One of my buddies who is coming along was at vail last year and said he rode the bowls all day long. Im cool with the wait for some sick riding. What time does vail open?
The gondola starts at 8:30. Though one day I got in line at 8 with about 15 other people and they let us go ahead and go up. First tracks
I would say get there at 7:30, get in line at 8, and you will basically have the mountain with about 20 other people until about 10:30 or 11. Its worth getting up early. The same goes for most mountains out here. The crowds don't start till 11 or so unless its some kind of crazy powder day.
Edit: For your other question. I rent a condo with friends in silverthorne which is about 10-15 mins from Breck. So I would say if you are staying in Breck or Frisco, head out about 6:45 or 7 and you will get there for when the gondola starts.