5 Reasons to Visit Crested Butte
Looking for new places to ski and explore in Colorado? Here are five reasons to check out Crested Butte.
It shares terrain with Aspen, and it’s “close,” but still a world away.
As the crow flies and the hiker walks, Aspen and Crested Butte are about 11 miles apart. But, those miles are across rugged mountain terrain, and it’s a much longer trip via car—200 miles (Independence Pass, which shortens the trip to about 100 miles, is closed during the winter). So, despite their proximity on the map and that they share the Elk Mountains, Aspen and Crested Butte are indeed far away and offer two completely different experiences.
On the slopes, Crested Butte is more compact than Aspen, with just one ski resort as opposed to the four you find in Aspen. Off the slopes, Crested Butte doesn’t fit the five-star glitz and glam that’s associated with Aspen, either. Point being, just because you’ve been to this part of Colorado shouldn’t scare you off—they truly are two different experiences.
You have to go out of your way to get there.
You don’t have to worry about Crested Butte becoming overrun anytime soon. Even though tourism is its number one industry, its location is sure to keep it from growing too fast. Located in the Southwest part of Colorado, with only one road going in and out, far away from the convenience of the I-70 corridor, too far from Denver for a day trip, more than a couple-hour drive from any other major ski resort and nowhere near a large airport, it’s unlikely hordes of tourists will be flocking to Crested Butte anytime soon. There’s something special about a place that’s hard to get to. No one is there out of convenience, which means you are bound to meet many like-minded travelers.
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It was recently purchased by Vail and added to the Epic Pass.
That said, Crested Butte is looking to make improvements to its mountain and to allow for more economical access to the slopes. In 2018, Vail purchased Crested Butte with plans to improve the infrastructure of the mountain, including new lifts and lodging. Most importantly, it added the mountain to the Epic Pass. This makes planning a trip to Crested Butte easier—you can combine it with visits to other mountains in Colorado—and certainly more economical.
The town, for all its tourism, remains local.
Sure, you’ll find tourist and souvenir shops along the main drag (Elk Avenue) in Crested Butte, but the town has done a nice job of mixing these in with local restaurants, bars and attractions. One tourist shop, for example, is run in conjunction with a local museum, the Crested Butte Heritage Museum, which runs winter historical walking tours every Saturday. If you’re looking for local life, try a cold beer at the Kochevar’s Saloon or Talk of the Town, a pub-style meal at the Last Steep and a hot-toddy nightcap at Montanya Distillers.
Just two miles up the road from downtown is the base area of Crested Butte Mountain Resort and an array of lodging options, including the Lodge at Mountaineer Square. Accommodations range from one to four-bedroom condos, with full kitchens and fireplaces. The best part? They are just a short few-minute walk from the main lifts and apres-ski restaurants, such as Butte 66 and its slopeside deck.
It is known for its in-bounds, steep terrain.
If you could describe Crested Butte’s terrain in one word, it would be steep. A look at a trail map of Crested Butte’s terrain reveals its unique setup. The north side is completely dedicated to in-bounds extreme terrain, full of double-black trails, glades and chutes. Even the single-blacks on the front side run steeper than other black diamonds you find across the state, offering an impressive amount of vertical descent.
There’s good news for beginners and families, too—that extreme terrain is complemented nicely by large sections of easy-going trails, accessed by the Red Lady Express lift.