Self-titled “The Last Great Colorado Ski Town,” Crested Butte Colorado is a small town with epic, tall mountain views and is the bullseye for travelers looking for an authentic, crowd-free and relaxed ski town experience. Beautiful Victorian homes restored as locally-owned shops and restaurants line the main streets. On the ski slopes, Crested Butte mountain is waiting to challenge your skills. Off the slopes, the town is a place to leave the world’s noise behind, breath untarnished mountain air and truly unwind. For years locals have butt heads with corporate enterprises and big-name businesses to keep this quaint town of only 1,500 residents a hidden gem of small town affairs and mountain culture. Many will agree; they have succeeded.
Crested Butte remains one of the most over-looked but bucket list worthy ski and ski town destinations in Colorado.
Why Crested Butte Colorado is Different
Standing in the solitude of the high alpine tundra of the Elk Mountain Range, Crested Butte has geographic characteristics not found in its neighboring resorts. Towering mountains encase a massive valley, offering breathtaking views that transport first-time visitors to a place where photos do no justice. Unlike many boxed-in historical mining towns turned ski resorts, the small town square in Crested Butte feels cozy yet spacious as the streets are filled with lighthearted locals as opposed to bustling tourists. It’s fair to argue that Crested Butte hosts more visitors in the summer due to the wildflower fields that eclipse the valley and the phenomenal mountain biking. Come here in winter and you’ll still see the bicycles, they’re just taking a break and lining the streets as locals stop at their favorite watering holes before a short pedal home.
Nearest Ski Mountain
Crested Butte Ski Resort
Advanced, free-ride loving skiers already have this on their short list, but there’s enough intermediate and beginner terrain as well.
Crested Butte Colorado Lodging
Like many ski towns, the lodging in Crested Butte Colorado is pricey during the ski season, and vacancies fill early, but it’s possible to find deals. From staying at the base of the mountain, to the heart of town, to individual cabins in the surrounding valley, there’s a unique and wide variety of options available. Smack in the middle of town, Elk Mountain Lodge is a historic lodge with tastefully decorated rooms and a casual bar. At the mountain, The Grand Lodge Crested Butte is a full-service hotel with 226 rooms and is just steps from the lifts. Use the “Explore Crested Butte’s Best Lodging Deals” box above and right to find the Crested Butte lodging choices that best fit you.
Plan to spend more money on travel than you would if you were to visit other Colorado ski towns. Like Telluride, Crested Butte Colorado is a destination location. About a four and a half hour drive from Denver International Airport, you’ll need a rental car with winter tires and GPS to reach Crested Butte. Once in town, you can ditch the car and take advantage of the free shuttle service.
If you’d like to avoid renting a car and spend more money on airfare, search for flights to the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (about 27 miles from town). After landing, hop on the bus to town.
From pub grub to upscale, Crested Butte is home to many great dining selections. For upscale dining, visit the Eastside Bistro for its menu of finely crafted entrees and cocktails in a modern environment. Located at the base of the mountain, Django’s Restaurant & Wine Bar is a great choice for fine wines, small plates and elegant ambiance. Visitors seeking a casual dining environment with a reasonably priced American-food menu should stop at The Last Steep, also a great place for late night brews. Pizza and a unique bar experience can be found at Secret Stash Pizzeria Groove Emporium and Lounge, with a menu as unique as the building’s groovy decor. Enjoy Southwestern-inspired eats in the heart of town at Donita’s Cantina. For a quick breakfast and coffee on the way to the chairlift, stop by Camp 4 Coffee for great breakfast burritos, baked goods and coffee. This reasonably priced and locally-owned operation has two convenient locations, one in town and the other at the base village.
For a small town, Crested Butte has many bars within arms reach of each other. With a free shuttle servicing the mountain area and town, a quick jaunt to town can turn into a late night. The best craft cocktails and rum in town are found at Montanya, which is also widely known throughout Colorado as one of the state’s best distilleries. In this wild west themed bar, the rum is distilled right in front of your eyes, and two drinks are all you’ll need for the evening. Using the tagline “A Sunny Place for Shady People,” The Eldo is a fun place to spend a few hours after a day on the mountain. The Eldo is Crested Butte’s only brewery and reels in the local crowd with frequent live music. Those looking for a bar with modern esthetics and artisan cocktails will find The Dogwood Cocktail Cabin to their liking.
Crested Butte Lodging
Use the “Explore Crested Butte’s Best Lodging Deals” box above and right to find Crested Butte’s best Lodging choices and deals. Lodging choices are pre-ordered by price, but you can enter your own search parameters.
The holidays see typical Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities with a decorated main street, but mid-January sees the Mountain High Music Festival, where singer-songwriters from famous to up-and-comings showcase their skills at various venues. In February and March, extreme skiers and mountaineers flock to Crested Butte for the IFSA National Freeski Competitions and the Grand Traverse Mountaineering Race, the latter with a strenuous course spanning 40 miles from Crested Butte to Aspen. The Grand Traverse is widely known as the pinnacle mountaineering race in the North America. In the spring, Big Air On Elk showcases freestyle jumps constructed on Crested Butte’s main street, and the town’s best skiers perform daring aerials. After the competition, wild parties take over Elk Street as locals celebrate.
Off Mountain Activities
Similar to other Colorado mountain towns, there is plenty to do in Crested Butte when not enjoying the mountain’s vertical. Visitors looking for an active day of outdoor recreation can find miles of snowshoeing, nordic skiing and dog sledding. The local recreation center also offers ice skating and further out, the Blue Mesa Reservoir (Colorado’s largest reservoir) offers unparalleled ice fishing. Crested Butte Adventure Center offers guided snowmobile tours with the option of crossing the Elk Mountain Range into the heart of Aspen via backcountry trails.
For a dose of relaxation, the town offers several art galleries, museums and cozy coffee shops. Take a step back in time at the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum and the Pioneer Museum. The mountain base area and town have many spas from casual to elaborate, including The Grand Lodge at the base area and the Creekside Spa in town.
By Patrick Shehan