I’m always intrigued by people’s perceptions of Breckenridge. Thanks to a combination of beautiful sunny days, interspersed with heavy snow, and the close proximity to a major metropolitan area, Breckenridge averages 1.6 MILLION visitors, in a typical winter season. To a town of just about 5,000.

People who’ve never lived in Breck ask me “How can you live there? Isn’t it just tourists? Is there actually a community?” Sure, when you walk around in the height of winter all you see are tourists. Half the people are wearing matching logoed college gear, and the other half lack hats and appropriate winter shoes. Every ounce of their being proudly proclaims, “I’m not from around here.”

It’s easy to get frustrated with tourists. They clog our streets, our supermarkets, and our playgrounds. Yet without them our lifestyles wouldn’t be possible. With their money comes jobs, food, and roofs over our heads. Really, they are more like us than we care to admit. The entire foundation of our lifestyle relates to their shared joy in it.

I think it’s exactly because of these 1.6 million strangers that Breck is one of the tightest communities I’ve ever seen. With all the pressures and stresses of a huge seasonal influx of visitors, money, and work, Breck locals have had to adapt and grow together or break apart.

This morning is the 13th annual Wake Up Breck! (Yes that is a branding exclamation point. Gross). This is basically a locals only event where the ski resort gives out mugs and coffee at coffee shops the day before the resort opens. And it’s NUTS. As I sit in CuppaJoe, one of the town’s eight coffee shops participating in the event, the line is out the door at 6:30AM. The energy is intoxicating, voices ringing even through the haze of sleepy eyes. Half the people are wearing some sort of Breck uniform, gearing up for a day of last minute preparations before the hordes arrive. Everyone is excited. Smiles flash, hugs grip, and seasonal friendships are rekindled. We’re all here for the same reason. We love this place, these mountains, and the people we share them with. From the outside, the perception of Breck might be the tourists, but for me it has never been about anything but this.

Originally published at on November 13, 2015.

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