Should You Live in Vail or Breckenridge CO? 5 Things to Know BEFORE Moving

Comparing Breckenridge and Vail

Two of Colorado's best ski towns, Breckenridge and Vail, are renowned for their stunning landscapes and vibrant lifestyles. Each community, however, offers a unique living experience. Breckenridge, located in Summit County, charms with its historic allure and close-knit community feel. On the other hand, Vail is celebrated for its world-class skiing and upscale amenities.

For anyone considering buying a vacation home in Colorado, it is vital to examine aspects like the local culture, recreational activities, and community atmosphere in its top towns. Whether you're drawn to Breckenridge's quaint streets or Vail's luxury, a detailed exploration of both is important in choosing the mountain town that best suits your lifestyle. Discover the distinct character of Breckenridge and Vail.

Vail Skiing vs Breckenridge Skiing

Naturally, the slopes are what draw most people to the region. While both offer some of the country's best skiing, there are some critical distinctions between the two worth noting. For one, Vail provides a significantly larger ski area, topping 5,300 acres compared to Breckenridge's roughly 2,900, making it one of the largest resorts of its kind in the world. Intermediate and advanced skiers will feel right at home on these challenging slopes and legendary back bowls, though there are also plenty of beginner trails as well. This makes it an excellent spot for families or groups of varying skill levels. 

On the other hand, Breckenridge may be a better choice for true experts and ski and snowboard enthusiasts. The slopes are located at a higher altitude (with the tallest chairlift in North America), which can mean more and better powder is available over a more extended season. However, it can also mean more notable physical effects for those not used to the elevation. Some also feel Breckenridge has better terrain parks. 

One of the biggest differentiators between skiing in Vail and Breckenridge is the latter's proximity to all of Summit County's best ski resorts. While there are other resorts near Vail, Breckenridge is less than 30 minutes from Copper Mountain and Keystone Resort, both renowned and enormous. It's worth noting that both Vail and Breckenridge are among Colorado's most popular ski destinations. This means both may experience significant crowds during peak days and periods. 

Vail Real Estate vs Breckenridge Real Estate

Housing in Breckenridge & Vail, CO

Those looking to live in these gorgeous, exciting communities should prepare to pay prices that reflect their high desirability. Vail and Breckenridge's ski-in, ski-out condos offer unparalleled access to the slopes, and both communities offer walkability to shops, restaurants, and other amenities. 

In Vail, high-end living is the name of the game, as the entire area was designed as a luxury winter resort. Condos and multifamily units outnumber single-family detached homes by about two to one. Properties start in the mid-$700s for one- and two-bedroom units but can reach $25 million to $40 million or more for spacious luxury estates that can top 6,500 square feet of living space. In addition, fractional ownership situations are popular in Vail, offering several weeks per year for more affordable prices, ranging from under $100,000 to over half a million or more, depending on size and amenities. 

Breckenridge, which was once a mining town, has housing more focused on single-family properties, which start in the $800s. Typical detached ski homes in Breckenridge sell from around $2 million to more than $12 million, with ultra-high-end options reaching $10-20 million. Breckenridge condos list from the $500s to $2 million or more. The town also has a wider selection of lots and homesites for those looking to build a custom property, ranging from under $200,000 to the single-digit millions. 

Those considering renting their properties on a short-term basis may find the process more straightforward in Vail, as Breckenridge separates the city into zones and imposes caps on short-term rentals within each area. 

Restaurants & Nightlife in Vail vs Breckenridge

No matter which of these two top ski towns would-be residents choose, they certainly won't go hungry or lack things to do. 

Vail's overall ritzier feel is present in the town's restaurant scene, which is centered around the Lionshead Village and Vail Village areas. It includes numerous high-end options like Montauk Seafood Grill and Elway's. Many more casual eateries are also available, like Tavern on the Square, for lower-key nights. In addition, there are plenty of places to grab a drink or two after a fun day on the slopes, from the casual pub-style environment of Garfinkel's to the lively, sophisticated Remedy Bar in the Four Seasons. Drinkers can even sample some locally crafted booze from 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirit Company and Vail Brewing Co. 

On the flip side, Breckenridge offers a more relaxed and casual dining and nightlife scene overall, though plenty of high-quality spots remain available. The town's bars and restaurants are grouped more closely together in Downtown Breckenridge, particularly along Main Street. Residents can grab a hearty breakfast at Columbia Cafe, a casual but sophisticated meal at Blue Stag Saloon, or popular Mexican bites at Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant and Cantina. There's also a thriving nightlife scene, headlined by spots like Breckenridge Tap House (with over three dozen beers on tap) and Ember, known for its innovative and delicious cocktails. 

Summers in Vail vs Summers in Breckenridge

Summer Activities in Breckenridge & Vail, CO

When the snow melts, these popular ski towns don't shut down for the season. They transform into popular mountain getaways with varied activities for all interests and budgets. The bounty of things to do in Breckenridge is consistent year-round, and the Vail area is no different. Both towns offer a variety of summer events, from food and art festivals to public concerts, as well as nearby opportunities for golfers to hit the links. Owners may enjoy a break from the constant crowds that cold weather can bring but should also expect a drop in demand from short-term renters. 

Breckenridge offers a slightly more lively year-round scene—there's never a bad time for a vacation or staycation in Breckenridge. There's no better time to stroll the quaint Main Street shopping area, head out into the surrounding hills for a hiking or biking adventure, or learn about the town's rich mining history. One of the best lakes near Breckenridge, Lake Dillon, is one of the region's best spots for boating, fishing, paddleboarding, and other water recreation, with areas for picnicking and other activities along its shores. 

However, Vail still holds its own during the summer. Residents can enjoy a smaller but still significant number of hiking and outdoor exploration opportunities, as well as luxury shopping opportunities that are hard to beat. Vail also offers unique experiences like zipline tours that can give residents an entirely new perspective on this mountain community. 

Which Location is More Convenient?

Vail and Breckenridge are about 35 miles apart along the Interstate 70 corridor that cuts through the Rocky Mountains. Breckenridge is slightly closer to Denver, roughly 80 miles compared to around 95-100 for Vail. However, driving to each takes about the same amount of time, roughly an hour and a half to two hours. This is because of Vail's convenient location right along Interstate 70; in Breckenridge, you'll need to make a short drive south on the smaller, lower-speed Highway 9 after exiting the interstate. Those flying private may prefer Vail, as it's just 35 miles east of Eagle County Regional Airport

When it comes to daily conveniences like shopping, local services, and more, there are also some notable differences between these two mountain towns. Vail is the more resort-focused of the two, with amenities more geared toward visitors, although all of the basic amenities and services are certainly available. There may be slightly fewer options throughout Breckenridge's best neighborhoods, but it more evenly balances the atmosphere of a small town and a tourist/ski destination. Both provide the popular benefit of dense, highly walkable downtown or commercial districts, allowing residents to accomplish many errands on foot. 

The Vast Appeal of Vail and Breckenridge

Whether living in Breckenridge or Vail, you'll enjoy unique and enviable slices of Colorado's mountain lifestyle, each offering its own charm and appeal. The distinct vibes of both towns, from Breckenridge's historic charm to Vail's luxurious amenities, it's clear why they are two of the most celebrated resort towns in the nation. Whether you're seeking a cozy community atmosphere or an upscale mountain experience, both towns provide an exceptional backdrop for life in the Rockies.

If you're looking for the perfect Breckenridge home, contact Breck Life Group with eXp Realty at (970) 409-4787 to get in touch with a local Breckenridge real estate agent and discover your new dream home today.

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