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It’s that time of year- the trees are covered in snow, the family comes together and the lights are twinkling (well, they’re supposed to be). “I don’t know what to say, except it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery,” said Ellen Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Well, that was her take, but here in Breckenridge we know that the Holidays are the best time of year. Maybe that’s why Warner Bros decided to film a lot of the movie in this charming little town of ours. That’s right, you heard it here!
For those of you who aren’t familiar, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, starring Chevy Chase, is a time-honored Christmas classic. The Griswold family plans for a big family Christmas as it unfolds into a predictably huge disaster. Thanks to Ann Lukacs, Breckenridge local and part of the camera crew for the film, we’ve got the inside scoop on how the Breckenridge portion of the movie was made. Let’s throw it back to spring of 1989 where it all took place.
The Christmas tree cutting scene was filmed at the Breckenridge Golf Course/Highlands area near Tiger Rd. The Highlands subdivision of Breckenridge hadn’t been built yet.
Lukacs worked on the film in both Breckenridge and Los Angeles, and at the time, she was working in the camera department. When the National Lampoon’s crew came to scout Breckenridge, she worked with the location manager, Tom Busch and was a liaison between the production, the town and the hotels. Once they started filming, she resumed her role as camera assistant. The producer was able to get creative by filming a lot of the “Chicago” scenes in Breckenridge, like the Christmas shopping scene and other cover sets inside. She had worked with the producer before so when he asked her, “you know what we need; where is it?” Lukacs told him to “stop looking. This looks just like Chicago.” She wasn’t about to let that money leave town.
After “Clark” rides down the hill on his silicone sprayed saucer, he is seen dodging traffic on the road. That section of road is in Frisco on Summit Boulevard. He eventually ends up in the Toys For Tots bin in front of the Wal-Mart in Frisco.
The company base camped at the Breckenridge Ski Resort vehicle maintenance area on Peak 8. Since they were filming at night, they did not interfere with the ski area operations during the day.
There were a lot of Breckenridge locals hired to work on the shoot, so the film became a huge economic plus for the town just before the ski area was closing for the season.
The opening sequences with the logging truck were shot north of Silverthorne near the Maryland Creek Ranch/LG Everist. The final landing of the car was at the Breckenridge Golf Course, near Georgia Pass on Tiger Rd.
Another not-so-known fact is that there was a cover set built on the gymnasium floor of the Summit High School in Frisco, (now the Summit Middle School). They filmed the scene where “Clark” is watching old home movies at this location. There was a huge snowstorm during this portion of filming. Breckenridge received 87 inches in 5 days. That’s over 7 feet of snow! All that snow was great for skiing but there was so much snow the crew couldn’t film and had to focus on the interior cover set.
So this holiday season when you’re watching one of America’s favorite Christmas classics, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you’ll be able to hit your friends and family with some trivia about where the movie was filmed. And remember, “The most enduring traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin. Thith tree is a thymbol of the thspirit of the Grithwold family Chrithmath.”
All photos courtesy of Warner Bros.