The Best Ski Resorts in North America: 21. Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Crested Butte, Colorado

Crested Butte Mountain Resort.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Crested Butte is known for providing the ultimate in gnarl. The teaching staff is directed by Nick Herrin—who’s been on the PSIA national alpine team for eight years—and employs other current and former national team members including Olympian and extreme skier Wendy Fisher. CB’s Group North Face Guides takes powder hounds who want to get into freeskiing into extreme terrain.

Since this is a place that encourages risk-taking, there’s a full-time safety manager and all department heads are trained to reduce the chances of something bad happening. The 52-member ski patrol are all paid staff, and a team of 35 volunteers pitch in (they’re paid in ski passes). It’s a concerning 30 miles to Gunnison Valley Hospital but the Crested Butte Medical Center is at the base of the Silver Queen lift.

Sixteen total lifts (including two gondolas) levy more than 20,000 people per hour to 121 trails, which, it should be said, do include some beginner runs. Three hundred inches of annual snowfall make for the season’s six percent of powder days, which spread over 1,167 skiable acres. CB’s Adventure Park, atop of the Red Lady Express offers a ropes course, a climbing wall, and a tube park. There’s also options for sleigh rides, mountain tours, NASTAR racing, and snowshoeing.

Though lift tickets are pricey, equipment rentals are crazy affordable (one-day packages start at $26). Ski valets are at your service, and multiday storage is available for $5 per night—or for free, if you’re staying at either of the resort-managed hotels.

Those are the Grand Lodge Crested Butte and the ski-in/ski-out Elevation Hotel but there’s also the Lodge at Mountaineer Square for those who want to rent a high-end condos, all of which are within 200 yards of the lifts. Free campsites are two miles away, and a free bus runs from town to the mountain and throughout the condo complexes.

The après scene is lively. For food, try the tapas at Djano’s, the Mexican specialties at Jefe’s, or the newish Ice Bar at Uley’s Cabin, where you can opt for a five-course sleigh-ride dinner. Crested Butte’s pedestrian village presents a mix of retail offerings, including the new Sweet Spot, an arcade-candy shop for kids. Most popular for nightlife are Lobar, the Eldo, Dogwood Cocktail Cabin, Montanya Rum Distillers, and Kochevar’s, a dive bar in a historic building.

Be here January 16 to 19 to catch the Crested Butte Songwriters Festival, which brings talented ditty-scribblers up from Nashville. Closing weekend brings the Flauschink Festival and its polka dancing and coronation ball. FestEvol, over March 17 and 18, is a celebration of mountain sports, natural foods, and eco-living.

All year round, though, the resort makes environmental efforts, protecting native species, offering tours that educate guests about local flora, and, over the past four years, reducing its energy consumption by 16 percent and increasing its yearly recycling rate to 60 percent.

Its guest-return rate must approach that number too, since this rustically pretty little town near Gunnison National Forest aligns its quirky charm with the timeless beauty of the Continental Divide.

CONTACT: (800) 810-7669,
SEASON: Mid-November to early April
TICKETS: General: $92 (discounted for military personnel), children: $46, ages 65 and older: $69, ages 6 and younger: free

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