Gold was first dicovered along the banks of the Blue River back in 1859. Breckenridge was founded soon after to serve the miners working the placer gold deposits around the area. Placer gold mining then led to hard rock mining, and soon after, the more environmentally-invasive hydraulic mining was started to extract gold from the hillsides and upper gravel benches around the area. Gold production significantly decreased in the late 1800s, but revived in 1908 with the efficiency of dredge boats along the Blue River and Swan River. The Breckenridge mining district is credited with production of about one million troy ounces (about 31,000 kilograms) of gold. The gold mines around Breckenridge are currently all shut down, although some are open to tourist visits. The characteristic gravel ridges (dredge piles) left by the dredge boats can still be seen along Highway 9 north of town (along the Blue River) and also adjacent to the Snake River. The remains of a dredge are still afloat in a pond off of French Creek in Breckenridge, and the remains of another can be seen near the Swan River.
On December 16, 1961, the “Peak 8 Ski Area” officially opened with one lift and one t-bar for beginners. An adult lift ticket was $4. During the next 5 decades, ownership of the Breckenridge Ski Resort changed numerous times. Today, Breckenridge Ski Resort is one of the most popular ski resorts in North America. The terrain now includes 4 different mountain peaks, the highest chairlift in North America, a gondola connecting the base of Peak 8 with town, and very extensive snowmaking capabilities. During the recent 2011-12 ski season, Breckenridge Ski Resort celebrated its 50th anniversary. Ever since the opening day of Breckenridge Ski Resort way back in 1961, snow, or “white gold” as some say, has been the driving force behind the tourism economy in this town.
To learn more about the history of Breckenridge, check out the Breckenridge Welcome Center in the Blue River Plaza, or contact the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance for more information on guided and interpretive hikes and museums around town.