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Crested Butte calls itself 'The Last Great Colorado Ski Town'. Its ski area is draped over a high-altitude mountain celebrated for having some of the gnarliest lift-served ski terrain in the USA, whilst its atmospheric downtown quarter still has genuine cowboy Western charm and lively unpretentious nightlife.

Overview

Crested Butte ski resort sits in the midst of authentic Wild West territory in Colorado's high alpine Gunnison Country, a land native to the Ute Indians and rich with the history of hunters and fur traders, silver and gold miners, cattle ranchers and real-life cowboys.

The name Crested Butte actually applies to each of three different entities: the mountain called Crested Butte; the resort village called Mt. Crested Butte; and the nearby town of Crested Butte. The mountain itself is an impressive solitary peak that thrusts up from the surrounding high-valley plateaux, offering a compact, self-contained ski area whose base area sits at a snow-sure 2,856 metres above sea level; visitors who aren't acclimatised to this altitude can have problems with altitude sickness and are best advised to schedule a stopover at a mid-altitude location en route to this region.

The resort and the community here take pride in their unpretentious, friendly and fun-loving character, making Crested Butte particularly well suited to adventurous young and young-minded skiers and snowboarders seeking a true flavour of the American West.


Ski area

For almost two decades now Crested Butte has hosted the Extreme Freeskiing Championships (aka 'The Extremes'), now also joined by the Extreme Snowboarding Championships, that pit the world's top extreme skiers and riders against some of the gnarliest lift-served terrain in North America.

The official figure of 16% given for the amount of black pistes at Crested Butte only accounts for the marked runs in the main lift-served ski area, not the greater expanse of in-bounds 'extreme' terrain that covers more than a third of the mountain, and for which the resort has gained its well-deserved reputation for being a Mecca for experts.

Advanced skiers and snowboarders are drawn to Crested Butte for its pristine hike-in/hike-out bowls, steep narrow couloirs, boulder drop-offs and cliff bands; many of which aren't opened up until mid-season because they require so much snow to cover the rockiest sections.

Know your limits and engage a suitably qualified local guide to show you around if your skill level is up to the challenge.

At the opposite end of the skill-level spectrum, beginners are also well catered for at Crested Butte, with spacious base-area nursery slopes plus a good selection of tree-lined pistes and long traversing trails to explore when basic skills are mastered.

Intermediate-level slopes make up the largest percentage of the pisted ski area at Crested Butte, but the overall extent of the pistes may not satisfy mileage-hungry intermediates who aren't yet capable of safely tackling the area's hardcore advanced-level sectors.


Off the slopes and apres ski

Mt. Crested Butte village is quietly developing into a comfortable and modern purpose-built standalone resort, with all the amenities that any skiing and snowboarding holidaymaker requires: ski-in/ski-out hotels and apartment complexes, snowsports equipment hire shops and retailers, restaurants and bars, plus a couple of luxury spas and a fitness centre.

The village is still small though and generally quite laid-back in the evenings; apres-ski happy hours in the base-area bars are fun, prime hangouts are Butte 66 and The Brown Labrador, but for livelier nightlife most visitors head down to the nearby town of Crested Butte.

Elk Avenue is Crested Butte's central downtown strip, offering a good selection of shops, restaurants, lounge bars and traditional-style saloons such as Kochevers which still has a genuine cowboy country atmosphere. Live music is a regular feature at a number of bars, and most also operate as great-value diners.

// HIGHLIGHTS //
Apres Ski
7
Families
5
Lift System
6
Off the slopes
6
Off-piste
8
Resort Charm
8
Ski Area
6
Vertical drop
933m
Altitude range
2774–3707m
Ski area
626
Parks
2
Resort height
2856m
Summit
3707m
Airport
Gunnison
Train station
Denver
beginner
27%
intermediate
57%
expert
16%