2002 Number 26 Resort In North America: Crested Butte, Colo.

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For 40 years skiers have enjoyed the mountain that's known as "the cult capital of winter sports." Though the landscape of the resort may have changed with second homes and condos sprouting, three decades of family ownership has managed to maintain CB's hardcore essence. And while it may be "remote," as one reader beefs, Crested Butte's isolation is the key to its Alps-like beauty. "My favorite mountain," says one reader. "The combination of terrain, scenery and lack of crowds is hard to beat." Crested Butte attracts expert skiers with its legendary extreme terrain of narrow chutes, cliffs and steeps, but also embraces families with programs like "Kids Pay Their Age" to ski. In honor of its 40th anniversary, CB is rolling back prices on lift tickets and ski-school lessons, with opening-day tickets costing $6-the same as they did in 1961. Touted as "the Last Great Colorado Ski Town," and looking much as it did a century ago, the town of Crested Butte is three miles from the slopes and boasts one of the state's largest National Historic Districts. Its classic Colorado Main Street teems with coffee shops, bars and restaurants in a community that one local termed "Mayberry...with Sushi." Coming off several poor snow years, the resort hopes to rebound this season. To that end, four snowcats have been added to improve grooming. Now all "the Butte" needs is help from Mother Nature. "Quaint town with good restaurants. Experts will love it when there's enough snow," a reader concludes.

WHAT'S NEW A makeover of the base village; development of ski-in, ski-out home sites; four state-of-the-art snowcats.

A GOOD DEAL Stay four or more nights, get one night free-good all season long; 800-544-8448.

MEDALS GOLD Terrain, Challenge, Dining; SILVER Value, Lifts, Service, Après-Ski, Family Programs, Scenery.

HIGH/LOW RANK Dining (16), Challenge (17), Value (25); Grooming (55), Snow (59), Access (66).

DON'T MISS Last Tracks Fondue Party at Twister Warming House; ride the Keystone lift to the warming house, enjoy a fondue dinner, then ski or showshoe back by torchlight; $40 per person; 970-349-2211.

READER REMARKS (+) "Awesome steeps, bowls and chutes; great fun town." "No crowds. Very friendly."
(-) "Tough to get to; no airfare deals." "The resort is a little bit rusty around the edges."