When was the last time you really experienced winter? The stuff of snow globes? Swirling snowflakes. Swollen snowmen. Crisp air. Hot chocolate. Hot toddies. Hot tubs. Starry skies. And, of course, the exhilaration of skiing and snowboarding.
These seasonal qualities can be found in abundance just a short, nonstop flight away from Dallas and Houston in the “Last Great Colorado Ski Town” better known as Crested Butte.
Just 30 miles north of Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport at the end of Colorado Highway 135 sits the charming mountain town of Crested Butte, nestled in the shadow of its namesake mountain. Together with the neighboring town Mt. Crested Butte and the adjacent ski area Crested Butte Mountain Resort, the Crested Butte area affords a winter wonderland without parallel as well as an opportunity to escape, unplug, and refresh in the elements (and sheltered from them).
Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding
Tucked deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Crested Butte Mountain Resort offers skiing and snowboarding off the beaten path–far from the interstates, far from metro areas and, therefore, far from the crowds and far from ordinary. Renowned for extraordinary access to extreme terrain, Crested Butte also offers plenty of options for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders.
Opening on Nov. 27 this season, Crested Butte has more than 120 trails served by 15 lifts. New this season is a quad chair that replaces a double on the front side of the mountain, doubling capacity and speeding up delivery on the new and improved Teocalli Lift.
♦ Local’s tip: In between ski runs, grab a bite and a brew on the slopes at one of two ridiculously scenic outdoor bars. At Uley’s Cabin, hidden among the trees, you can either belly up to the bar or kick back in an Adirondack. Do the same while enjoying panoramic views at the aptly named Umbrella Bar at Ten Peaks.
Nordic Skiing and Snowshoeing
If you prefer a little less gravity with your snow sports, consider Nordic skiing or snowshoeing along the vast and pristine network of groomed trails surrounding Crested Butte. Get started in town at Crested Butte Nordic, headquarters to the premier cross-country ski destination in Colorado.
Crested Butte Nordic grooms 50 kilometers (~31 miles) of trails for classic skiing, skate skiing and snowshoeing. They rent gear. And they offer ski lessons, backcountry tours, fun events and even fine dining at a trailside yurt!
♦ Local’s tip: A season pass entitles you to free rentals. For children 16 years old and younger, Crested Butte Nordic offers free skiing. And for your furry friends, there are dog-friendly trails.
One of the largest historic downtowns in Colorado might also be its most scenic. With towering Crested Butte Mountain as a dramatic backdrop, the main drag of Elk Avenue is a pedestrian’s paradise, replete with a speed limit of 15 mph.
Elk Avenue is lined with Victorian structures dating back to the town’s 19th-century mining days. There you can find steakhouses, saloons, salons, sushi and shops. Between the lamplight and snow glow in the evenings, downtown Crested Butte shines like a diamond in winter, frequented by residents and visitors alike looking for anything from locally roasted coffee to locally distilled rum to legendary pizza to local craft brew with live music.
♦ Local’s tip: Catch the sushi reference earlier? That’s right: Lil’s Sushi Bar & Grill has you covered. Get there right when the doors open at 5 p.m. for a seat at either the sushi bar or regular bar, where happy-hour pricing can be had until 6:30 p.m. on both sushi and cocktails.
From downtown galleries featuring local photography to the brand-new facility for the Center for the Arts, Crested Butte expresses its artistic side. Whether your taste leans toward performing, visual, literary or even culinary, a variety of venues and events can be found throughout the winter.
♦ Local’s tip: The Mountain High Music Festival from Jan. 16-18 at Mt. Crested Butte promises to be a showstopper. The three-day festival at the base of the ski area features some of the biggest names in country music performing in intimate settings, including Lee Ann Womack, Luke Combs, Jamey Johnson, Craig Morgan and Randy Houser.
If the little ones aren’t tuckered out by all the skiing and snowboarding, swing by Crested Butte’s Trailhead Children’s Museum, adjacent to Town Park. The museum offers an engaging and dynamic environment that inspires infants, toddlers, young children and families to explore, create and learn together through discovery and play.
♦ Local’s tip: Spite the weather. Treat the kids to homemade ice cream at Third Bowl, located on Elk Avenue. Flavors range from the garden variety (vanilla bean) to the exotic (lemon beet).
Crested Butte is home to the Fat Bike World Championships on Jan. 24-26. What’s a fat bike? Let’s ask Wall Street Journal sports columnist Jason Gay.
“This fat bike, it doesn’t move as much as it floats,” says Gay. “It feels like I’m gliding atop whipped cream. The mega-tires, inflated low (6 PSI) are plush and grippy. Even crashing is fun, because I’m crashing into waist-deep drifts. It’s the best time I’ve had without bourbon.”
♦ Local’s tip: You don’t have to attend Fat Bike Worlds to ride a fat bike around Crested Butte. Most bike shops in town offer fat bike rentals at reasonable rates. You can even rent fat bikes at some of the rental shops at the ski area. Fat biking can be an excellent family adventure, too.
Getting to Crested Butte
Finding your way to the Last Great Colorado Ski Town from all corners of Texas is a breeze–thanks to daily nonstop flights this winter from airports in both Houston and Dallas.
Nonstop flights from Houston on United Airlines begin Dec. 19, 2019, and fly through March 29, 2020. Nonstop flights from Dallas on American Airlines run daily through the winter–with a second flight during the holiday season–and on Saturdays from mid-February to mid-March.