I was at an eighth-birthday party this spring for the son of a friend I moved to Crested Butte with 15 years ago. The kids all played soccer while the “adults” drank PBR in the shadow of Crested Butte Mountain. Rowan, the birthday boy, approached the picnic table and asked his mom, “Can I open my presents?” One of the gifts was a Magic 8 Ball, a classic toy that’s been around since 1950. He unpackaged the 8 Ball with a throng of kids surrounding him. Then Rowan asked with heartfelt sincerity, “Will I be a pro skier?” He shook the ball. “Signs point to yes,” the 8 Ball responded. The kids cheered.
So yeah, while most eight-year-olds are more interested in Minecraft and Legos, the youth of Crested Butte have more vertical diversions. And why not? Growing up in CB will create a certain type of grom. Quite simply, CB is an awesome place to ski. You can slide on snow at the resort, in the backcountry, on the nordic trails, and pretty much anywhere else there’s snow on the ground. The resort opened up Teocalli 2 this past winter, adding 40 acres of steeps, pillows, and tunneled glades. The 30-plus-minute hike out keeps traffic down and the snow fresh. But it’s not all gnar—the Gold Link, Painter Boy, and Prospect areas pair mellower terrain with some of the best views the resort has to offer.
It’s true that the locals can be harsh. In a powder-day ritual that harkens back to when the North Face T-bar was a slingshot-style poma, people who biff it on the High Lift or North Face T-bars are greeted by screams of “Back of the line!” as they scuff back down the slope. It’s all in good fun. But no, really, “Back of the line!”
Speaking of locals, CB is an exemplar of everything that makes a ski town rad, from locally owned restaurants and shops to coffeehouses filled with people who live for the type of adventures the town is known for. But there have been missteps. Namely, Whatever USA, when, for a few days in September 2014, Anheuser-Busch turned Crested Butte into a mythical festival town where anything goes. Some locals bristled at the corporate takeover. Others drank the free carbonated yellow water, err, Bud Light, and partied harder than the flown-in contestants.
That’s what happens in places far from civilization. You have to go to extremes sometimes, and living here certainly isn’t for everyone. You can tell a lot about a town by looking at the classifieds in the local paper. There are exponentially more employment ads than “For Rent” ads. Home prices are rising and VRBOs snatch up many of the housing options. The cost of living keeps climbing while wages stagnate. It’s the classic mountain-town paradigm. Incredible place to live. Incredibly hard place to make a living. But if you can eke it out, an adventurous life you will have. Rowan sure will.
>> Miles to the Nearest Chain Restaurant: 28