The Ski Mountain
Advanced freeride-loving skiers already have Crested Butte on their short list. But let’s say you’re an intermediate skier who’s decided it’s time to step up your game. This remote, powder-caked 12,162-foot elevation resort in the Elk Mountains may be the ideal place to set up camp. Crested Butte has the most double-black-diamond runs in Colorado (but plenty of beginner terrain too). Better yet, the 1,487 population town lets its history as a small valley mining town shine through in creative and charming ways, from costume parties to log cabin restaurants, making the vacation experience both warm and exhilarating.
The Mountain Experience
Over $315 million of on and off-mountain improvements are the result of new ownership since 2004. Crested Butte still remains one of the top resorts in North America for finding uncrowded runs. You’re likely to share chairlifts with college students from nearby Western State, low-key Texans and some of North America’s most hard-core ski bums.
Crested Butte Ski Terrain
• Advanced/Expert: Adventurous rocky mountain skiing at Crested Butte is renowned. Hike-able in-bounds terrain is steep, narrow and ungroomed, observed by ski patrol and open to the public. There’s 542 acres of it – an area as big as some small resorts – with a total vertical drop of 3,062 feet. The North Face Poma lift is steep in sections, requires attention and can be intimidating for anyone. Don’t consider it unless you’re advanced. Crested Butte’s other T-Bar, High Lift, accesses the peak and double-blacks strictly for super-advanced. Must-ski: the resort’s signature groomed run International and Third Bowl on a big powder day.
Current Snow Conditions
• Intermediate: Recent resort improvements have the intermediate skier in mind with more grooming and snowmaking capability. Try mid-mountain two-seater Teocalli chairlift or get close to the top (without going all the way) on Silver Queen. Crested Butte is a place to challenge fears. And with a good chance that you’ll get a powder day — annual natural snowpack is 25 feet — plan to head to Paradise Bowl when fresh snow hits. Workshops led by US Extreme Freeskiing Champion Wendy Fisher are a bestseller.
• Beginner: Despite the resort’s reputation for big air terrain, beginners are very well-taken care of at Crested Butte. Two chairlift names to know: Peachtree and Red Lady Express. Both hug the mountain’s low, gentle slopes for a great learning environment.
• Terrain Park: Three park areas include the main Cascade Park, Keystone and Painterboy Parks. A 400-foot long, 17-foot walled Superpipe is located on lower Cascade. Expect jumps up to 35 feet, rails and boxes in all sizes. Beginners should start in Painterboy Park.
With so much advanced skiing and danger zones, only venture to advanced areas when you’re ready and ski with someone who knows the mountain. This resort doesn’t have an extended winter like others in Colorado and the west; the best skiing is between Thanksgiving and the first week of April — earlier if it’s a warm year. Rocks are of the sharp and jagged variety, and there are plenty of them, so wear a helmet.
On-mountain Uley’s Cabin Ice Bar is the mid-mountain, mid-day watering hole with drinks and lunch hot off the grill. The base area’s Avalanche sports bar is a local’s favorite. Three miles away in town, you can channel your inner cowboy and shoot pool in western saloons like Talk of the Town. Classy joints include Princess Wine Bar and the alleyway log cabin restaurant Soupçon Bistro, where you’ll need a reservation for one of two nightly seatings.
Authentic, friendly and free of crowds, a historic 1880s mining town turned nightlife and art center.
Decide whether you want to stay at the base of the ski area or 15 minutes away in town where accommodations are less expensive, nightlife is convenient and a free shuttle ride starts and ends the ski day. A popular budget option is Crested Butte International Lodge & Hostel. If you’re splurging, The Lodge at Mountaineer Square is an upscale slopeside craftsman style lodge with roomy, modern condo units. Use the Ski Lodging Deals box above and right to find Crested Butte’s best Lodging choices and deals.
Skiing With Kids
Camp CB is the headquarters for kids 4-12 for lessons, tubing, ice skating and nighttime programs that stretch until 8 p.m. On the mountain, a kid’s ticket is $52 for a full day. Put them in a lesson for $174 a day (non-holiday; also covers lift pass and lunch). Kids six and under ski free.
Lift Tickets and Season Pass Cost*
Lift Tickets (pre-purchase online): Adult $95-$98; Child $52-$54; Senior $76-$78 (PURCHASE NOW) Season Pass: Adult $1,399; Child $305; Senior $999 Other Passes: 12 day pass = Adult $779 Special Deals: Pass holders can purchase 2 to 4 Buddy Tickets for $52 each *prices reflect our best effort to gather from resort published information. LINK.
By Dana Nichols