Overview of Crested Butte, Colorado
Written by Jack Lee
Crested Butte, located in Colorado's south western Rocky Mountains, offers up a real cowboy town and some kick butt terrain - in fact, CB has hosted the annual Extreme Skiing World Championships for 22 years, but there is also lots of cruisers and modern lifts for families at the Butte too.
Crested Butte has a unique feel, one fourth cool Colorado mining town, one fourth pleasant groomed terrain on soft western snow, one-fourth kick your butt ski terrain, and one fourth on mountain real estate development. You might think when you arrive at the slopeside village - un-inspired base, but an awesome face. The Butte looms high above the resort at 12,162' - like the Matterhorn or Big Sky’s Lone Peak. Modern lifts shoot off in multiple directions from the Mount Crested Butte Village.
CB, local speak for Crested Butte, is home to a clan of serious skiers attracted by the 542-acres of inbounds double black diamond extreme terrain off the Peak's chutes called Banana and Peel, in Teocalli Bowl, and The North Face, some of which require a 10 minutes hike.
We arrived on a powder day, and lined up for the first chair at the Silver Queen Express, the signature base quad, and got freshies on Forest Queen followed by a run down Paradise Bowl before East River Express opened and we pounced on that pow too, along with the throng of crusty Crested Butte goers. The Red Lady Lift from the base brings you to Painter Boy and plenty of great groomed family ski terrain, then the Prospect and Gold Link lifts provide more intermediate terrain and a real relaxed pace on this lower sunny side of the mountain.
Crested Butte is a challenging mountain to describe, much to explore and something for everyone from well-pitched runs off Silver Queen and pleasant blues off the Paradise Express lift, ego pleasers in Prospect, to extreme steeps accessed by upper mountain t-bars and hikes. Fun glades pop off the sides of trails so keep your eye out for those Aspen stashes, like Bakery Trees.
Be sure to ski into lunch at Uley’s Cabin – one of the best on mountain meals in North America. This cozy slope-side cabin on Crested Butte’s Twister Trail is where Uley once made his moonshine before the sheriff arrested him and made him his personal prison chef – so the legend goes. Uley’s is rustic elegance, tablecloths and a tantalizing menu defines this fine ski dining spot. Feast on charcuterie and gourmet cheese plates, elk and native cuisine before hitting the slopes or skiing back to the base for a spa treatment - completely satiated. On a blue bird Colorado ski day, grab an outside stool at the unique Ice Bar, sip a cool cocktail or a local beer at this ice carved bar while enjoying the view of the slopes above and skiers cruising by. Uley’s is also open for dinner – reserve your sleigh ride dinner some starry night for a raised culinary experience.
The best place to stay at Crested Butte is The Elevation Hotel and Spa – a very chic hotel of 250 rooms with a spa, slope view dining in the swank 9380' (signifying the hotel’s elevation) and prime location – twenty ski boot steps to the Silver Queen quad. The Elevation rooms are splendid and spacious, call it Rocky Mountain sophistication, all with views on par, if the exterior of the big building lacks elegance. Ski lockers are super convenient on the lobby and ski slope level, the indoor pool and Eleve salon and spa are down a flight.
Crested Butte has added lots of fun activities for families as alpine alternatives, including tubing, terrain parks and an AirBar jump, outdoor enclosed Flying Gopher mini-golf, bungee trampolines, rock climbing, and zip lining. Crested Butte Snowcat Driving is probably the most unique activity - imagine learning to drive a grooming machine?! Cool!
Mount Crested Butte, the compact ski village above the town where The Elevation, The Lodge at Mountaineer Square and Grand Lodge are located, offers a skiers plaza with cafes, shopping and dining to keep you amused after the lifts close. Djangos serves contemporary Colorado tapas style cuisine (antelope for example) in a very stylish atmosphere – more Miami than the alpine mountain. Avalanche Bar and Butte 66 attract locals and are lively for affordable fare and fun après. Kids will love the Sweet Spot – an old school candy store with penny candy and games, while parents pull up a barstool at the Victorian saloon and full bar – all in the same grand space.
For more charm and Colorado cowboy feel, take an early evening trip to town, a historic 1888 miners' town. Now downtown Crested Butte is a colorful Colorado mining settlement turned upscale. Crested Butte bills itself as Colorado’s Last Great Ski Town, and as proof it is loaded with lively bars, restaurants and cool Western themed shops (plus a bunch of orthopedic clinics – which may speak to the sick terrain here) all sporting funky frontier style architecture. CB is a great walk around town, for skiers and nonskiers alike.
Crested Butte is just over a four-hour drive from Denver, or you can fly into nearby Gunnison or Montrose between Crested Butte and Telluride. Crested Butte does not get the big bustling lift lines that other Colorado Front Range and I-70 ski resorts do. You do get a taste of the genuine local vibe once you arrive. Crested Butte is operated by The Mueller family of Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont - they wrote the book on ski hospitality.
This is a voice from the past, as when I stayed at the Forest Inn in 1979, the price for bed [in couble decker bunks in bunkroom] plus excellent breakfast was $10 a night. I know I'll never find that bargain again! But I am still happy with simpler, close to the slopes accoommodations.
Crested Butte probably doesn't have quite as much snow as Telluride, but it's a little closer to where we live in Fort Collins. Luckily we visited it after a 3 foot snow fall, so skiing was terrific. We stayed at a small, reasonably priced lodge with special lift prices and measl. And speaking of meals, Crested Butte definitely had a LOT of reasonable priced restaurants. However, Crested Butte could not match the natural beauty of those steep mountains rising up around the town of! Telluride!