In its second season of being a Vail Resorts property, Crested Butte actually moved up eight spots from its 2020 ranking. Maybe having a corporate owner with deep pockets isn’t such a bad thing after all, or Epic Pass holders are catching on to CB’s appeal, or, even more likely, mountain ops’ frantic work to open up the Extreme Limits terrain from wall to wall last season (a rarity in recent years) paid off. You see, despite enjoying a reputation as one of the most authentic, soulful mountain towns in North America with “one of the best little ski town drags in Colorado” (No. 4 in Charm, No. 6 in Local Flavor), CB’s rankings have historically fluctuated with the mountain’s annual snow totals—if it was a good snow year, CB is ranked one of the best resorts in all the land thanks to its “ridiculous and rad” extreme terrain off the Highlift and Northface T-Bars (No. 5 in Challenge). “Between the expert terrain and the local flavor, it’s a diehard’s dream. Everything a great skier needs for a real ski trip,” one reader declares.
But when CB gets stiffed by Mother Nature and the extreme terrain doesn’t open, visitors gripe that the resort can feel small and the variety of terrain limited. Despite this and CB’s notoriously remote location (No. 28 in Travel Ease), visitors rank it No. 7 in Overall Satisfaction. While VR may deserve some of the kudos for CB’s Top 10 ranking this year, most of the credit still goes to the funky and colorful ski town and its locals for providing a unique and authentic skiing experience. “Hidden gem in an increasingly commercialized world. The Vail acquisition has been handled right— investment where necessary, but a hands-off approach to culture.” — Jenny Wiegand
SKI Reader Ranking of Crested Butte for 2021: No. 10 in the West
- BEST VALUE: You didn’t hear it from us, but at 3 p.m. the Bakery starts slinging slices of its ridiculously cheesy and delectable pizza for $1/slice until supplies last. If it’s 2:55 p.m. on a powder day, you’ll have one tough call to make.
- LOCAL TIP: Intermediates and up, start your ski day on the backside of the resort, which gets early morning sun. Then move over to the front and the Silver Queen when lunch crowds start bottlenecking at Paradise Warming House.
Catch up on No. 11 in the West: Park City Mountain Resort
No. 9 in the West: Beaver Creek, Colo.
Crested Butte’s 2020 SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey Rank: 18th in the West
When Vail Resorts acquired Crested Butte in the summer of 2018, Crested Butte locals and loyalists braced for the worst: a corporate takeover resulting in homogenization of one of America’s most authentic and colorful ski towns, and a stampede of Epic Pass holders. Sure enough, despite Crested Butte’s remote location, the stampede came—whether because of the new pass benefits, Crested Butte’s renown as America’s last great ski town with the fiercest in-bounds extreme terrain in the country, or because Crested Butte enjoyed one of its best snow years to date—and the resulting lift lines were described as, well, “Epic.” But other fears proved unfounded. Vail Resorts left Crested Butte largely untouched in its first year of ownership, and readers still proclaim Crested Butte to be “an outstanding ski mountain with a full-fun town to boot,” “a real gem” “with a small resort charm and no snotty attitude” (No. 6 in Charm).
And this season, skiers will see the upside to Vail Resorts backing: a new Teocalli fixed-grip quad lift to replace the old double chair that has been out of regular commission for years. The new lift will increase uphill capacity by 50 percent, relieving the Paradise bottleneck that so many griped about last season. As for other complaints about the resort—“looong drive,” “needs more intermediate terrain,” “it’s too steep for 99 percent of people”—well, some would argue those are actually positives. — Jenny Wiegand
- BRAGGING RIGHTS: CBMR’s extreme terrain opens up a whole new world of skiing to experts, but it’s smart to opt for a guide. One option: Sign up for the resort’s Steeps Guide group tour.
- DINNER PICK: Locals and visitors alike keep coming back to The Slogar for the comforting family-style fried chicken dinner and authentic Western saloon ambiance.
SKI Magazine’s 2019 Review of Crested Butte, Colo.
For decades Crested Butte locals have been trying to keep their quaint mining town and legendary steeps under wraps in hopes of preserving CB’s unique and funky spirit. But the cat’s out of the bag, and skiers far and wide are discovering that Crested Butte may actually be America’s last great ski town. CB’s downfall is also its advantage: it’s not easy to get to, but that’s what keeps the crowds away. Those willing to make the trek are rewarded with some of the best in-bounds, lift-accessed extremes in the country.
It takes heaps of snow to cover CB’s rocky steeps, meaning in low snow years some of the most-prized terrain (Teo Bowls, Spellbound, Third Bowl) may not open until late season—if at all. If that’s the case, get out the carving skis and cruise the fun groomers, or hop on the shuttle to town and drown your sorrows at Montanya Distillers or Kochevar’s (a legendary watering hole since Butch Cassidy stopped in for a drink in 1902). Wherever you land, you’ll find the restaurants and shops of colorful Elk Avenue oozing with character. Now that Vail Resorts has snapped up CB, it remains to be seen if the resort’s spirit will prevail. We sure hope so. – Jenny Wiegand
Come to Crested Butte for the…
- CHALLENGE Download the CB Extremes app and pick your poison.
- LOCAL FLAVOR Head to The Secret Stash for delicious pizza and experience CB in all its eccentric glory.
- APRES SPOT Head to Avalanche Bar & Grill for cold beers and big portions of American comfort food just steps from the hill.
- BRAGGING RIGHTS Hop the North Face T-Bar and kick off the sticks for a short hike into Spellbound Bowl. Riddled with opportunities for big air and deep turns, this extraordinary zone holds snow well and is rarely crowded. Transfer into Phoenix Bowl to keep the stoke going.
- ON-HILL EATS Try Uley’s Cabin for an upscale on-mountain lunch or an afternoon drink at the ice bar.
- DONT MISS Third Bowl’s homemade ice cream is divine. The flavors are ever-changing, but be adventurous. We promise you won’t be disappointed.