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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Crested Butte: Your Guide to a Weekend Ski Trip

One of my friends summed up Crested Butte pretty well when she described it as Whoville. It's adorable and it's also deservedly known as “Colorado's last great ski town.” While Vail and Aspen can feel like Alps rip-offs, Crested Butte is authentic, has its own unique personality, and is somewhat less saturated with '90s-era condos and second homeowners than other resort towns.

Crested Butte Ski Trip
Mt. Crested Butte as seen from Snodgrass Mountain
It also happens to be a dead end. Unless it's summertime when unpaved Kebler Pass opens up, all roads end in the Butte. That means almost no lift lines, relatively uncrowded slopes, and attainable dinner reservations after a long day's ski. Those slopes also happen to be some of the best in the country if you're an advanced rider, with more extreme terrain than any other resort in Colorado. In other words, it's totally worth making the drive or dishing out for a flight, and hauling your ski bags out to the middle of nowhere.

Here's what you need to know before you load up your gear and head to “Crusty Butt,” as some locals affectionally call it.

Where to Stay
Perhaps the most affordable and convenient place to stay for a winter ski trip is at one of the resort's hotels, like the Grand Lodge or the Elevation. It's by no means the stand-out option, but it does get you a hot tub.

I would recommend, however, one of the charming smaller inns or bed and breakfasts in town. There's a lot more going on in town than on the mountain dining-wise and fun-wise after 4pm. A convenient free town bus will take you up in the morning, and back down afterward.

Two stand-out spots are the Ruby Bed & Breakfast, and Elk Mountain Lodge. also holds some pretty awesome options if you're going with a big group or want lots of privacy.

Where to Ski
If you can afford it, skiing at Irwin for a day promises the most powder and luxury. This ghost town has its own unique weather system that involves tons of snow.

If you're skiing the resort and you're a beginner, Painter Boy is calling your name after you make it off the bunny slope, aka Peachtree. Tons of gentle terrain and lots of other beginners who won't laugh at you.

If you're an intermediate skier, East River offers great blues and easy blacks. Resurrection is the best mogul run on the mountain and will give your quads a run for their money. Double Top (go left at the top of the lift, then right through the trees) is tree-filled fun. Beware: Paradise Bowl gets super icy and crowded. Only ski it to get from Point A to Point B.

If you're an advanced skier, befriend a local or hire a guide to take you out to Crested Butte's extreme terrain. Gorgeous views and super steep skiing awaits at Third Bowl and Phoenix/Spellbound Bowl up the North Face Lift. Head to Teocalli Bowl off of The High Lift for great powder, tree skiing, and relative solitude—then shed a layer and put your head down for the 10-minute hike out.

Where to Eat
For breakfast, brave the lines at McGill's if you want a nice, sit-down Eggs Benedict. If you're grabbing on-the-go and/or hungover, Gas Cafe (a gas station at 6th and Teocalli on your right as you head up the mountain) has killer breakfast sandwiches. If it's a Saturday or Sunday morning, head to The Last Steep for their amazing Bloody Mary bar and an early lunch.

Don't fall victim to overpriced lunches at the resort! Grab an uber-cheesy slice at the Brown Lab Bakery at the base area, or head to the Avalanche if you're looking to rest your legs.

Speaking of the Avalanche Bar & Grill, this is your spot for apr├ęs ski happy hour. Order the insanely strong and juice-alicious Avy Warning. We bet you can't have just one!
For dinner, head to town. Besides Django's in Mountaineer Square (which is pricey but really good), there's not really a great dinner spot on the mountain. In town, however, options abound. The Secret Stash has phenomenal pizza but prepare yourself for a long wait both to snag a table and for your pies. If you're renting a condo, Mikey's Pizza or Teocalli Tamale are great to-go options. For fancy and delicious sushi, hit up Lil's. For a big warming bowl of Asian noodles and sake, head to Ryce.

After dinner, go see live music at The Eldo or play pool at Kochevar's.

The only problem you'll have during your trip is having too much fun.