Crested Butte, Colo.: Rank 14 West, 1998

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Colorado's most cherished "diamond in the rough" received a $20 million polish last year. What one reader calls "the finest terrain in the state" is now served by the high-speed Keystone quad and the East River triple chair, which transports you to cherished powder stashes. Off mountain, a new Sheraton opened and the Crested Butte Marriott Resort (formerly the kitschy Grand Butte) got a facelift. But don't let these softer touches fool you: The Butte still rules as the extreme ski capital. The 550 acres known as the Extreme Limits offer ungroomed double-diamond terrain¿try Phoenix Bowl¿that will make most skiers blanch. "Some of it is actually frightening," recounts one reader. While beginners and intermediates will be reasonably content here, Crested Butte is decidedly skewed toward the tougher stuff: 60 percent of the mountain is rated advanced or expert. The town, however, is for everyone. "The best food in the Rockies," a reader says. Need a splash of Bohemia? Head to the Princess Wine Bar or talk politics with Crested Butte's mayor, who owns Butte Bagels. Got an après-ski itch? Scratch it at the Idle Spur for microbrews and Eldorado for live music. The saving grace of all this quirky charm is also CB's biggest weakness: It's far from everywhere. But worth the trip.

What's New Keystone Quad and East River Triple chairlifts; Sheraton Hotel.
A Good Deal Ski free from Nov. 19-Dec. 19 and Apr. 5-18.
Medals Gold Terrain, Challenge, Value.
High/Low Rank Terrain (15); Accessibility (70).
Don't Miss U.S. Extreme Skiing Championships, Feb. 7-11.
Reader Remarks "Western cowboy atmosphere, low-key and friendly. Great terrain." "Not along the beaten path. Intermediate runs are uninteresting."