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Best Ski Towns in North America: Crested Butte, Colo.

This southern Colorado burg charms visitors with all of the beauty and none of the attitude, and some of the rad skiing in the West.

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Illustrated map of Crested Butte
Is down-to-earth Crested Butte Colorado’s best ski town? Visit and decide for yourself. Original illustration by Josh Cochran

The renegade of ski towns, Crested Butte sits in the center of the state and is noticeably less chic than its northern neighbor, Aspen. Yes, it’s a little hard to get to, and a little rough around the edges, but Crested Butte boasts as much town pride as it does eccentric characters and locally controlled real estate.

Intriguingly, this mining town was never successful enough to establish brick or stone buildings, so colorful, wooden Victorian-era structures dot the downtown, where people ride their fat bikes year-round. While it was a shock to locals when Crested Butte Mountain Resort decided to go Epic, many people feel confident this could mean much-needed improvements to the ski resort without impacting the core and genuine funkiness of this town.

The word “rowdy” comes to mind when thinking of both the ski and après scene on this mountain. Teocalli Bowl is renowned for its spicy double-black lines and natural features, and there are blues for days off of Paradise Express Lift. Those who come prepared should experience Red Lady Bowl, a classic backcountry zone overlooking the town of Crested Butte. Local endurance athletes will lap this area before the rest of the world has finished their morning coffee. Make it a bigger day by adding the Climax Chutes onto your ski tour.

Aside from the rippin’ skiing, folks come to Crested Butte for amazing mountain biking, on tap any time of year the trails aren’t too snow-covered (or even if they are…). On the north end of the valley, Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association maintains over 450 miles of trails. In neighboring Gunnison, Hartman Rocks is a mountain biking mecca, with 40 miles of singletrack. After a ride, head over to High Alpine Brewing on Main St. for some brick-oven pizza and a Gunny Gold Kölsch.

Over the years, Crested Butte has offered me some of my purest moments of ski-town nostalgia. From shooting pool until last call at Kochevar’s to backcountry skiing the Ruby Range with Irwin Mountain Guides to devouring hot wings at Brick Oven after storm skiing at the resort on closing day. This town represents all things good in a bona fide ski town, because it’s the real deal.

Crested Butte by the Numbers

Population: 1,755
Average Income: $66,375 (USD)
Male/Female Ratio: 56/44
Median Home Price: $750,200 (USD)
Median Age: 34.4

(Updated with 2020 stats)

Next time you’re in Crested Butte, check out some of our favorites.

The Alpineer

Your locally owned, one-stop gear shop for rentals and stylish threads, The Alpineer opened in 1969 and sits at the four-way stop sign just as you enter town. This four-season shop has served telemarkers, Nordic and alpine skiers, boarders, snowshoers, bikers, and beyond for years. Stop by to plan your next adventure.

Romp Skis Factory

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The Best in Test Romp 94 W

You’d think Romp Skis is a ski-brand giant because half the town is sporting them on the slopes of CBMR. Take a tour of the brother-owned and operated factory right downtown, watch as a pair of skis is made from scratch, and see why these planks have become a requisite part of the local uniform.

The Grand Lodge

Located right at the base of the mountain with easy access to the slopes as well as shuttles to town, The Grand Lodge is an ideal place to hang your helmet. If slopeside access isn’t enough, there’s also fitness center, indoor pool, a couple of restaurants, and cookies in the lobby every afternoon.

Izzy’s

Izzy's at night
The only time there isn’t a line out the door at Izzy’s is at night.Photo credit: Nathan Bilow

This beloved local breakfast joint is somehow equally inviting to both Dead Heads and East Coast bagel-and-lox types, confirmed by a line out the door year-round to grab a hearty bagel sandwich, egg creation, or homemade granola. Browse the colorful collection of posters, art, and local flyers hanging on the walls while you wait.

The Ruby of Crested Butte

The Ruby at Crested Butte
Christmas at the Ruby. Photo courtesy of The Ruby at Crested Butte

This red clapboard B&B downtown has six rooms decked out with Western antiques and downhome charm. A generous, organic breakfast spread is served up daily, including housemade Ruby Cinnamon Rolls fresh from the oven to start your ski day. End it in the communal hot tub after a long day on the mountain.

Crested Butte Local Tip

Heather Paul Featherman
CBMR Athlete Heather Paul Featherman. Photo credit Cedric Bernadini

If you’re looking for live music in town, try the new, eclectic setting downstairs at the Public House while you enjoy locally brewed beers on tap from Irwin Brewing Company. The food is amazing, too. It’s on Elk Avenue, right next to the bus stop and books some of the best live entertainment in the valley. – Heather Paul Featherman, Athlete, Crested Butte Mountain Resort