I might never have realized that I had run the stop sign on Elk Avenue had the guy in the Subaru not abruptly honked at me. But am I really to blame? Once through the intersection I glance in my rearview mirror to see the one small corner of the hallmark red sign that’s still visible—the rest is almost completely buried beneath feet of snow. It dawns on me as I drive through town that nearly every street sign, along with whole cars, mailboxes, and fences, are covered in fresh snow.
Crested Butte saw over 11 feet of snow in January, briefly shutting down parts of the small Colorado Mountain town, and closing Crested Butte Mountain Resort for a single day as patrollers scrambled to mitigate avalanche danger. Locals made the best of the situation as adults dug tunnels to front doors, kids sled off roofs, and skiers counted the flakes as inches turned into feet, all accepting the seemingly endless snow as simple truth of winter in the mountain oasis they choose to call home.
Navigating piles of snow that dwarf my Tacoma, my GPS prompts a final left turn off Crested Butte’s iconic Main Street to find my destination, the historic Scarp Ridge Lodge. The warm light filtering through its large picture windows onto the snow covered sidewalk makes for an inviting vibe. Almost before I’ve parked a lodge manager throws open the front door, rushed to shoulder my heaviest bag and greeting me with the welcoming smile of an old friend.
Scarp Ridge Lodge - Inside and Out
Originally built in 1885 as a saloon and dancehall, Scarp Ridge Lodge was recently excavated and moved a full block south of Crested Butte’s iconic Main Street, and then restored with impressive craftsmanship and attention to detail. Rustic, yet chic, the seven-bedroom lodge boasts a full pool, rooftop hot tub, screening room, massage and work out area, massive wood fireplace, children’s play room, library, full bar area, and kitchen, all of which are beautifully designed and decorated. Every detail, from the pearl white countertops quarried from the same mine as the Lincoln Memorial, to the underwater speakers in the saltwater pool, accentuates the attention to detail and level of service that Scarp Ridge Lodge proudly provides. The lodge is operated by Eleven Experience (named after the Spinal Tap motivation to turn everything up an extra notch), and is just one of their many unique and breathtaking properties around the globe.
Cleaned and refreshed within an hour of my arrival, I descend the oversized wooden stairs from my second story suite to the wonderful aroma of dinner in the oven and the sound of casual, cheerful conversation surrounding it. Each meal provided at the lodge is cooked by a team of local chefs who can tailor the menu to taste and seasonal offerings, sourcing many of their ingredients from local purveyors. Seared quail, grilled elk, and arugula salad are a few of the evening’s selections. While the option to dine in for all three meals of the day is available, Crested Butte boasts diverse dining options, ranging from Thai to Greek to classic American cuisine, all of which are but a short walk from the lodge.
Staying at Scarp Ridge Lodge includes far more than an attentive staff, delicious food, and world-class lodging, it also includes a wide variety of experiences offered throughout the year, including guided cat skiing, fly fishing, hiking, climbing, cycling… the list goes on. Thanks to the brilliant snow conditions that coincided with our trip, there seemed no better choice than to cat ski in the Elk Mountains just outside of town.
At 9:00am sharp on the second day of my stay, I step out of the lodge under a bluebird sky, and board a street-legal snow cat that whisks our group high above into the Elk Mountain Range. Our guides are quick to ensure we have everything we need, from gear to snacks, assess our skiing ability, and direct us to untouched, bottomless powder surrounded by stunning views. Each run is better than the last, and as the day progresses we become emboldened, and begin to point out more and more aggressive terrain, which our guides are happy to serve up.
Before I know it, the pow-choked morning has turned into early afternoon. A quick ski down yet another tree run lands us at the Movie Cabin (where the second Swiss Family Robinson was filmed, for you movie buffs) and a hot BBQ lunch, accompanied by soup, salad, and a slideshow of photos taken by the staff photographer over the course of the morning. Even miles into the backcountry, the service is impeccable. With our appetite for powder re-invigorated, we spend the remainder of the afternoon spotting lines, dropping cliffs, sending chutes, and skiing untouched snow through trees and sunshine. By the time I crack a celebratory beer at 4:00, I’m certain that my face is frozen in a permanent grin.
As with all vacations, my stay at Scarp Ridge Lodge draws to a close, and after a final catered breakfast and personal massage, I pack my bags and descend once again down the oversized wooden staircase to the entry lounge. And, once again, the manager shoulders my heaviest bag, shakes my hand, and bids me farewell with the smile of an old friend, inviting me to come back soon. Needless to say, I sure hope to.
Find out more about Scarp Ridge Lodge, and make your reservation here.