Crested Butte

Colorado, USA

Crested Butte, with its steeps looming above gentle beginner slopes, is the perfect playground for more adventurous families where luxury is not necessarily important. They’ll mix quite happily with ski bums who come to the resort for its expert terrain and a laid-back, hippie personality. Its historic downtown area is incredibly picturesque - old Victorian mining buildings surrounded by steep mountains. Surprisingly, the town has some fantastic restaurants and bars, rounding out the reasons why Crested Butte is a terrific choice for a ski holiday.

Scout Loves

  • The town’s main street with its colorful wooden buildings.
  • The 542ac (219ha) of in-bounds extreme terrain to keep the most adventurous adrenaline junkie happy.
  • Its moderate isolation and small local population mean it takes longer for fresh powder to get skied out.
  • Relaxed family friendly atmosphere with none of the pretension of other big resorts.
  • Local guiding companies can take more adventurous skiers into some fabulous backcountry terrain.
  • The towns shuttle buses are painted by locals in funky colors to reflect the quirky personality of the town.

Scout Tips

  • Access to a lot of the expert terrain requires a combination of lifts or hikes.
  • There aren’t many accommodation options in the town area. Most are centered in the mountain village area. Town is easily accessed via the free shuttle bus.
  • Getting here takes time – the closest airport is Gunnison (30 minutes) which has direct flights to only a few major cities so flying here will usually require a transfer. Denver is a 5-hour drive.
  • Its laid-back nature means the luxury hotel options are few and far between – on the plus side it’s one of the best value resorts in Colorado.
  • With a base elevation of 9100ft (2774m), you may feel the effects of altitude if coming from lower elevations. Drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol (at least try to) and take it easy over the first few days.

Scout Review

Crested Butte is a ski resort with a split personality – the laid-back, friendly atmosphere is a vast contradiction to the extreme terrain and sharp peaks that will challenge the most expert skiers. Crested Butte’s isolation means no crowds, no lift lines and more powder for everyone to share. And while that seems better suited to ski bums and powderhounds, families with skiers of all abilities are just as likely to have a good time thanks to some excellent beginner and intermediate terrain and some fun side activities for kids.

Crested Butte has two main areas; a 5-minute drive separates the downtown area and the mountain resort where most of the accommodation is located. The village there has plenty of services and its small size means lifts are rarely further than a walk. There’s no glitz or glamour here – just a genuine ski resort that feels like what Aspen might have been like about 20 years ago, before Wall St invaded.  The historic main street is lined with colorful Victorian-era buildings and the rest of the town is a collection of small wooden homes (in varying states of repair).

But if you think this is just a sleepy little town, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the restaurants and a fun nightlife to cap it off.

What all this means is that Crested Butte represents fantastic value for money – where you get the combination of a world-class resort with a wide variety of terrain, a fun town with more than adequate services, all paired with budget to mid-range accommodation.

Crested Butte Accommodation

Crested Butte’s accommodation options are relatively limited due to its size and there are no big name luxury hotels. But all that adds to Crested Butte’s charm. There are a couple of hotels and condos, most of which are centered in and around the mountain village making them very quick and easy for accessing the slopes. The best part of Crested Butte’s accommodation is the price tag. 

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Resort Activities

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There are plenty of activities in the mountain village to keep families happy, including ziplining, an adventure park with an AirBag jump, rock climbing tower and tubing. There’s also the usual activities of snowmobiling, dog-sledding and snowshoeing. There is one day spa in the mountain village at Elevation Hotel.

For something different enjoy a starlit sleigh ride to the charming Uley’s Cabin for a gourmet dinner.

Getting There and Around

Getting There

The best way to get to Crested Butte is to fly to Gunnison, the closest airport just 30 minutes’ drive away. Several airlines have direct flights. Alpine Express Shuttle has shared transfers for $65 round trip for adults, or $42.50 for children. Dolly’s Mountain Shuttle also has private vans available.

Alpine Express also services Montrose (1 hour 45 minutes) as does Telluride Express.

Getting Around

Crested Butte is easy to get around thanks to the free mountain shuttle buses that run frequent services between the mountain village and town. There really is no need to rent a car when coming to Crested Butte.

When To Go

Crested Butte usually opens at the end November until around early April.  February is usually the most reliable month for powder snow.

Holiday periods that are busy are:

  • Christmas and New Year.
  • Martin Luther King long weekend, January 17-20 (2014).
  • President’s Day long weekend, February 14-17 (2014).

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 9100ft / 2774m Express Quads 4 Beginner 27%  
Summit Elevation 12,162ft / 3707m Quad Chair 2 Intermediates 57%  
Vertical Drop 3062ft / 933m Triple Chairs 2 Advanced 16%  
Skiable Area 1547ac / 626ha Double Chairs 3      
Annual Snowfall 300in / 7.6m Surface Lifts 2      
Longest Run 2.6 miles / 4.2km Magic Carpet 2      
Snowmaking 297ac / 120ha          
Operating Hours 9.00am –4.00pm          
MAGAZINE
Photo: Corbet\'s Couloir at Jackson Hole.

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