While Crested Butte might be best known for its mountain biking and fly-fishing during the summer, it’s also a fabulous winter destination.
With a world-class ski resort and acres upon acres of mountainous wilderness, this last great Colorado mountain town is a hidden, snow-covered gem tucked deep into the Elk Mountain Range of the Rocky Mountains. Its roots trace back to the Colorado mining days—and you can bear witness to much of its history in the neatly preserved buildings scattered throughout the city—but its modern face leans into the state’s mixture of laid back atmosphere and hard-charging living.
The town sits at just less than 9,000 feet and the peak of Crested Butte Mountain tops out at 12,162 feet.
Crested Butte is high, in more ways than one. The town sits at just less than 9,000 feet and the peak of Crested Butte Mountain tops out at 12,162 feet. As a result, they see tons of snow–with an average annual snowfall of 300 inches and a season that starts in November and lasts well into April, longer than most other Colorado resorts. And since it’s not exactly easy to just drive there for the day from Denver, you generally see less crowds. Just the way we like it.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Crested Butte Mountain Resorts offers 1,547 acres of skiable terrain, with numerous bowls, chutes, glades, and cliffs to keep things interesting. The 15 lifts serve 121 trails, over 50% of which are intermediate. Don’t worry–there are plenty of fun runs for beginners, too, and gnarly, steep expert terrain in the Teocalli and other backside bowls. The resort even lets you ski uphill for those that want to earn some fresh tracks in the morning.
If you want fresh snow, tranquility, and exploration, Crested Butte has plenty of backcountry terrain to offer. Many of the backcountry ski lines, such as those found on Mount Emmons and the iconic Mount Gothic, can receive two to three times as much snow as the resort. If you intend on going out in the backcountry be sure to check in with the Crested Butte Avalanche Center web page first. This local resource is filled by professionals who study snow conditions on local mountains, and they release daily updates and forecasts every morning, as snow conditions can change in a heartbeat.
If you want fresh snow, tranquility, and exploration, Crested Butte has plenty of backcountry terrain to offer.
Home to the Fat Bike World Championships every year, it’s safe to say that Crested Butte is fat tire crazy. In the winter, Crested Butte Mountain Resort and the town of Crested Butte offer tons of options to get your wide and fat fix. The Crested Butte Nordic offers 13 kilometers of groomed trails open to fat biking and free to use. In addition, the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association (CBMBA) grooms mile after mile of fat bike-specific trails in the drainages and mountain bike trails surrounding Crested Butte.
Dubbed the Nordic ski capital of Colorado, Crested Butte Nordic grooms 55 kilometers of trails for classic and skate skiing, winding through the open valley and into the Aspen groves and pine forests. Rentals and trail passes are available at the Nordic Center in downtown Crested Butte. Crested Butte Nordic also hosts one of the most iconic races every February–the Alley Loop. The race takes all ages and traverses the streets and historic alleyways of Crested Butte, creating a festival-like atmosphere in the heart of town.
Ski-In Yurt Dining
What can be better than skiing to a backcountry yurt where there is a gourmet meal waiting for you? The Magic Meadows Yurt is heated by a wood stove and lit by solar powered lights. The yurt can only be accessed with skis or snowshoes via a one-mile groomed trail from the Peanut Lake Trailhead. The trail is mostly level, with a few rolling hills, taking about 30 to 45 minutes for beginner skiers and 15 to 20 minutes for skiers with a bit of experience.
What can be better than skiing to backcountry yurt where there is a gourmet meal waiting for you?
Once in the warmth of the yurt, you start with specialty cocktails from Crested Butte’s Montanya Distillery and beer from Elevation Beer Company. Live music, performed by local musicians, accompanies the meal which is prepared by Chef Tim Egelhoff, one of the most highly regarded chefs in Crested Butte today. Expect his signature “Colorado-Inspired Cuisine,” a style which reintroduces classic European techniques using American artisanal products, local and organic produce, and is driven by the dramatic seasons. At the end of the night, wake up to some fresh air during your ski back to the trailhead.
Where to Stay
If you are looking for a place in town, head to the Elk Mountain Lodge. Constructed as a miner’s lodge in 1919, the cozy inn is only a couple blocks from all the restaurants and shops along Elk Avenue. With free breakfast, an indoor hot tub, and a bar, the friendly staff caters to both skiers and mountain bikers. Free buses run through town and up to Crested Butte Mountain, so you don’t have to worry about packing up the car every morning.
If you would rather stay up on Crested Butte Mountain for the ski-in ski-out convenience, head to the Lodge at Mountaineer Square. Located just steps from the chair lifts, you get an indoor/outdoor pool area with a sauna and hot tub, and access to all the restaurants and shops in the village. Don’t worry–the free bus also takes you downtown to hit Crested Butte’s notorious après scene.