This past weekend Ski.com’s marketing department along with a handful of Mountain Vacation Specialists, who had not yet visited Crested Butte or had not been there in some time, attended a “familiarization” trip to the renowned Colorado ski town. We were blessed with an incredible 23 inches of snow in less than 48 hours, receiving free powder refills all weekend long. In the last two weeks Crested Butte has received a staggering seven feet of snow. We were able to experience Mt. Crested Butte in its full glory and now, back in our office in Aspen, we’re still smiling.
Update: The sweepstakes is now over, but we gave away a five-night, six-day ski vacation in Crested Butte, Colorado. In March, we asked people to caption a Crested Butte photo each weekday and enter to win a ski trip to Colorado’s last great ski town, redeemable this season or next!
Crested Butte is well-known among hardcore skiers thanks to its challenging upper mountain terrain,”The Extremes.” During the summer months Crested Butte is also known for having Colorado’s most beautiful wildflowers and as a world-class mountain biking destination. On our recent trip, we discovered that Crested Butte is much more than what it’s known for. Crested Butte is in fact one of the best ski resorts for families, intermediates and even first-time skiers. The historic, mining town of Crested Butte is colorful and idyllic and will pull on the heartstrings of anyone who values a bygone day. The town also boasts one of Colorado’s most unique dining and nightlife scenes. As one of our Mountain Travel Experts put it, “There are tons of dining options that are low key yet indulgent enough for refined palates. The nightlife is authentic and not segregated between tourists and locals—everyone drinks together!”
A Crested Butte family ski vacation
The overwhelming majority (84 percent) of Crested Butte’s terrain is intermediate (57 percent) and beginner (27 percent), making it a perfect destination for families ranging from once-a-year skiers to expert parents who want to challenge themselves in The Extremes, while their little ones learn to ski in Crested Butte’s award-winning ski school. The whole family will love exploring the many well-spaced tree runs off of the East River chairlift. Off the slopes kids will have a ball in the base area’s Adventure Park, which features a bungee trampoline and a climbing wall. If parents want to enjoy a romantic dinner alone in downtown Crested Butte they don’t have to go through the hassle of finding a local babysitter, rather the resort offers “Kids Night Out” for ages four to 12. The program provides supervised activities and games and includes a kid-approved dinner. Families can also participate in dog sledding, snowshoe tours and winter horseback trail rides, to name a few.
Where to ski: Intermediate families will enjoy lapping the Teocalli lift. One of our Mountain Travel Expert reported, that “there was never a soul in line” and “the powder was untouched late in the day” and the area was “quiet and protected by the trees, making me feel like I had the mountain to myself.” First-timers have a “learn-to-ski” zone at the bottom of the Peach Tree chairlift and more confident beginners have tons of terrain options off of the Red Lady Express lift.
Where to stay: For the family who craves convenience and exceptional service and amenities on their ski vacation the Lodge at Mountaineer Square is sure to please. Located less than 250 yards from the chairlifts, this four-star condominium property offers 95 units, ranging from studios to three bedroom suites. All studio, one, two and three bedroom suites include: gas fireplaces, 32-inch LCD TVs, pay-per-view movies, high speed wireless internet, washer/dryers and some with private balconies. The ski in, walk out Buttes Condominiums is an excellent choice for families looking for affordable, spacious and private accommodations. All units include washer/dryers and full kitchens. The whole family will love relaxing in the hot tub which offers some incredible views of the surrounding mountains.
Where to eat: Both kids and parents will be smiling as they maw down one of the famed Secret Stash’s creative, signature pies. Located on Elk Avenue, Crested Butte’s main thoroughfare, the “Stash” boasts some uniquely Crested Butte atmosphere with Asian knick-knacks, walls made of books and floor seating.
Groups in Crested Butte
As a destination that endures “the hard to get to” stigma, Crested Butte is usually not the first place a group would think to book. But since we were just apart of a group who experienced Crested Butte, we can happily report the resort is well-suited to accommodate large groups for conferences, reunions, weddings or just a large gaggle of friends looking to ski together. Upon arrival to Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, which is a quick 30-minute drive from Crested Butte, groups will be picked up in large shuttle vans and whisked to their accommodations. The 9,000-square-foot meeting space in the Conference Center at Mountaineer Square can accommodate meetings and events consisting of 20 to 500 guests. Crested Butte Mountain Resort offers groups some unbeatable experiences, which we were able to enjoy during our stay. One don’t-miss experience is an evening at the Magic Meadows Yurt. Groups can make a dinner reservation at the yurt then rent Nordic gear at the Crested Butte Nordic Center and ski their way via torchlight or moonlight to their dinner. Inside the Magic Meadows Yurt guests are treated to a warm pot-belly stove, charming, rustic ambiance and an incredible meal.
Where to ski: If your group consists of varying abilities, the terrain off of Paradise or East River chairlift is a great option. Everyone can go their separate ways and meet up back at the chairlift.
Where to stay: Offering a spacious indoor lobby and outdoor access to well-appointed, large two- or three-bedroom condominiums, The Plaza is a favorite among groups. The Plaza is located in the base village less than 250 yards from the chairlift and is on a convenient condo bus route which provides access to downtown Crested Butte.
Where to eat: Groups will want to make a reservation for lunch or dinner at on-mountain restaurant Uley’s Cabin. We were treated to a gourmet pre-fixe lunch at the charming cabin. One Mountain Travel Expert noted, “The mushroom risotto was indulgent comfort food and the pick-me-up I needed after a long morning of skiing fresh powder. A glass of crisp pinot grigio washed down the cheesy goodness perfectly.” The outdoor Ice Bar shares a patio with Uley’s and is great place for your group to meet up for a cold après-ski cocktail and recount the day’s events.
We choked on a lot of snow skiing around Crested Butte, with seven feet of new snow in two weeks, but we still made room for a decadent lunch at Uley’s Cabin.
Crested Butte on a Budget
Skiers and boarders on a budget looking to shred the famous Crested Butte steeps and still experience what the resort has to offer off-the-mountain will be pleased with CB’s simple, clean lodging options and affordable eats. As one Mountain Travel Expert noted, “accommodations are nice but not overpriced.” Crested Butte considers itself to be the last “greatest ski towns,” and to someone who’s looking for a draft beer for $2 or a cocktail for less than $5 Crested Butte certainly is the greatest.
Where to ski: If you’re looking to get rowdy, there’s no place in Colorado like The Extremes. Competitive big mountain, or extreme, skiing made it’s debut more than 20 years ago on The Extremes steep, technical terrain. The Extremes are accessed via two T-bars, High Lift and The North Face, which is great because they don’t close for high winds like chairlifts will. Some of the zones don’t open until mid-day due to avalanche work so be sure to check the boards at the top of the lifts for open/closure status. Because of the all the snow Crested Butte received in the last two weeks we were unable to ski in Third Bowl or Spellbound, but we can attest to Teocali Bowl, Headwall, The North Face and Hawk’s Nest. It’s always steep back there, but it was especially deep during our visit. We experienced some the deepest days some of us have ever known. The Extremes should be bucket-list zone for anyone who considers them self an expert skier or snowboarder.
Where to stay: The Grand Lodge is great for a boy’s or girl’s trip or two couples on a budget. The double queen rooms features a Murphy bed, which is a great space-saver when you just want to hang out in the room. The Grand Lodge hot tub is a great place to saddle up with a cold one and take in the views after a full day exploring the mountain.
Where to eat: Head to Teocalli Tamale, located on Elk Avenue, for humongous, handmade and hearty burritos. tamales and tacos. Everything on the menu is less than $12.50. There’s nothing like “Teo” after a Crested Butte powder day.
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com managing the website and blog content, I couldn't be happier. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.