8 Reasons Why Crested Butte is The Last Great Colorado Ski Town
Updated: Sep 25
Over a pizza dinner with his nephew at the Secret Stash this past February, Tony Powe realized they've been visiting Crested Butte for as long as he has been alive — 20 years! A full score later, the town and the mountain still enchant and intrigue him way they did on his first visit — here are 8 reasons why:
1. Authenticity of a real town.
Founded in the 1870s as a supply station for silver mines cropping up in the area, Crested Butte is a real town, rather than a purpose-built ski resort. By the end of the century, CB (as the locals call it) settled in to coal mining. Nestled at almost 9,000 feet, there are 313 registered historic buildings here, giving CB an amazing sense of history and atmosphere. Many Buttians initially came here as visitors and chose to stay. Get the inside scoop on town happenings from CB's favorite local media outlets, radio station, KBUT, or the newspaper, The Crested Butte News.
2. Few to non-existent lift lines.
Even weekend “crowds” are small and the ski to waiting time ratio is top-notch. An amazing amount of terrain is accessible from two short lifts at the base. Take the Red Lady for fast access to blues and greens, or Experts can hop on the Silver Queen and be skiing extremes like Peel and Banana in 10 minutes. The Silver Queen also provides fast access to the two T-Bars feeding more extremes, including the High Lift and the North Face.
3. Nearby access to off-piste cat skiing.
If you have the budget, spring for cat skiing in Irwin. Just a 10 mile/45 minute cat ride from Crested Butte, this valley gets 3 times as much snow. Irwin Guides offer wonderful tours — a full day is $650 per seat, a flex pass for $475 provides access to greater discounts, or consider a private cat tour ($6,000 for up to 10 participants). Enjoy powder and fresh tracks along with breath-taking views of the Elk Mountains. This is the place to practice before venturing to the true backcountry or heli-skiing. 4. Countless outdoor adventures at your fingertips.
This athletic community is in constant pursuit of the next adventure. For the ultimate cardio workout, try cross country skiing at the Nordic Center, one of the premier cross-country ski destinations in the nation with 50 kilometers of trails for classic skiing, skate skiing and snowshoeing. Don't miss the Nordic Center's Sunday Brunch at the Yurt, it's particularly fun after a morning on the trails. Venture further into the backcountry by skiing alongside guides from Colorado Backcountry or spring for a sleigh ride up the mountain and have dinner at Uley’s Cabin!
5. The après scene of a much larger town.
For its size, Crested Butte is very social and has an amazing selection of places to eat and drink. Start your day at Octopus Coffee, hidden at the top of Elk Avenue, for coffee and baked goods. Grab a burger to-go for under $10 at Crested Butte Burger Company (new for the 2019-20 season) at the base of the mountain. Secret Stash has great pizza and is a fun reminder of the old hippy scene in CB. For a more refined meal, Sunflower Restaurant is at the top of our list for delicious farm to table cooking and warm hospitality. The live music and entertainment scene is also excellent and varied. Here are some of our favorites: The Eldo is on the rowdier side with live music performances and an interesting tag line ‘a sunny place for shady people!” For a quieter time, try Princess Wine Bar, chill with live singer/songwriter style music. The Center for the Arts has a solid line up of events and shows. For an old fashioned night at the movies, head to the Majestic Theatre next to Clark’s supermarket. Grab a cocktail, beer or glass of wine and some snacks and settle in for the show. 6. A unique culture rife with wacky events.
CB’s local events like the annual Alley Loop race for Nordic skiers and the Al Johnson for Telemark skiers reflect this town's love for having fun. Both races have serious competitors, but also encourage people to come out and get involved regardless of their age or fitness level. Hidden amongst the 90% of participants in crazy costumes, you may catch a glimpse of some of the best skiers in North America, often accompanied by their children. Memorable outfits include a praying mantis and a family of “Tiggers.”
Nordic skiers make their way around the Alley Loop Race, Praying mantis sighting at the Al Johnson
7. Super friendly and safe community.
This tight-knit community looks out for one another. Even young teens are safe to venture out alone. The friendly vibe extends to visitors — don’t be shy about asking a local for their favorite lines in the extremes or the best place to get a burger. The only time we recommend that people lock the door to our cabin is in the summer. And then it’s only to keep the bears out! 8. New challenges and excitement abound.
A relaxed atmosphere meets some of the most extreme skiing in North America. Whether you are a brand new skier or an Olympian, you will be welcomed to the mountain and have no end of places to explore. The more you improve, the more challenging this compact mountain becomes — veterans are still discovering new lines to ski!
Ok, so the secret’s now out. But even so, arriving in Crested Butte still feels like you’ve discovered a little piece of paradise. It’s hard to get here, but once you’ve arrived, you’ll want to stay awhile. Enjoy it and help us keep it this way. For more, see our full review.
Navigate the mountain like an insider with our list of top trails by category and rating
Check out our Après Guide for all of our top spots for dinner and drinks
Love Crested Butte for its extremes? Consider Jackson Hole for your next trip, another of our favorites for this type of terrain
Arapahoe Basin is another favorite for extreme terrain. Hint - don't miss the Beavers or the Pali! See our full review here
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