Crested Butte locals have a deep affinity for parties, especially costume parties. Give them any reason to dress up in silly costumes and they’ll come. Thus, Crested Butte has a stacked year-round events calendar. Not to mention plenty of off-hill activities like Nordic skiing and ice skating.
The Crested Butte outdoor activities laundry list is extensive, so winter enthusiasts are guaranteed a good time. Many of these outdoor activities are great for families, especially the sleigh-ride dinners to Uley’s Cabin, winter horse trail rise, horse-drawn carriage rides and dogsled tours.
Those looking to explore Crested Butte via cross-country trails or go deep into the Elk Mountains backcountry on a snowmobile tour, can also do so.
Getting there can be the most expensive part of your Crested Butte ski vacation. The historic mining town sits at the end of a long valley flanked by huge mountains making it difficult for large commercial jets don’t fly into nearby Gunnison County Airport. Generally, flights into Crested Butte are on the spendy side, but deals are available.
Once you’re there you can easily do Crested Butte on the cheap. Low-key restaurants dominate the dining scene, affordable condos and hotels are plenty, and you aren’t paying exorbitant lift ticket prices. Crested Butte provides significant lift ticket savings, nearly half, if you purchase early. Plus, Crested Butte is a hardcore skier’s haven so you’re sure to find après, and after hours drink specials at nearly every establishment.
Budget-conscious skiers rejoice! Crested Butte offers several choice affordable lodging options
Few Crested Butte restaurants have entrees over $30; penny-pinchers have a ton of dining options on a Crested Butte budget ski vacation. What would seem like a pricey dinner, at, say, in-town Italian hotspot Bacchanale, is quite affordable. The most expensive item on their menu is $25, while most dinner entrees are actually in the $12 range. For quality dining at a fair price at Mt. Crested Butte base area, 9850 Prime is sure to please, as there’s nothing on the menu over $20. 9850 Prime is also a hopping après-ski spot, thanks to its affordable drinks and appetizer prices and seven flat screen televisions.
Truly a small ski town, with just over 1,000 year-round residents, Crested Butte cannot boast 100-plus restaurants like the Vail’s and Aspen’s of Colorado, but Crested Butte restaurants can offer something else. Crested Butte attracts a certain kind of ski vacationer; someone who is willing to travel off the beaten path.
Crested Butte restaurants are as eclectic as its residents; it’s easy to find spicy food, vegetarian options, seasonal and locally sourced produce, meat, fish and wild game. Foodies will delight in Crested Butte’s gourmet dining options, like fresh, artisanal Italian and tasty tapas. And those with more classic palates, the pizza, Mexican and pub food options are plain, simple perfection.
A Crested Butte ski vacation doesn’t count unless you eat at The Secret Stash at least once. Originally housed in a funky, bohemian house witha renovated attic at the end of Elk Ave, the "Stash" recently moved to a larger space further up the street to accommodate the throngs of people that want to gnosh on their heavenly pies. Before the move, guest would often have lengthy waits for a table. But it was always worth it. The pizza is absolutely incredible. Perhaps the owner and executive chefs interesting background in both classic New York style pizza and gourmet cooking is the reason for The Secret Stash staggering success, but as the name implies, it’s a secret.
django’s Restaurant and Wine Bar, located at the base of Mt. Crested Butte, is another Crested Butte notable. The menu items all have two things in common, they’re seasonal and they’re served “tapas style” or small plates. The menu generally has 25 different tapas selections, making django a perfect option for larger groups and families, or those looking for a varied meal.
Bacchanale is one of Crested Butte’s newest restaurants, and owned by the same fine people who created django. Bacchanale is located on Elk Avenue, and offers artisanal Italian fare fit for foodies. The menu has very grounded Italian roots, but also modern flares that make it a unique dining experience.
for an unforgettable on-mountain lunch, head to Uley’s Cabin at the base of Twister Lift. The menu features gourmet Colorado cuisine, like elk bourguignon and forest mushroom bisque. The Ice Bar also makes for a great place to have an afternoon après-ski beverage, as they feature handcrafted specialty cocktails. You can also make dinner reservations for a snowcat-drawn sleigh ride to Uley’s Cabin.
On a cold day on the slopes warm up with Paradise Warming Hut’s tasty homemade soup or chili, located at the base of the Paradise Lift.
Welcome to Gnarlington. Renowned, infamous, notorious and celebrated as one of the baddest ski resorts in the lower 48 (states), Crested Butte’s expert and extreme inbound terrain is mind blowing. So it comes no surprise that extreme skiing was partially born here (Jackson Hole, Squaw and Alaska too). Crested Butte has hosted the U.S. Freeskiing “Extremes” competition for over two decades, and continues to attract the world’s best extreme skiers to its steep, technical terrain. But the good news is that you don’t have to be a pro-skier to enjoy the Crested Butte expert skiing, however you do need to know where you’re going if you venture into the gate accessed terrain in Teocali Bowl, Paradise area off the High Lift.
If steeps, trees, rocks, cliffs and other terrain nuggets are up your alley then the Crested Butte expert terrain is yours for the taking. Crested Butte’s terrain, especially in the Paradise area, is bar none for technical skiing. If you’ve never skied at Crested Butte, or if you’re looking to hone your off-piste skills, we’d recommend taking the North Face Guided Group Lesson. You’ll explore all the steep skiing off of the North Face Lift.
While all of the Crested Butte expert terrain trends towards ultra-steep, there are varying types of expert skiing. For example, Headwall of the North Face Lift, is wide-open bowl-like skiing with small rocks and cliffs to drop. While Teocali Bowl and Paradise area, where you’ll find Spellbound and Third Bowl, feature mini bowls, chutes, tight trees and huge cliffs. It’s quite important that you know where you’re going in Teocali and Paradise for obvious reasons.
If you’re looking for expert skiing with a little less consequence or perhaps warm-up terrain, the moguled steeps of Rambo and Pinball into the steep glades of Bakery Trees is a great option. Or if you’re looking for groomed or partially groomed steeps, head to Monument into International or Hot Rocks.
Note: If you have avalanche gear, specifically a beacon, bring it! Crested Butte Ski Patrol allows the first 50 skiers with a beacon to ski the resort on a powder day.
Choosing to book a Crested Butte family ski vacation is a no brainer thanks to its family-friendly terrain, low-key dining scene, historic downtown, wide array of lodging options to suit nearly every family’s style and budget, stacked events calendar and off-mountain activities. Crested Butte is truly brimming with experiences and activities families can enjoy together. Both kids and parents will enjoy perusing up and down historic Elk Avenue, popping in and out of specialty shops and enjoying ice cream. And despite its reputation as an original homestead for extreme skiing, the vast majority of its terrain qualifies as intermediate, allowing the whole family to enjoy a slew of trails together.
Over 50-percent of Crested Butte’s skiing terrain is designated as intermediate, making it a perfect resort for families looking to ski together. Plus the mountain is relatively small compared with places like Breckenridge, Snowmass, or Vail, so families can comfortably separate without worrying about being apart all day. Advanced skiers in the family can pop in and out of the woods and find terrain nuggets along the trails, well less advanced skiers can meander down Crested Butte’s well-groomed, wide open runs.
Beginner families will enjoy all the green runs off the Red Lady Lift from the base area; a kid-friendly adventure park is located near the lift so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. Intermediates should start their Crested Butte family ski vacation off by warming up their legs on the East River Express Lift, which offers shorter trails. For longer, sustained runs head to Paradise Express Lift and be sure to test your mettle on Paradise Bowl into Treasury all the way back to the bottom of East River Express lift, or head down Ruby Chief back to Paradise Lift. Advanced to expert families should heed a little advice: Crested Butte’s double black diamonds are a step above what most resorts would consider double black. And there are only a few single black diamonds, so don’t be fooled. To play it safe, especially on your first day at Crested Butte, the best plan of attack is to the blacks and double blues off of East River Lift−don’t miss Bakery Trees− or the blacks below Twister Lift, including Monument Bowl.
Crested Butte offers an exceptional array of family-friendly lodging options.
In general the Crested Butte dining scene trends towards casual and low-key, which is great for no-frills families, and parents looking to relax. Teocali Tamale is always a hit with parents and kids alike and its a great option for a quick bite. Of course their namesake tamales are incredible, but the burritos and corn salsa are also show stoppers. For a sit-down dinner that everyone will love, families must head to the famed Secret Stash Pizza. Parents looking for gourmet pies will be happy with toppings like figs and prosciutto, and kids will enjoy the fresh goodness of Secret Stash’s cheese or pepperoni pies.
Crested Butte Kids Ski School provides instruction for children age three to teen. Children looking to learn to snowboard can also do so from age five to teen. Crested Butte does an incredible creating lesson programs tailored to children of all ages and ability and creates groups based on both age and ability, so children learn among their peers. Advanced to expert teen skiers or snowboarders can also request lessons geared towards terrain parks or extreme skiing. The Crested Butte Ski School also provides day care for infants, toddlers and young children who do not ski.
As a birthplace for extreme skiing and home of the U.S. Freeskiing “Extremes” competition for over two decades, Crested Butte’s terrain is notoriously steep and rocky and renowned for its expert skiing. While that extreme terrain exists in abundance, especially in areas like Teocali Bowl, Paradise, Headwall and Peak, the reality−contrary to popular belief−is that Crested Butte trails namely caters to intermediate and advanced intermediate skiing. Over half of its 1,547 skiable acres are designated as some sort “intermediate” terrain, or blue or double blue square runs. Experienced intermediates who are comfortable enough to try steeper terrain and more variable conditions can enjoy even more of Crested Butte, since over 20-percent is designated as “advanced” intermediate skiing, or double blue square.
If you’ve recently graduated to intermediate terrain, stick to the single blue square runs. You’ll want to head to Crested Butte’s Prospect and Gold Link Lifts− on looker’s left side of the mountain−where you’ll find shorter trails, like Prospector and Elko Park, which funnel back to the lift. This is also a great area to get your ski legs warmed up early in the day or your Crested Butte ski vacation. Paradise Bowl is an ideal area for intermediate skiers to arch fun, wide turns. From Paradise Bowl be sure to take Canaan to Houston or Poverty Gulch, otherwise you’ll end up on more advanced runs.
If you’ve skied a bit more and are looking for more challenging, sustained runs, more advanced skiers should stick to Paradise Express and East River Express. Test your legs and skills out on long runs like Upper and Lower Treasury or Upper, Middle and Lower Gallowich, which take you from the top of Paradise Express Lift all the way to the bottom of East River Express.
Generally luxury isn’t the first thing you’d think of when hear Crested Butte. It’s Crested Butte’s simple, Western charm which has put it on the map as a must-visit ski town. But the simple truth is that Crested Butte does offer the finer things despite its rustic appearance. Mt. Crested Butte base area offers several luxury hotel options, and Elk Avenue is littered with specialty shops sure to please those looking for unique, high quality products and gifts. While there aren’t too many true fine-dining options, there are plenty of restaurants that offer specialty, gourmet, or artisan menu items in incredible settings.
Tucked deep in the Elk Mountains, Crested Butte is an exclusive resort that caters to the vacationer looking for a unique experience and the lodging options reflect that.
In town, foodies will find that newcomer Bacchanale is a perfect, little Italian oasis. Salads, soups, artisan flatbreads, pasta and entrees are deeply rooted in traditional Italian cuisine, but have a slight modern twist, adding new tastes to old classics.
Up at Mt. Crested Butte base area django Restaurant and Wine Bar is a great option if you’re looking for a high-end flavors and incredible quality in a casual atmosphere. The menu items are served “tapas style” or on small plates, so you can share with a large group or simply sample lots of different dishes. Wines are served in a carafe, which makes for easy pairing with the many different tapas.
Crested Butte’s small town convenience and fun-loving local community make it a great (and hassle-free) place to get out and mingle. Like many mining-boom towns, the Crested Butte night life sways towards rugged, Western experiences and beverages. You’ll find lots of locally made brews and handcrafted, small batch whiskey, plus great live music, like bluegrass, country and folk at Crested Butte bars. The bulk of the Crested Butte nightlife scene is in town, so if you’re staying there, you’re just a short walk to the historic saloons and local breweries. First-time Crested Butte visitors will appreciate its small-town accessibility, since nearly every bar and restaurant is located on Elk Avenue. And, if you’re staying up at the Mt. Crested Butte base area, you can take the complimentary five minute bus ride to town.
If you’re looking for a more low-key nightlife scene, opt to stay up at one of the base area’s more contemporary hotels. Mt. Crested Butte’s hotels offer chic bars, and fireside nooks and crannies, perfect for a quiet drink.
If you’re night life interests trend towards the rustic, then a beer, or three, at Crested Butte’s only local brewery, The Eldo is an absolute must. The handcrafted selection of drafts on tap, great food, stacked live music lineup and sunny patio attract locals and visitors alike, making it a great place to mingle. Talk of the Town is another don’t-miss. This local’s favorite offers fair prices and lots of entertainment, like a jukebox, giant Jenga, and pool tables. Plus, there’s usually a DJ spinning fun dance music that gets the whole house on their feet. For a more quiet drink that still offers historic atmosphere, head to the Wooden Nickel Saloon. The Wooden Nickel is Crested Butte’s oldest saloon and features a great beer and wine list, in addition to a well-versed menu if you’re looking to sit down for a meal.
The Montanya Distillery has new tasting room on Elk Avenue which provides rum-lovers with a chance to sample their high-mountain rum neat or in inspired cocktails. The tasting room lives in a historic building and provides an inviting and unique setting for enjoying handcrafted rum.
Despite its storied reputation as an “extreme” mountain, Crested Butte is in fact, contrary to popular belief, a great place to learn to ski. While the rocky, steep top half of the mountain is an expert skier’s paradise, the bottom portion of the mountain features wide, gentle runs. Beginner skiers can learn in a calm environment, since getting to Crested Butte takes a little more effort than say Keystone or Breckenridge, crowded slopes are far and few between. Between the rich history and funky quaintness of its town and the uncrowded beginner slopes, learning to ski at Crested Butte is a truly enjoyable experience.
First time skiers will want to start off at the Aspen or Pine Magic Carpet at the base area. Once you can stop and make wedge turns, the Peach Tree Lift is a great lift to learn on. Once you’ve mastered the short, gentle slopes in that area, you’ll want to head up the Red Lady Express Lift. Trails like Houston, Mineral Point and Smith Hill are wide open and funnel into a flat area, which gives your new ski legs a break, on your way back to the Red Lady Express Lift. This area is also great if you’re a little more experienced, as you can begin testing your skills out in the well-spaced trees, and try out Lower Twister trail, which is an advanced beginner run, or double green circle.
Crested Butte’s residents have worked hard to preserve everything about this quaint Victorian mining town, so if you opt to stay in town, you’ll find a plethora of historic renovated house that now function as rustic, charming hotels and bed and breakfasts. If convenience and contemporary amenities, like spas, pools and hot tubs are high on your list, you’ll want to stay in one of Mt. Crested Butte’s base are hotels or condos.
Crested Butte offers a lot for many types of skiers and snowboarders, and the resort’s lodging options are no exception. You’ll find just about every accommodation preference. From budget- and family-friendly to high-end luxury digs.