There are many great Colorado mountains, yet few ski resorts engender the loyalty that Crested Butte does.
Off the beaten track, Crested Butte looms large in the imagination.
Ask any skier or snowboard who has been there and prepare for a glowing report.
This season, more than any other in recent years, has been epic, awesome, sick, primo and bang-up in terms of snow.
In January, Crested Butte received 11 feet (that’s 132” or 335 cm!) of snow. On one day alone, the resort received 26” of snow in 24 hours, overflowing the pow cam and temporarily halting operations.
All of this snow is the result of a favorable west-southwest weather pattern, with Crested Butte directly in the sweet spot.
How sweet? The seasonal snowpack is currently at 185%, with the historically snowiest months still to come.
According to Zach Pickett, the resort’s communications director, “The Extreme Limits are wall-to-wall open at one of the earliest times in many seasons.
“The snow that came in was dense and created a good base. The deep snow has filled in many aspects, many it possible to ski lines that many locals haven’t skied before.”
And the blessings don’t just apply to expert skiers.
Conditions for intermediate and beginner skiers are also outstanding with consistent snow on the mountain’s groomed terrain, along with deeper than average snow in the trees, opening up gladed skiing for all levels.
And the snow keeps coming. Between February 7-13, Crested Butte received 32”.
The forecast for this weekend and President’s Day looks promising. According to Open Snow, Crested Butte could get 11”, with more to come during the next two weeks.
While massive snow years come and go, the mountain remains the same. And some of the same adjectives we used for snow apply here, too.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort is a unique combination of forgiving beginner terrain, progressive intermediate runs and bountiful advanced and expert challenges.
CBMR is not a huge mountain, but it’s not small either. With 1,547 skiable acres, Crested Butte offers plenty of variety without being overwhelming.
While the Extreme Limits get a lot of attention, expansion to the 10 Peaks area (at the convergence of the Painter Boy, Prospect and Gold Link lifts) has given Crested Butte some additional terrain for beginners and intermediates to enjoy.
While terrain parks and the Umbrella Bar at Ten Peaks (a don’t miss lunch stop with good food and a breathtaking 360° view) draw skiers and riders of all abilities, this area is primarily where you’ll find young families, ski school classes and beginner-intermediate riders.
Still, here are some basic tips for first-time visitors.
Beginners: I’m a ski and ride school junkie. I think lessons are always a good idea.
This is especially true at Crested Butte, where you rarely find lift lines and class sizes for group lessons are small. Crested Butte has a full-range of options for kids ages 3 and up to adults. And don’t forget: kids six and under ski free all season.
That said, for independent skiing and riding, beginners will enjoy the wide-open, mellow trail off of the Red Lady Express at the base area.
If you’re straddling the line between beginner and intermediate and want to build your confidence, head for Ten Peaks.
Intermediates: Take either of the base lifts and make your way to Paradise Bowl. Here you’ll find long cruisers and moguls that are a bit smaller than elsewhere on the mountain. When you’re ready for a bit more adventure, ski down to the East River Express and check out Gully Glades.
A full 57% of the terrain at Crested Butte is rated intermediate, so strike out and explore the entire mountain.
Advanced: When I first skied Crested Butte (eons ago while in middle school), the mountain was famous for it’s massive moguls. Back in those days, these were CBMR’s “extreme” terrain.
While times have changed, the big bumps have not. To test your legs, head for Resurrection at East River or the shorter, but still leg-slamming runs, Twister, Crystal and Jokerville. Take the Silver Queen Express to get to these frontside runs, and while you’re there, be sure to ski International.
Expert: It’s all about the Extreme Limits. Spread across 542 acres of bowls, glades and chutes, you’ll find endless delights, challenges and life-changing skiing from high atop the Headwall to adjacent bowls of the North Face. Best of all? This terrain is in-bounds, managed and controlled for safety by the CBMR Ski Patrol.
Lift Tickets: MAX Pass holders get five days at CBMR without blackout dates, while Rocky Mountain Super Pass + holders get 3 days with no blackouts. If you don’t have one of these passes (and you really should!), save money by purchasing single or multi-day lift tickets in advance online. Of note, the MAX Pass provides 5 days at each of 39 resorts in the US and Canada with no blackout dates.
There are a lot of great ski towns in Colorado, but Crested Butte could be the best. It’s a wonderland of candy-colored Victorian architecture, combined with authentic mining town grit. The locals are actually locals and they love living here. We’re not shoppers, but I’m told there’s a great variety of boutiques and outdoor-gear retailers.
We are big eaters and have enjoyed excellent meals at The Ginger Cafe, Secret Stash Pizza and, our favorite, Teocalli Tamale. New, and still on our list to try, is the Sherpa Café with homemade Nepalese and Indian food.
For après like none other, don’t miss the Montanya Distillery and Tasting Room and the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin.
Since it’s only mid-February, there is plenty of time to ski Crested Butte this winter. Plan your visit to coincide with a the resort’s numerous events. Here’s the full listing.
Full Moon at 10 Peaks, March 12. Skin or snowshoe up to the Umbrella Bar and enjoy a buffet dinner under the full moon. Ski or snowshoe back to the base.
Ski Town, Break Down, March 18. A free concert featuring Colorado indy-bluegrass favorite, Leftover Salmon.
CB Unplugged, featuring Hayes Carll, April 1. A free acoustic concert at Butte 66.
Closing Weekend, April 8 – 9. Pond skim, rail jam and music, music, music.
More Crested Butte
- An Insider’s Guide to Family Skiing at Crested Butte, Colorado, December 19, 2016.
- Crested Butte: Ski. Eat. Drink. Repeat. November 9, 2015.
- Crested Butte: Great Family Skiing From Beginner To Extreme, March 10, 2011.
- Keep Looking Ahead: Family Biking at Crested Butte’s Evolution Park, September 3, 2015.
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