the summer, Breck’s Fourth of July Parade is a local tradition that tourists will also greatly enjoy. Live music, fireworks, art festivals and family fun are all a part of the celebration on this patriotic holiday. Lastly, Breck hosts the annual Kingdom Days, which is a satirical celebration of the town’s past in the form of games and races. Breck is the self-proclaimed “kingdom” of Colorado, since it wasn’t officially incorporated as a US town until 1936.
As you can see, we definitely feel that Breckenridge and Park City are pretty evenly matched as great vacation destinations. While there are a few similarities that make them great for travelers – like the close proximity to major airports and the walkability of their main base areas – there are lots of differences that make each worth venturing to in its own rite.
Choose Park City if you want a beautiful Old West atmosphere with loads of modern amenities and delicious restaurants in a quaint Main Street area, alongside luxurious accommodations and exclusive ski slopes at Deer Valley. The three mountain areas of Park City, Canyons and Deer Valley give great variety to your ski trip, along with multiple base areas with various dining and shopping options.
Choose Breckenridge if you want to save a little bit of money and don’t mind the hassle of joining the crowds that frequent this ski town. Party lovers will enjoy the lively atmosphere and the many great bars and restaurants around town that you can easily walk to in one large main base. The magnitude of the one mountain area with excellent ski terrain allows you to have an all-inclusive vacation without driving to other parts of the city.
If you’re looking for a slightly more laid back trip that still features an awesome village, check out our Steamboat Springs vs Breckenridge guide.