Crested Butte, Colorado
Crested Butte, Colorado, kicks butt. It's steep, it's ungroomed, and it's packed tight with cliff jumps and radical tree runs. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid hid out in downtown Crested Butte in 1902, and not much has changed since then except the color scheme—think of a black-and-white Western in psychedelic pastel. Pubs go crazy at nights with hard-hitting drinking sessions to match a hard day's riding. The base area is a cluster of condos, up-market hotels, bars, and eateries called Mount Crested Butte. It's functional but hasn't got the history and vibe of the downtown area three miles away. For the total non-tourist option, Gunnison is a college town 28 miles from Crested Butte. This is where you'll find cheap basic accommodation and food, and you'll be rubbing elbows with the many students who've managed to convince their parents that they're working hard towards a future career in marketing. Crested Butte will soon be the best-marketed mountain on the planet.
The Butte is the site of the U.S. Extremes for both skiing and boarding, and is unreal after a dump. The local riders are hot and don't give a damn what you ride on so long as you go big. Dominating the base area is the Banana Funnel, a striking pyramid peak. Looking up the mountain you can see the steep tree runs below the alpine slopes of the funnel; to the left are the easier-to-cruise groomed trails of the mid-mountain area. On the eastern side of the ski area is the notorious North Face terrain. The bowls, glades and avalanche run-outs on this side are just a shade off vertical and boost Crested Butte into the elite stratosphere.
Crested Butte attracts storms from differing directions and stores snow by virtue of having such a high altitude. The most challenging areas (North Face, Headwall and Banana Funnel) face north-east and stay ungroomed due to 40-degree-plus gradients.
Crested Butte Essentials
Web Site: www.colorado.com/crestedbutte
Mountain information: 970-349-2390
Snow Report: 970-349-2323
By plane: Gunnison-Crested Butte airport has many direct flights. The mountain is a 30-minute drive from the airport, and Alpine Express shuttles meet every plane.
By bus: Greyhound provides a direct service from Grand Junction, CO, to Gunnison. A free shuttle runs regularly from Mount Crested Butte to downtown Crested Butte.
By car: Take Highway 285 from Denver to Poncha Springs, then Highway 50 west into Gunnison. Turn onto Highway 135 north to Crested Butte.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication