A new addition at Breckenridge Ski Resort's summer fun park, Epic Discovery, entices children and adults alike to see if they can be as agile as a fox or bite down as hard as a beaver.
Just don't tell the youngsters it's supposed to be educational, because mixed in with the alpine coasters and slides, ziplines, bungee trampolines and mini golf course are numerous informational displays and interactive stations, complete with tidbits about the mountain environment, its wildlife and local history, and it's possible the children might learn something without even realizing it.
The new Alpine Camp at Epic Discovery was unveiled to the public during a Friday morning ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by a handful of local dignitaries, representatives of the ski resort, a conservation group and the Forest Service, and one of the state's highest ranking elected officials.
Speaking to the crowd, Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, a mother of three, said she doesn't shy away from riding the coasters, tubing down mountains or taking on a ropes course, even at 63 years old.
The ropes gave her some trouble, she said, but more important is there are few pleasures greater for a parent "than tricking your children to have fun and learning at the same time."
And she wasn't the only one who spoke from that perspective.
"I know, for my family, the climbing wall, the coaster, the challenge course, that's what is going lure my kids out," said Chris Jarnot, executive vice president of Vail Resorts Mountain Division. "And they're going to learn along the way through the interpretative elements. That's Epic Discovery."
Vail Resorts owns Breckenridge Ski Resort, and the informational displays at Epic Discovery's Alpine Camp are not unlike what someone would expect to find at a major zoo, only this zoo is 11,059 feet above sea level and comes with all the aforementioned activities, like ziplines, that most zoos don't offer.
"We're embarking on an entirely new way to engage people in the national forest and public lands through play and recreation," said Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor for the White River National Forest. "That's what excites me about the future, it's a different type of engagement and much more intimate than in the winter. Here everything is slowed down a little bit for people to learn and engage."
A spokeswoman for the ski resort, Kristen Petitt Stewart, said she can also see Epic Discovery as a kind of warm-up run for people who might want to get into hiking or biking in the mountains but don't have much experience in the environment.
For most patrons, a day at Epic Discovery begins with a scenic gondola ride from downtown Breckenridge up to the base of Peak 8. It's about a 12-minute trip that no one seems to mind.
Once at the base, Epic Discovery takes on the feel of a small-scale amusement park, with all the aforementioned fun stuff, in addition to ticket sales, a meeting place for guided tours of the mountains and options for refreshment.
From there, a quick ride up the super lift seating up to six people per chair carries patrons to the Alpine Camp.
The camp sits at just over 11,000 feet elevation, and it's where visitors will find a handful of short hiking trails, the challenge course and a full 360-degree rock climbing wall with 16 routes and self-belaying ropes.
Also at the camp is one trail loop with a vast array of scattered informational displays, some of which are purely informative while others come with hands-on activities. One of the stations is dedicated to foxes and another compares the bite of a beaver to that of a human, which is actually surprisingly strong but not nearly as powerful as the buck-toothed wood-chomper's.
Then there' a new observation tower at the Alpine Camp, which sits no more than a couple hundred feet from the chair lift, features stairs wide enough for a wheelchair and offers one of the most breath-taking views of Breckenridge, the Continental Divide and the greater Rocky Mountains that Summit County has to offer.
In addition to teaching people more about the mountain environment and its inhabitants, Epic Discovery also stands as one of the resort's biggest summertime draws, and Lynne made sure to thank Vail Resorts for all the tax dollars it collects on behalf of the state throughout the year.
One other bit of good news, the resort is donating 1 percent of all its summer-activity revenue to The Nature Conservancy, a conservation group that promotes wilderness education and awareness.
Weather permitting, Epic Discovery is open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Passes range from $40-$82. Individual tickets for some of the activities are available. For more info, go to Breckenridge.com and click the "Epic Discovery" tab at the top of the page.