Crested Butte–Colorado's Haven for Resort and Backcountry Skiing

by Greg Colquitt | December 9, 2015

Crested Butte, Colorado

What makes a truly great mountain town? A mountain town is authentic. A mountain town is full of life and adventure yet remains quiet and connected to its surroundings. A mountain town has residents and visitors full of the zeal for life that pushes them to get outside every day. In Colorado, this mountain town is a haven of the natural world and can provide some of the best skiing in the country, on- and off-piste. Whether you’re looking for a machine-aided ride up to wide open slopes, tight glades, or steep bowls, or you’re out to hike for your turns, head to Colorado’s last great ski town–Crested Butte.

Nestled in Southwest Colorado under the close watch of Mt. Crested Butte, Gothic Mountain, and a seemingly endless sprawl of nearby peaks, the town of Crested Butte (CB) slips quietly under the radar of the more popular destinations to the north. Translation?  Endless fresh tracks. At the resort, take the lifts, which boast very small lines, up over 2,700 vertical feet and play on over 1,500 acres of stoke. The mountain is great for choosing your own adventure with 121 trails at a terrain breakdown of 26% beginner, 57% intermediate, 13% advanced and 3% expert. Here’s the visual, ghostrider. If sweating is more your thing, CB gives you the unique and painful opportunity to ski uphill as well as downhill. Charge hard uphill, but before heading back down, turn around and say hello to some of the most magnificent views in the Colorado Rockies. Great news! You can skill it all.

While many areas require a short drive by snowmobile or 4WD car, many of the backcountry trails are accessible by way of skinning or snowshoeing. Oh, and they are in no short supply of powder stashes. According to, in the backcountry around Crested Butte, expect to see “two to three times as much snow as the resort receives.” So when the snow falls, head to nearby Mt. Axtell, Mt. Emmons (known locally as “Red Lady”), or Gothic Mountain, which rise 12,055′, 12,343′, and 12,631′, respectively, for some of the best backcountry experiences in the state.

And here I have to give my PSA. Before you head out into the backcountry, which is truly the platform for magnificent wilderness experiences, know the snow and be prepared. Take an avalanche course (or three) and never be without your buddy, beacon, shovel, probe, or, if you can afford it, BCA avalanche airbag pack. The mountains are wild and they don’t really care how much fun you’re having. Stay safe!

Dress accordingly

Alright, I’ll finish up by mentioning an old Norwegian saying that Crested Butte embodies remarkably well. Det fins ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær, it goes. In English–“there is no bad weather, only bad clothes”. This season, with the famous El Nino lurking in wait (but he’s starting to show himself already…yippee!), looks like it’s going to be big. Still, there will be unfavorable days. Sub-zero temperatures and howling winds are tough, but they’re no match for you. You’re unstoppable. Wear the right gear and just get outside.

Heck, you could hit the resort and the backcountry in the same day. It’s just all in a day’s work in Crested Butte, Colorado. See you out there!

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