The title of “last great ski town in Colorado” isn’t bestowed on just any ski resort. Lots of people who visit Crested Butte for the first time return year-after-year because they feel as if they’ve discovered a precious, hidden gem. Most of the shops, restaurants and bars are in original mining-era buildings and all are locally owned and operated.
Crested Butte’s ski terrain is also unique. The resort is renowned for the upper rocky reaches of its terrain, known as The Extremes, but an often overlooked facet of the ski resort is its world-class glades and spacious groomers. Despite being quite far from Colorado’s I-70 ski resorts, Crested Butte is an easy to-get-to ski destination and enjoys few crowds. Gunnison Regional Airport is less than 40 minutes from Crested Butte, and Montrose Regional Airport is just over an hour away. If you’ve resolved to experience a new, one-of-a-kind ski destination this year, Crested Butte is the ski resort for you.
With the help of Mountain Travel Expert Anthony Luczkow we compiled an itinerary to help you capitalize on uniquely Crested Butte experiences and attractions within the span of a five-day ski vacation.
Mountain Travel Expert Since 2013
Day 1: Settle into your accommodations at the base area and explore downtown Crested Butte
If convenient access to the slopes is a top priority for you then you’ll want to stay at the resort’s base area. Just about every lodging option sits slopeside or within fewer than 250 yards from the chairlifts. If you’re looking for luxury digs, the Lodge at Mountaineer Square offers spacious, well-appointed units that range from king rooms to four-bedroom suites with kitchens. For more budget-friendly accommodations, the Grand Lodge is a win. The Grand Lodge offers comfortable, reasonably priced rooms, an onsite restaurant—Woodstone Grille—and one of Crested Butte’s best hot tubs! For all the comforts of home and affordability, the Plaza condominiums are a top pick for families.
One of the best things about Crested Butte is that the base area and downtown Crested Butte are just three miles apart. A frequent, free shuttle between downtown and Mount Crested Butte makes getting around easy and affordable!
When it’s time for dinner, hop on the free, brightly colored hand-painted shuttle bus (you can’t miss them) to Elk Avenue, the core of downtown Crested Butte. When bedecked in a fresh blanked of snow, Crested Butte’s charm really comes alive. Crested Butte locals have fought hard to preserve their town’s history and natural beauty. The Victorian-era buildings that were once homes, stables and supply shops in the mining days now house eclectic restaurants, art galleries, sports and toy shops and historic bars.
Secret Stash is probably the most iconic restaurant in Crested Butte. They have great pizza and wings, but they're renowned for crazy pizza concoctions, like the Buddha's Belly, made with Thai peanut, green curry and rice crust, and the Mac Daddy, which has Thousand Island dressing, ground beef, shredded cheese, pickles and lettuce.
Day 2: Familiarize yourself with Crested Butte’s terrain and enjoy a night on the town
Crested Butte is one of those ski resorts that’s on every die-hard expert skiers bucket list, but it should also make the vacation wishlist for beginners and intermediates. The resort’s 1,547 skiable acres offer terrain for every level of skier or snowboarder. The lower lifts are almost entirely green or blue terrain, while the upper lifts are all advanced and expert. Conditions and ski ability permitting, be sure to check out Crested Butte’s newest terrain addition, Teocalli 2, which offers expert skiers 40 new acres of powder fields, trees and cliffs. The coolest part about skiing at Crested Butte is that everything funnels back together, so you don’t have to waste large chucks of your day navigating the resort or trying to meet up with people of a different ability level than yourself.
To familiarize yourself quickly with the lay of the resort on your first day, sign up for a free guided mountain tour. On the two-hour tour, you will learn trails and the locations of lifts from an experienced local guide. Tours meet at 9:45 a.m. and leave at 10 a.m. daily.
I always like to end up at Talk of the Town when I'm in Crested Butte. The two-story bar is in an old, rustic building and has a laid-back vibe. You can play video games, fooseball and pool and even bust out some moves on the dance floor.
Day 3: Explore more terrain and enjoy an on-mountain lunch at Uley’s Cabin
Spend the morning exploring areas of Crested Butte’s terrain that you didn’t get to experience yet. If you didn’t make it over to the looker’s left side of the mountain, head over there. This portion of the resort offers some incredible glades, like Bakers Trees and Gully Glades, as well as blue cruisers and black diamond runs, all of which lead down to the East River Express chairlift. Expert skiers looking to test their mettle on Crested Butte’s famed Extremes terrain, will want to head up Paradise Express chairlift to the North Face T-Bar to access the North Face/Hawk’s Nest, Spellbound Bowl or Third Bowl. When conditions allow, expert skiers can even enjoy the thrill of skiing alongside the butte in the Banana Peel terrain.
When it’s time for lunch head to Uley’s Cabin, located beneath the Twister chairlift. Here you’ll be treated to a five-course gourmet lunch inside a charming, cozy cabin. Between the roaring fireplace and your full belly, motivating to get back on skis can be a daunting task. Jump start your afternoon with a refreshing post-lunch beverage at Uley’s outdoor Ice Bar.
Advanced reservations are recommended if you'd like to have lunch at Uley's Cabin. Seating is limited and the experience is quite popular.
Day 4: Shred corduroy in the morning and sign up for an afternoon snowcat driving lesson
Get out on the slopes early and take advantage of Crested Butte’s freshly groomed cruisers. If you’ve ever wondered how snowcats get the trails so perfectly manicured you can take a snow-cat driving lesson with Crested Butte’s Snowcat Driving Experience. Participants learn the basics of driving snowcats, grooming, pushing snow, and experience one of the best ski resort jobs on a closed course. The course incorporates initial classroom time for safety and operational instruction; then students get out on the course to test their learnings. Classes run twice daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. six days a week (Monday through Saturday) for the ski season.
The class is taught by the resort's snowcat driver. It's a really unique experience.
Day 5: Spend the day exploring Crested Butte’s natural beauty from a different angle
Enjoy your last day in Crested Butte by going cross-country skiing. Crested Butte Nordic Center, located on Second Street, just off of Elk Avenue, maintains 55 kilometers (34 miles) of immaculately groomed trails around the Town of Crested Butte. One of the most beautiful cross-country trails in Crested Butte winds along Slate River and provides access to Magic Meadows hut, which can be rented out for lunch and dinner. You’ll enjoy getting exercise and fresh Rocky Mountain air while you take in the sounds of the nearby river and spectacular Elk Mountain views. You can also organize a snowshoe excursion out of the Crested Butte Nordic Center.
If you’d like to spend your last day at a faster pace, reserve a half- or full-day guided snowmobiling trip. Crested Butte has several scenic backcountry routes around pristine mountain lakes and through aspen groves.
If experiencing Crested Butte for the first time is something you’d like to make happen this winter, enter to win our Crested Butte ski trip giveaway. If you don’t want to leave it to chance start planning your Crested Butte ski vacation now! Anthony, or any of our other Mountain Travel Experts, can help you customize and book your flights, rental cars, lodging and more on your Crested Butte ski vacation. Call or click to chat with one of them now! You can also customize and book your vacation using our online booking services.