5 days in Crested Butte: a family ski vacation guide

Crested Butte family ski vacation guide

Families return to Crested Butte year in and year out for a host of reasons, including 80 beginner and intermediate runs serviced by high-speed quads, an awesome 200-instructor ski school and a stacked list of kid-appeasing activities. Plus, kids ages six and under ski free at Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR). What really takes the cake for most return-visit parents is that they know their kids are in a safe environment. Crested Butte’s self-proclaimed title as the “last great Colorado ski town” is a huge part of what makes it so incredible for families. An end-of-the-road location ensures that crowds are minimal on and off the slopes, and the family-operated CBMR, small-town community and friendly locals all provide a welcoming atmosphere for visiting families.

>>>Enter to win a Crested Butte trip>>>

“We all know each other, and we all look out for each other and each other’s kids,” says Rebecca Bell, a local mom and manager of Skier Services at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. “Being a family in Crested Butte means being a part of a community family, not only for locals but for visitors, too!”

If you’re seeking a family ski vacation where salt-of-the-earth locals are more than happy to lend a helping hand and world-class terrain and resort experiences beckon, Crested Butte is the destination for you.


Day 1: Fly into Gunnison and get settled into your accommodations

All families want convenience, which a Crested Butte ski vacation provides in spades. For the utmost ease, we recommend flying into Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, which is a quick 45-minute drive from the resort, and opting for slopeside lodging. It’s no secret that staying steps from the chairlifts makes getting your brood on the slopes in the morning a breeze. Between the airport shuttle and the free shuttle to and from downtown Crested Butte and the resort base village, you really don’t need a rental car. That’s one less detail you have to worry about. Your Ski.com Mountain Travel Expert can book advance seats on the Alpine Express Airport Shuttle, which runs between Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport and Crested Butte.

For great ski access, affordability and a ton of onsite amenities, the Grand Lodge is also a popular option among budget-conscious families who don’t want to skimp on quality.

After getting settled into your accommodations, take the opportunity to explore the base village so getting the kids out the door the next morning will be a seamless experience. If you walk to where the two base area chairlifts—Red Lady Express and Silver Queen Express—begin their ascent, you’ll notice the Adventure Park to the left of the Red Lady, which features lift-served tubing and other kid-centric activities, and the Ski School Learning Area to the right of the Silver Queen Express. If you’re renting equipment, there are two convenient ski shops in the base village. The children’s rental shop is just steps from the Plaza in the Whetstone Building and the other is adjacent to the Adventure Center. If you’ve arrived in the mid- to late-afternoon, save yourself time the next morning and pick up your rental or demo gear the night before. The shops are open until 6 p.m.

Make dinner easy on the first night and grab a bite at one of the base village restaurants, like Butte 66 Roadhouse Bar and Grille, Avalanche Bar & Grill or Spellbound Pizza. All these eateries are family-friendly, casual and reasonably priced.

Day 2: Explore the slopes and venture into historic, downtown Crested Butte

Start your day off with a cup of coffee or tea and other breakfast items at Camp 4 Coffee, located in the Lodge at Mountaineer Square. Then head to pick up your rentals and lift tickets (if you haven’t already) and get yourself and/or your kids checked into ski school. First timers will meet at the Peachtree Lift, while more experienced skiers and riders will meet their instructor right out in front of the base-area lifts.

Even if you’re a strong skier or rider, at least one lesson is a great way to get your legs back under you, fine-tune your technique and get quickly familiarized with the terrain.

If you’ve opted to ski sans instructor, enjoy some warm-up runs on the blues and greens off of Silver Queen Express or Red Lady Express. Once you feel ready to take on more challenging terrain, graduate to the blues and blacks off of Paradise or Twister Lift. If you have your groms in tow, the playful tree skiing off the East River Express Lift will delight everyone.

When hunger strikes, take a lunch break at Paradise lodge, where you can enjoy cafeteria-style grillables, pasta and a salad station. On a sunny day, the deck is a great spot to catch some afternoon rays.

It’s wise not to overdo it on your first day on the slopes, so take a few more laps and head back to your accommodations to relax and recreate with the whole gang. If you’re staying at the Lodge at Mountaineer Square, Grand Lodge or Plaza, you can soak in the onsite hot tubs. Additionally, the Lodge at Mountaineer Square offers families an indoor and outdoor heated pool, and the Grand Lodge has an outdoor heated pool.

When it’s time for dinner, hop on the free town bus, which picks up right outside the Grand Lodge and Lodge at Mountaineer Square. Along the charming Elk Avenue—Crested Butte’s main street—families have a wide range of dining options, including take-and-go Mexican, sit-down Mexican, pizza at the famously delicious Secret Stash, pub food, Italian fare and plenty of Asian delights like sushi, Thai food and Indian curry.

Day 3: Enjoy some family adventures on and off the mountain

Whether your family is a mixed bag of skiing/riding levels or you’re all on the seasoned side, Crested Butte Mountain Resort provides plenty of uniquely exciting terrain that everyone will talk about for years to come.

The more versed ski families or those with older children or teens will want to spend some time at the resort’s family cross course (think ski or boarder cross in the X Games, but paired down for average skiers and snowboarders). Alternatively, thrill-seeking clans can challenge themselves to the “Extremes,” accessed from the North Face Lift or The High Lift t-bars, or defy some gravity at Cascade Park or Painter Boy terrain parks.

When the afternoon rolls around, head down to the base area for family-style après-ski activities. Parents can enjoy a beer or two at Avalanche Bar or Butte 88, while kids play within sight at the adjacent Adventure Park. The park features snow tubing, a bungee trampoline, a rock-climbing tower, covered mini golf and a treehouse. The whole family can also enjoy a zipline tour, starting around 1 p.m., which is located next to the Peachtree Learning Area.

Top off a memorable day of family adventures by going for a late afternoon/evening Nordic-skiing excursion. Head to the Nordic Center in the downtown Crested Butte, rent some cross-country skis (or snowshoes), poles and boots, and take advantage of the town’s 31 miles of well-maintained trails. You can even sign up for a Nordic ski- or snowshoe-to dinner in the Magic Meadows Yurt. Your kids will never forget “that time we skied to our dinner in a yurt.”

Day 4: Take a day off the slopes to enjoy an activity of your family’s choice

Your kids have probably been eye-balling the inviting toy shop in downtown Crested Butte, Pooh’s Corner, or the delectable treats at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, so take the morning to peruse the colorful Elk Avenue shops, and enjoy the town’s funky flare as a family.

Head to the wildly popular Secret Stash Pizzeria for lunch if you haven’t made it there yet.

In the afternoon, experience the surrounding valley’s epic beauty from a different vantage point. Depending on your children’s ages, a snowmobile, winter horseback or dog-sled excursion is an excellent way to enjoy another perfect day in paradise.

On a ski vacation, parents and kids alike deserve a special night out. Reserve a spot for your little ones in Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s Kids’ Night Out program. While you’re sipping wine or locally crafted libations and tasting award-winning cuisine with your spouse, the kids will be enjoying some supervised bonus time at the Adventure Park, followed by dinner and games. Ages four to 12 are welcome.

For a special dining experience, we recommend django’s, located in the Lodge at Mountaineer Square, or Elk Ave Prime, located on Elk Avenue. Elk Ave Prime is great for high-quality surf and turf, while django’s is a place sure to please foodies.

Day 5: Check any last terrain conquests off your wish list

The beauty of Crested Butte is its size. It’s easy to ski your stripe of terrain and then meet back up with your family for a ride on the chairlift. East River Express is particularly great for that, as the lift provides direct access to some great blues and playful black glades, and sits below the Extremes’ double-black North Face and Hawk’s Nest.

If you’re a more experienced skier or rider and want to test your mettle on the new Extremes’ terrain, Teo 2, which opened last season, make it a priority on your last day. Just be prepared for a 20-minute hike out at the bottom of the run, as the new area chairlift hasn’t been installed yet.

Afterwards, bask in your last afternoon in the warm Colorado sunshine (unless of course it’s a powder day) while you and your gang enjoy lunch at the new Umbrella Bar. Located at the top of the Painter Boy Lift, the Umbrella Bar serves up brats, gourmet hot dogs, sandwiches and fondue.

Ski the last couple runs of your Crested Butte ski vacation as a family, and head back to your accommodations to take a soak or swim. Enjoy one more awesome family dinner in downtown Crested Butte. If you haven’t yet, try Slogar, serving up country-style home cooking, or Bonez, for tasty street tacos and happy-hour specials.


Now that you’re armed with some insight on how to have an unforgettable family ski vacation at Crested Butte, book your trip to make it a reality. Abbey and our 65+ other Mountain Travel Experts can help you customize and book your flights, rental cars, lodging and more. They’re standing by at 800-610-8911. You can also get started by filling out a form for a free custom quote.

About Author: Leah Boucher
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now living in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com as Director of SEO + Content, I've been able to combine a litany of skills, passions and interests. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.

TO THE MOUNTAINS Newsletter

Like our content? Get it, plus deals, snow reports, news and more, delivered right to your inbox every Tuesday.

#EpicDreamJob Destination Reels

Follow #EpicDreamJob