Keystone vs. Breckenridge: A Local’s Honest Comparison

Are you heading to a ski trip in Summit County, Colorado, and you’re wondering about the differences between Breckenridge and Keystone?

I’ve got your answers!

I lived in Denver for years, and I spent countless days on each of these mountains. And nowadays, I can also draw on my experience from visiting 25+ (and counting!) of the other best ski resorts in North America.

In this post, I’m comparing everything you need to know about Breck vs. Keystone. Get ready to find out which ski resort is best for you!

General Thoughts – Breckenridge vs. Keystone

Keystone and Breckenridge are two of the most popular ski resorts near Denver, Colorado, and they’re both owned by Vail and included on their Epic pass. They’re also pretty similar mountains in other ways, so it makes that people compare two.

Here are my quick thoughts:

  • Both are among the best ski resorts in the country for beginner and intermediate skiers / snowboarders.
  • Keystone caters extremely well to families, both because of its terrain and village set up, as well as including various “kids ski free” special deals.
  • Breckenridge is famous for their high-elevation, above the treeline “bowl skiing” which makes the mountain more popular for advanced skiers and boarders.
  • Breckenridge has a more impressive, historic ski town.

Before we dive into my explanations for each category, here are my detailed ratings:

wdt_ID Ski Resort Ovr. Rating Beg. Int. Adv. Expert Trees Bowls Crowds Snow Ski Town
11 Breckenridge 84 8 9 9 9 7 10 4 7 10
19 Keystone 82 7 9 8 5 9 6 4 6 7

Mountain Stats Comparison: Breckenridge vs. Keystone

wdt_ID Category Breckenridge Keystone
1 Size 2,908 acres 3,149 acres
2 Vertical 3,398 ft. 3,128 ft.
3 Avg. Snowfall 300+ inches 240 inches
4 Summit Elevation 12,998 ft. 12,408 ft.
5 Base Elevation 9,600 ft. 9,280 ft.
6 Lifts 35 20
7 Runs 187 130

Stats Source: (Breck Mountain Stats, Keystone Mountain Stats)

That said, this is one instance where the stats don’t tell the whole story. Read on to see what I mean!


Breckenridge and Keystone are both located in the popular Summit County of Colorado. The two mountains are about 35 minutes from each other, and they’re both about 1.5-2 hours from Denver.

Ease of Access: Breckenridge vs. Keystone

This category is a wash.

The two mountains are neighbors, so whichever you chose to visit, you’ll be flying into Denver International Airport, driving through downtown Denver, and heading to the dreaded I-70. (I say dreaded because the recent boom in Denver’s population has made this mountain highway experience traffic at pretty much all hours of the day, but especially during popular weekend ski times… 1-2 hour delays are now common.)

For lodging, both resorts offer plenty of ski in/out options, as well as several other hotels near the base. Alternatively, a popular option is to stay in the nearby towns of Dillon/Silverthorne, and then make the roughly 30 minute drive to either mountain in the morning.

Ski Towns: Breckenridge vs. Keystone

Although these are two good ski towns for different reasons, Breckenridge is the clear winner for most vacationers.

Breckenridge is a real, historic mining town turned ski town. To this day, it’s packed with interesting history and an authentic atmosphere that’s hard to fake. You’ll find an old-west style main street that’s been revitalized with tons of delicious restaurants, bars, breweries, and boutique shopping. There’s a special buzz/party-vibe in Breck’s mountain air, and it all makes for one of the quintessential ski town experiences in the country.

Keystone, on the other hand, is a smaller, more recently created man-made village. You’ll find far more ski condos and hotel developments than authentic history. Your restaurant and shopping options are much more limited, too. That said, Keystone does a good job with convenience, and I’ve heard from many families who love the abundance of lodging right near the base. (As well as the generally quieter atmosphere than party-forward Breck.)

Mountain Vibe / Atmosphere

Again, the two mountains are similar but with subtle differences.

Both mountains are popular with vacationing skiers and Epic Pass holders. As a result, these are crowded, bustling mountains with a lot going on.

In Vail’s portfolio of resorts, Keystone is marketed hard as the family friendly resort, so it’s no surprise that you’ll find an abundance of families and beginner skiers on the slopes.

Breckenridge is also very beginner and family-friendly, but I find the crowd usually leans more young-adult to college-aged. (Perhaps due to the mountain’s frequent appearances in the X Games?)

Both mountains are packed with lots world-class, high-speed lifts, so you’re getting the “big resort” vibes no matter which you choose.


Neither of these mountains are under the radar, so you can expect similar crowds and liftlines at either spot.

Snow at Keystone vs. Breckenridge

According to most data sources, Breckenridge gets anywhere from 250-350 inches of snow in an average year. By comparison, Keystone gets a little less, usually averaging no more than about 240 inches.

The majority of Breckenridge’s terrain is higher elevation as well, which helps preserve the snow a little better.

Terrain Comparison

Here is the main area where the stats don’t tell the whole story.

On paper, both Breckenridge and Keystone report similar sizes (2,900 acres at Breck vs. 3,100 at Keystone) with similar vertical (3,400 ft. at Breck vs. 3,100 at Keystone).

However, in reality, Breck feels and skis like a much bigger mountain. This is mostly because Keystone includes its three upper bowls into their official stats, but those areas are rarely skied because they don’t currently have any lifts serving that terrain. (Keystone’s bowls are currently hike-to only or require a $25 per ride cat shuttle)

This fact also overstates Keystone’s vertical quite a bit. Whereas at Breckenridge, you could take Imperial Superchair (the highest elevation chairlift in North America) right up to the summit and then ski over 3,000 vertical feet to the bottom of the mountain in one shot, at Keystone, your longest single runs will probably top out around 2,000 vertical feet or less.

So although Breck is smaller on paper, it skis like a far bigger mountain than Keystone.

Keystone vs. Breckenridge for Beginners

These are two great mountains for beginners.

Breckenridge has tons of green runs across the mountain’s many peaks. Beginners will be able to ski all over a large part of the mountain, which is rare at most resorts. In addition, many of Breck’s blues terrain is relatively flat, and could reasonable be categorized as green at other resorts. (Looking at you, Peak 7!)

Keystone, on the other hand, has far less beginner terrain, and it’s all limited to the front-side of the mountain. So, while beginners won’t be able to explore as much as at Breckenridge, anyone who’s tried to keep track of their kids on a mountain might prefer this simple approach – all beginner runs at Keystone mostly funnel to the same area, so this helps make things easy for beginners.

Keystone vs. Breckenridge for Intermediates

Each of these mountains is an intermediate skier or rider’s paradise.

Breckenridge has tons of blue terrain that runs all over the mountain. But Breck is especially unique in its variety of blue terrain. Special shout out to above the tree-line, blue bowl skiing! This is something that’s usually reserved for the black and double black extreme stuff, but you can find lots of this off Peak 6 at Breck. Plus, Breck is pretty generous with their trail ratings, and many of their black diamond runs are doable for confident intermediates.

Keystone, on the other hand, also has excellent intermediate terrain, although it’s focused much more on the groomers. At Keystone, the front-side of Dercum Mountain is packed with easy blue groomers, and these are some of the longest, fastest, and most fun groomers anywhere. There’s also some underrated mogul and tree skiing off North Peak and The Outback.

Keystone vs. Breckenridge for Advanced Skiers

Again, I’d say Breckenridge has the edge in this category just based on the variety alone. A lot of Keystone’s advanced skiing is limited to hike-to terrain, whereas Breck has endless groomers, trees, bowls, and more for the black diamond skier.

Keystone vs. Breckenridge for Experts

Breck wins again. Keystone’s double black terrain is limited entirely to hike-to trees above the lifts, whereas Breckenridge has more even more hike-to double black terrain, plus some good stuff off E-Chair, 6-Chair, and the Horseshoe Bowl T-Bar.

Final Thoughts

Keystone and Breckenridge are pretty similar mountains in their vibes, locations, and even terrain. But while I hate to say it, most everything that Keystone does, Breck does a little better.

So, I think most vacationing skiers would prefer Breckenridge for its larger variety of terrain and more authentic ski town.

That said, you can have an awesome time at either resort. And in particular, folks who are looking for a little more family-friendly atmosphere, or an overall quieter, more convenient setup, will definitely want to give Keystone a shot!

wdt_ID Ski Resort Ovr. Rating Beg. Int. Adv. Expert Trees Bowls Crowds Snow Ski Town
11 Breckenridge 84 8 9 9 9 7 10 4 7 10
19 Keystone 82 7 9 8 5 9 6 4 6 7