Find Your Escape in Crested Butte

by Haven Lindsey on March 13, 2024 in Travels,

Authentic, accessible adventure is waiting for you at Colorado’s Crested Butte Mountain Resort. It has been referred to as America’s “Last great ski town,” and it is the rare individual who visits only once.

The small community of Crested Butte, Colorado, surrounded by the stunning backdrop of the Elk Mountain range, is home to fewer than 2,000 residents combined with many annual return visitors. Two miles away sits Mt. Crested Butte, the small town’s esteemed neighbor that attracts adventure-seeking individuals and families ready to up their game on the slopes. Whether that means strapping on skis or snowboards and shredding on some of the 561 acres of double-black diamond terrain or mastering “Houston,” a wide and meandering intermediate run, the small mountain will welcome you with a Texas-sized adventure.

There are more than 1,500 acres to ski and snowboard at Crested Butte, which has a summit of 12,162 feet. Photo courtesy Crested Butte Mountain Resort.

There is a myriad of reasons that make Crested Butte special. For starters, many presume it falls into the category of, “You can’t get there from here.” Except, you can get there easily. With new direct flights from Dallas and Houston into nearby Gunnison, Crested Butte is easy to access. Yet the ski resort sits quietly off the otherwise heavily touristed beaten path which is one reason the area has maintained its authenticity.

A League of Its Own

With 561 acres of double-black-diamond terrain, Crested Butte is known as one of the North American birthplaces of inbounds extreme skiing and riding. Photo courtesy Crested Butte Mountain Resort.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort is likely the envy of its neighboring mountains with ski resorts that have lost the flavor of what skiing once was – of what skiing was meant to be. When other mountains are subjected to gimmicks and loud piped-in music reminiscent of chain restaurants attempting to sell skiers a good time, Crested Butte is in a league of its own – and serious skiers and boarders with a sense of adventure understand that. It is common for conversations on lift rides to focus on technique and how to put more weight on the outside ski to make a better turn.

“Crested Butte is not a complacent place,” said Julie Block, Communications Manager for Crested Butte Mountain Resort. “It’s a place to come and grow with the mountain, to be challenged, and earn your turns.”

Due to the layout and 15 strategically placed lifts, skier’s spend more time skiing than riding lifts. Photo courtesy Crested Butte Mountain Resort.

There are ample “turn earning” opportunities for anyone who wants to leave a better skier or snowboarder than when they arrived. Group and private lessons are available daily for skiers and boarders of every age and level. Jon Smedes is one of Crested Butte’s in-demand ski instructors who has welcomed an intermediate skier at the beginning of the week and bid farewell to the new expert skier a few days later. Like many of his colleagues, Smedes has guests who return every year and request his services. 

The Company We Keep

Though neither written on any signage, nor necessarily spoken out loud – there is an undercurrent of the authenticity of Crested Butte that makes up its genuine vibe. The adage of being aware of the company you keep because it rubs off on you, is woven throughout the personality of this unique area. Skiers and boarders come to improve. Families come for adventure. Everyone is looking to achieve and the mountain’s personality encourages that mindset. It is that notion of adventure, and getting good at it, that results in visitors returning year after year. “We’ve been coming since 1993,” said one woman from Dallas. “We love the community and we love the escape from the city. There’s a personality to this mountain that you can’t find in other places.”

The longest run at Crested Butte Mountain Resort is 2.6 miles. The mountain offers plenty of opportunities to ski through the trees. Photo courtesy Crested Butte Mountain Resort.

Location. Location. Location.

One of the best attributes of visiting the mountain is the access and convenience. There are numerous ski-in/ski-out options for accommodations. Hotels, like The Lodge at Mountaineer Square, are a short walk to the slopes. Restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and ski shops are all on-site yet the lack of designer boutiques and lavish galleries means more room for skiers and boarders to conveniently stay close to the slopes.

For light sleepers or anyone who doesn’t appreciate the intrusion of blue lights from flat-screen televisions or the incessant noise from in-room refrigerators, The Lodge at Mountaineer Square is a great choice. Located in the center of the quaint pedestrian circle (near the fire pit), the hotel is quiet – almost surreally so. In-room intrusions that too often accompany today’s conveniences are decidedly missing from The Lodge. The heavily weighted window treatments effectively shutter any unwanted light, the large sliding glass doors that open to a patio are well-insulated, and ambient noise from other guests, especially those wearing ski boots, is undetectable.

Après Ski

The town of Crested Butte has instituted a 4% short-term lodging tax that has resulted in free transportation benefits for everyone who wants and needs to go from Point A to Point B. For skiers who want to shop or enjoy a meal in town, brightly painted (inside and out) themed buses run every 15 minutes. The buses run like clockwork and are more convenient than driving. For Americans leashed to the obligations of driving everywhere and worrying about where to park, the freedom and ease of hopping on and off clean buses full of social, happy vacationers cannot be beaten.

The small town of Crested Butte welcomes skiers and boarders ready to shop and dine. Photo courtesy Crested Butte Mountain Resort.

Once in town, visitors are reminded of the authenticity of Crested Butte. The area receives an average of well over 200 inches of snow, and in winter the snow is part of the town’s character. Snow-covered sidewalks require pedestrians to slow their pace – all part of the experience. Just like the small mountain that skis big, the small town offers a wide variety of dining options.

Well worth a stop is Izakaya Cabin. With its tech-forward method of each table ordering from a user-friendly iPad, the casual sushi restaurant which is tucked behind other shops offers a range of private and community tables with cocktails on tap. Locals go for the Happy Hour and the popular restaurant accepts reservations.

One of the most successful restaurateurs and community supporters in town is Kyleena Falzone. Two of her restaurants, Bonez Tequilla Bar & Grill and Secret Stash Pizza are not only popular but the interior design in both establishments is note-worthy. “Every item has a story,” said Manager Joel Lewis, of the décor on what he referred to as, “a slow night” in the packed restaurant that includes a hand-made and decorated rickshaw from India.

A visit to Crested Butte Mountain Resort isn’t complete without a visit to Elevation Spa just steps away from the slopes. The spa, which is part of the 11,000-square-foot Elevation Hotel & Spa, offers a full line of facial and body treatments as well as outdoor hot tubs and a fitness center with a pool. A visit is a well-deserved and ideal way to detoxify, rest, and recover from “earning your turns” on the slopes.


Cover photo courtesy Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Haven Lindsey is an avid skier and resides in Taos, NM. She is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience writing on topics including healthcare, well-being, public policy, education, travel, food and human-interest stories. She was recognized by NPR for her solo travel series exclusive to Texas Lifestyle Magazine. Haven’s second book, The Blue Dog and the White Horse ‘The Best of Friends’ will be released by Brandylane Publishing in 2024.