Searching for clues and solving puzzles at the new Escape Room Breckenridge | VailDaily.com

Searching for clues and solving puzzles at the new Escape Room Breckenridge

Heather Jarvis
hjarvis@summitdaily.com
Nicolette Cusick opened Escape Room Breckenridge this month. The activity involves locking participants in a room with clues and puzzles to solve to "escape" before time runs out.
Heather Jarvis / hjarvis@summitdaily.com |

IF YOU GO ...

What: Escape Room Breckenridge.

When: Open Wednesday through Saturday; go online for reservations.

Where: 233 S. Ridge St., Suite C, Breckenridge.

Cost: $25 per person.

More information: Get tickets at escaperoombreckenridge.com.

BRECKENRIDGE — There were only 30 seconds left on the timer when we finally found the last box. With two different locks keeping us from the satisfaction of beating the clock, my coworker Jessica Smith and I wrestled with the combination of numbers and letters that would signal completion. We had come so far — spending the last hour ransacking this room in Breckenridge, searching for clues, finding keys to the locks and combinations of numbers to open drawers and suitcases.

As the clock ticked down to the final seconds, our other cohorts began screaming at us to hurry, and we desperately turned the lock to what we thought was the correct combination.

We were seconds from completing Summit County’s newest entertainment option, Escape Room Breckenridge, opened last week by Silverthorne resident Nicolette Cusick. Rising in popularity, escape rooms are popping up around the world. With participants locked inside a room, critical thinking skills, teamwork and observation are necessary to find the clues and solve puzzles leading to escape before time runs out.

We finally heard the satisfying click of one lock being opened, and as we figured out the final numbers we needed, the second lock clicked. It couldn’t have been a more exciting finish, ripping open the box right as the timer hit zero. We might have been a few seconds past, but it didn’t matter — the satisfaction of finishing pretty much right on the money was there. We all screamed and whooped as Cusick unlocked the door.

A GROWING TREND

Inspired by video games with the same concept, real-life escape rooms originated in Japan in 2007. The idea migrated to the United States in 2012, first in San Francisco, but most of the estimated 60 escape rooms across the U.S. have opened in the last year alone, according to The Denver Post.

Cusick opened her first escape room in Tucson, Arizona, in February, after reading an article about how well these businesses were doing. She was living in Denver at the time but relocated to Summit County last week after opening the second location in Breckenridge.

“It’s gone well — people love the concept once they get it,” she said.

Cusick said escape rooms can be addictive, proven by escape-room enthusiast groups, the fact that people are willing to travel to new rooms and the growing business concept.

From design, theme and clues to running the room, Cusick has done everything to get the business going. The theme for Escape Room Breckenridge is a Hollywood actress’ dressing room in the 1950s. The actress has been murdered, and participants must figure out the whodunnit mystery before 60 minutes is up. Cusick decorated the room to fit the theme, hiding the clues and puzzles throughout in maddening fashion.

THE ROOM

As Cusick explained how the room worked to our group of four, we were all eager to get started. Once she left the room, I stood there, slightly confused. Wait, we don’t get a first clue? How do we figure out how to start? My question was quickly answered as my friends began scouring through objects in the room, searching for the first clue.

I ran over to the bookshelf and start pulling books off and searching through them. We started panicking a little as we realized it’s been 6 minutes and we still didn’t have any idea what we are doing or where to begin.

On the front wall sits an old ’50s-style television with a computer monitor inside to communicate with participants by typing out hints, if needed. Cusick had given us a walkie talkie to press if we wanted one of the three hints she was willing to give us. She sits in an adjacent room like the Wizard of Oz, watching our progress on a screen through cameras installed around the room. I pictured her laughing maniacally like a superhero villain as we continued to unsuccessfully search for our first clue.

At this point, we just needed help getting started. I knew we were one of the first groups to do this particular room, but I started to wonder about how we were stacking up compared to others. Jessica is full of all sorts of useless knowledge and book smarts, surely she could steer us through. As the timer ran ominously on the monitor, we decided we needed our first clue, just to get us going. One of us pushed the walkie talkie, and we watched as a hint was typed out on the screen.

First clue

Once we got that first clue, we were off — tearing through suitcases and flying through the drawers. We all laughed at the beginning when Hailey Michelsen, one of the members of our group, asked Cusick whether she had ever seen a couple break up after going through the room — but now I could see it happening.

As we started to progress through the clues, we got lost in the game. An hour seems like a while when you are counting the minutes, but each time I looked up at the clock, I was amazed at how little time we had left. The sense of urgency increased the excitement.

The room became a mess as we scattered items over the floor while searching for clues. Our next big challenge confronted us when we got to the puzzle that involved math. It’s a well-known fact that journalists are terrible at math — my boyfriend makes fun of me for counting on my fingers when adding a tip to my credit card slip at a restaurant. And this involved ounces, prices — so many numbers. Hailey, the only non-Summit Daily member of our group, jumped up to take charge. She was writing figures across the white board like Matt Damon from “Good Will Hunting,” and I stood there with my mouth hanging open. I went to the camera to take a picture and pretend like I was doing something productive, rather then admit this puzzle would be the end of me if I were doing this alone.

As Cusick opened the door after we finished, we all immediately started talking at once in flustered excitement. We headed out the door to celebrate our victory over a round. I’m addicted — there may be a trip to Denver in order to visit other escape rooms. Cusick said she is working on opening a second room in her Breckenridge location with a pirate theme — you can bet I will be first in line when she does.