[y] Crested Butte Visitors Guide
Crested Butte is surrounded by the Elk Mountains, Gunnison National Forest, and the Fossil Ridge, West Elk, Collegiate Peaks, Maroon Bells-Snowmass, and Raggeds Wilderness Areas. The pristine backcountry is perfect for year-round, outdoor adventure including mountain biking, hiking, peak ascents, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, fishing, hunting, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, snowcat skiing, etc. Crested Butte is the Wildflower Capital of Colorado. Summer is like another world with clear blue skies, temperatures close to 70 degrees and low humidity. The mountains are awash in waist-high oceans of color making your favorite activity much more enjoyable.
Funky, laid-back and friendly are oft-heard descriptions of the Crested Butte experience. When you walk into any restaurant or bar in town, it doesn’t matter if you’re a janitor or a Fortune 500 CEO, you’ll be treated with the same warmth and respect—as long as you leave your “big-city” attitude outside. Award-winning wine bars mingle with cook-your-own hot dog stands. Five-star lodging overlooks local hangout shacks nestled in the woods. The apres-ski scene is rich at the resort’s base, especially in spring, when lounging is best on the numerous large, sunny decks. Just down the road, the National Historic District of the town of Crested Butte reeks of charm and authentic Wild West.
In this Colorado refuge, hiking trails wind around stone canyons that plummet down to a maze of rivers creating white-water rapids all to the backdrop of the white-peaked Rocky Mountains. The Western Slope of Colorado, in the state’s southwest, is home to much of the scenery, lifestyle, and attractions that have made Colorado famous. The resort towns of Telluride and Silverton are well-known destinations in the San Juan mountains thanks to their selection of hotels, a wide variety of restaurants and close proximity to activities like skiing, mountain biking, rafting, rock climbing, and hunting. From abandoned mining towns scattered through the Rockies to the ruins of ancient civilizations on the flats of plateaus, there are plenty of sites to visit. Local attractions include the Mesa Verde National Park, the Canyons of the Ancient National Monument and the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park.
Crested Butte Attractions
Crested Butte Mountain Resort is one of the most unique mountains in North America for skiing and snowboarding. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, about 75 miles southwest. The largest man-made lake in Colorado: Blue Mesa Reservoir, about 40 miles southwest. Taylor Canyon and Taylor Reservoir, about 25 miles southeast. The Crested Butte and Lake City National Historic Districts.
Housed in one of the oldest structures in Crested Butte, the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum showcases the history, culture and lifestyle of the region. Exhibits include regional memorabilia such as an original ski gondola, photo displays, a model railroad, and a mining diorama. The museum is also home to the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame, which features the history of the sport through bike displays, photographs, and memorabilia. Address: 331 Elk Avenue | Crested Butte, CO | 81224. Telephone: 1 970 349-1880
Crested Butte Activities
A tubing hill at the base area is open daily after the lifts close. For information on resort activities, call 349-2211. Other winter activities include snowmobiling, dogsledding, winter flyfishing, ice skating, sledding, winter horseback riding with Fantasy Ranch and sleigh rides (with and without dinners) through Just Horsin’ Around. Call the Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce at 349-6438 for brochures and information.
Crested Butte Mountain Guides (877-455-2307; 349-5430) offers avalanche safety courses, backcountry guiding, ice climbing, and backcountry gear rentals (beacons, shovels, backpacks and more). Backcountry gear can also be rented at The Troutfitter (349-1323).
There are loads of great shops and boutiques at the resort and especially in town. Among them: Diamond Tanita Art Gallery for jewelry, glass, ceramics, paper, forged iron, and other functional art pieces; Cookworks, Inc., a gourmet kitchen shop; The Book Store, with local maps, Western art and collectibles; and the Milky Way for unique women’s apparel and lacy things. The Alpineer has outdoor gear for mountaineering, biking, hiking and backpacking, plus guide services and rentals.
Crested Butte Apres-Ski / Nightlife
The immediate apres-ski action is centered in Rafters at the base of the lifts or The Avalanche. Also popular is the slopeside Butte 66 Roadhouse BBQ (left) in the Treasury Building, with apres-ski drink specials and live entertainment. It has the largest and sunniest deck at the base area and the best slopeside mountain view of Crested Butte Mountain.
Then the action begins to move downtown to the Wooden Nickel, with some wild drinks, and The El Dorado, known around town as “The Eldo” and, according to one local, it has a “smokin’ dance floor.” Talk of the Town is a smoky locals’ place with video games, shuffleboard and pool tables. Kochevar’s is another local favorite where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid used to saddle up to the bar. The Crested Butte Brewery/Idle Spur is a microbrewery with live music and dancing on weekends. Cover charges are $5 to $10, depending on the talent.
Duck into the cellar entrance of Lobar and discover the uptown side of Crested Butte. Lounge in cushy seating, sidle up to the long bar for drinks and sample sushi and tapas while DJs and live music keep you entertained. On weekends, folks come here to kick up their heels on the dance floor.
The Princess Wine Bar at 218 Elk Ave. is the place to finish your night on the town. This Wine Spectator award-winning establishment offers a limited menu of appetizers, and a few tempting desserts to enjoy with a cappuccino or fine dessert wine. With no doubt the best selection of quality wines by the glass, the Princess also carries a full list of cognacs, ports and single malts. Come relax by the fire. Open daily from 10 a.m. to “whenever.”
Crested Butte Dining
Crested Butte is blessed with more excellent, affordable restaurants than any other resort in the West. You can dine on gourmet French cuisine in an intimate setting or chow down on platters of family-style fried chicken and steaks. We’ll start with dining at the mountain and then move down into town.
The Timberline Restaurant (201 Elk Ave., 349-9831; $$$) mixes a trendy bar downstairs with Mediterranean decor upstairs. Chef Tim Egelhoff combines seasonal products to create a Cafe French Cuisine, whose roots are classic French with a pinch of California and a dash of the Rockies. The menu changes often. The early bird menu served nightly from 5:30 to 6 p.m., offers a $15 three-course meal. Open Mon-Sun from 5:30–10 p.m.
The Buffalo Grill (349-9699; $$–$$$), near the four-way stop at 435 Sixth St., 349-9699; $$–$$$), specializes in buffalo and beef steaks, free-range and organic entrees served with a Western flair. Make reservations—the place is tiny, but filled with atmosphere and one not to miss.
Le Bosquet (Majestic Plaza at Sixth and Bellview, 349-5808; $$$–$$$$; left) serves signature dishes including Colorado roast rack of lamb, hazelnut chicken, and portabella Wellington. This is possibly Crested Butte’s finest for formal French cuisine. The early bird menu served nightly from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., offers a $20 three-course meal. There’s also a bistro menu at its bar.
Soupçon Restaurant (349-5448; $$$) is hidden in the alley behind Kochevar’s Bar. This log cabin started at half its current size in 1916 as a private residence to the Kochevars. Soupçon dates back more than a quarter of a century. This place is as romantic as it gets. Chef-owner Scott Greene has created an innovative French cuisine, with menu items posted daily on a chalkboard. Reserve two to three days ahead for one of two seatings, 6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.
Idle Spur Steakhouse and Crested Butte Brewery (349-5026; $$–$$$) is always crowded and noisy. It offers the finest hand-cut steaks in town plus burgers (including vegetable and elk—sounds better than it is), Mexican entrees and a selection of fresh fish, all reasonably priced. Award-winning beers are brewed in-house from the White Buffalo Peace Ale to the full-bodied Rodeo Stout. Brewery tours 2-5 p.m. daily during happy hour. Film and television star Tom Skerritt is the co-owner, so you might just see him here while you’re tossing back some brews and chowing down. Also be sure to check out their CB Tea & Coffee House, with 30 selected teas and gourmet coffee.
The chef-owned Bacchanale (349-5257; $$-$$$) creates delightful Northern Italian dishes of veal, salmon and homemade pasta. Desserts are fabulous, especially the homemade tiramisu, and are meant to be enjoyed with a specialty espresso drink. The antique bar, wrought-iron railings, photography and prints on the walls contribute to a comfortable, classy experience.
Lobar (349-0480; $$) is like nothing you’d expect to find in Crested Butte, yet for some reason, it fits perfectly. Hidden away in a cellar, this urban sushi and tapas lounge is ultra-chic but also laid-back, with hidden areas of cushy seating and a long bar that serves as a gathering point. Food is exquisitely prepared, so don’t be surprised if you can’t stop ordering more plates.
For hard-to-beat group and family dining, head to The Slogar (349-5765; $$). It used to be the first bar the miners hit when returning from the mines and is decorated in old bordello decor. Slogar’s offers a skillet-fried chicken dinner with mashed potatoes, biscuits, creamed corn, ice cream and even some other extras for a flat price. It also offers a family-style steak dinner. Reservations are recommended.
For other substantial meals, head down Elk Avenue to Donita’s Cantina (349-6674; $$), where the margaritas are giant and strong and Mexican food comes in heaping portions. Be early or be ready to wait. No reservations. For a quick meal, try The Last Steep (349-7007; $–$$), very popular with locals and known for everything from sandwiches to “BBQ Rib Night.”
Pitas in Paradise (349-0897; $) is reminiscent of a sandwich shop, only it serves blues on the radio and Greek specialties such as gyros, falafel, wraps and baklava. It has a full coffee bar, wine and beer in addition to your standard drink options. Even after you add a side dish, you’re still coming in under $10, and with huge portions, you won’t leave hungry.
There’s no doubt that the best hearty, traditional breakfast is found at the Paradise Cafe (349-6233; $).
Crested Butte Lodging
Most accommodations are clustered around the ski area in Mt. Crested Butte. This historic town has a handful of lodges and quaint B&Bs, but they aren’t as convenient to the slopes. However, they are less expensive, closer to the nightlife and offer a taste of a more rustic Western atmosphere. A free bus service takes you right to the slopes every 15 minutes, so the primary inconvenience of in-town lodging is the short bus ride. Make sure to ask about lodging packages that include lift tickets.
The Crested Butte Club Boutique Inn & Spa (800-815-2582; 349-6655; $$$–$$$$), 512 Second St., is the upscale, Old-World elegance champion of the area. Though the lifts are a bit far, this place is worth the inconvenience. Nine suites have been individually furnished in earthy and neutral tones with luxurious oversized furnishings and bedding, double pedestal sinks, hydrotherapy tubs and a fireplace. The amenities include a full-service spa and the fitness club, with a heated swimming pool, steam rooms, hot tub, weight room, and weight trainer. Rates include a breakfast buffet and evening beverages. This is a no-smoking property.
The Claim Jumper (349-6471; $$–$$$), 704 Whiterock St., is a historic log-home bed-and-breakfast and the class act in town. It’s filled with a collection of memorable antiques. Bedrooms have themes and are furnished with brass or old iron beds. There are six rooms, all with private bath. Rates include a full breakfast. The Claim Jumper can also arrange catered weddings and special-occasion receptions.
The Cristiana Guesthaus (800-824-7899; 349-5326; $–$$; left), 621 Maroon Ave., is a block from the ski shuttle and a five-minute walk from downtown. The mountain inn atmosphere encourages guests to get to know one another. The rooms are small, but guests spend a good deal of time in the common areas which is the point! Rates include breakfast. Let the owners know if you need quiet because some rooms get quite a bit of traffic from the owner’s family and folks using the washers and dryers.