Breckenridge is a Home Rule Municipality and the county seat of Summit County, Colorado. Founded in 1859, Breckenridge had a population just over 2,400 as of the 2000 Census, though the city is also home to many vacation properties. The city is a popular ski resort in the winter months, and a popular destination for outdoor activities during the summer. The Breckenridge Festival of Film has been held there every year since 1981, and the community recently passed a law legalizing possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.
Breckinridge was officially founded in 1859 by General George E. Spencer, who named the town after John C. Breckinridge, then the Vice President of the US, hoping to gain favor with the federal government so as to obtain a post office. The plan worked and Breckinridge became the home of the first post office located between Salt Lake City and the Continental Divide. When the Civil War started in 1861, the former vice-president, Breckinridge, sided with the Confederate States. The residents of Breckinridge were mostly pro-union, so the decision was made to change the spelling of the town's name, and it has remained ever since.
Prospectors first began mining in Summit County during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush of 1859. Breckenridge was founded to serve the needs of miners working rich placer gold deposits along the Blue River. Gold production would slow to a trickle late in the 1800s, then be revived by gold dredging operations along the Blue and Swan Rivers in 1908. The Breckenridge mining district is credited for having produced around a million troy ounces of gold. The area's gold mines are now all closed, though the characteristic gravel ridges left by the dredges can still be seen along the Snake and Blue Rivers.
Among the early prospectors in Breckenridge was Edwin Carter, who went from prospecting to collecting wildlife specimens. His log cabin, built in 1875, still exists today and has been renovated by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance. Tourists can visit the cabin and enjoy interactive exhibits and a small viewing room where a film is shown about Carter's life and the early days of Breckenridge. Several major motion pictures have been filmed in and around Breckenridge, including "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". The Aspen scenes from "Dumb and Dumber" were actually filmed in Breckenridge, as well.
The climate of Breckenridge is considered to be high-alpine, with the tree line ending at 11,500 feet. The average high and low temperatures in July are 73 and 39 degrees Fahrenheit and January's average high and low are 31 and 0. July 1939 saw the city's record high, 89 degrees, and the record low of -24 degrees was set in December 1924. The city receives more than 300 inches of snow per year, and the valley has, on average, only 30 frost-free days each year. Average humidity remains around 30 percent throughout the year, and there are an average of 300 days of sunshine per year. The warmest month in Breckenridge is July, when most of the average precipitation occurs, and the coldest month is January.