Crested Butte has a reputation for steep, challenging terrain, plentiful snow, and a down-home atmosphere that core skiers love. But I wouldn’t know, because I can’t seem to bring myself to actually go skiing.
Crested Butte stares at me through my hotel room window. Not the just the base area – the actual butte itself. I wake after arriving late at night, and the view from my room in the Elevation Hotel practically slaps me in the face. I stare back at the iconic peak from my balcony. It has, in my opinion, no match in Colorado.
I scour the mountain for untouched pockets of snow, eager to hop the chair and explore. It’s early and the lift isn’t spinning yet, so I take the concierge’s advice and make for Camp 4 Coffee, a Crested Butte standby. I grab a cup of java and a muffin, and sit down for a few to take in the scene. The word ‘scene’ takes on a different meaning in CB than it does in some other Colorado ski resorts. Fur coats? Zero. Jolly baristas? Yep. Beards? Plentiful. I chat with a few locals about snow, work and beer – typical ski country conversation – and make for the hill. That’s when trouble began.
Let me just say there’s a lot to do at Crested Butte besides ski. Before I knew it I had been sidetracked by shopping, food, and other cool activities at the base area. I just couldn’t help myself. It all started with a simple trip in to a gear shop, and it quickly spiraled out of control.
Apparently, all these activities and attractions are a big part of Crested Butte’s initiative to offer more to families and non-skiers. The resort even offers an Adventure Park Package full of fun things to do that don’t require skis or a snowboard. I spend a whole day and only scratched the surface of the Adventure Park.
The tubing hill caught my attention early. Apparently Crested Butte wanted their tubing experience to mimic the thrills one can find elsewhere on the mountain. I’ve tubed a few hills in my day, but this bobsled-inspired course is easily the most, uh, challenging (?) tubing hill I’ve come across. It made me anxious to go skiing, but not quite anxious enough to skip lunch.
I swung by the kids area at the bottom of the zipline course (that’s coming up), where I was directed to some of CB’s fine dining by a couple giant polar bears. If you ever want to know where to eat, just ask a local – especially if that local happens to be a bear. I had already enjoyed a pre-ski beverage at Butte 66, so I took the bears’ suggestion and headed for 9380 Prime, a swanky spot at the base area known for interesting fusions of flavors, as well as for aprés ski.
By this time I’m getting a little bit self-conscious. Some of the folks working the shops in the base area have seen my walking around, NOT skiing for hours now, so I decide to head for the chairlift. I’m here, after all. I’ve got to enjoy the mountain. I’ve got to go… ziplining.
The zipline course zigzags between stands of aspen trees just upslope from the base area. The zipline tour is a blast, and the zipline attendants aren’t just taking you on a canopy tour, they’re putting on a show. Half the fun is joking around, learning about the forest, and playing the little games and challenges you’ll encounter as you make your way through the course. My favorite was the Indiana Jones Bridge. Why do the call it that? You’ll have to watch the video to find out.
Considering I never even put my skis on, I’m surprisingly wiped out. By this point it’s late enough in the day that I can seamlessly transition in to after-ski-beverage mode without feeling lame, so I head down to the town of Crested Butte for some local color. Crested Butte is a Victorian mining town straight out of a western movie. The main street could be (and I’m sure is) on a postcard. I wander briefly before finding Montanya Distillers on Elk Street. Their tasting room occupies the space that once housed Crested Butte’s electrical powerhouse, and has a historic, warm feel. Montanya is owned by some friends of mine, and I’m looking forward to catching up over one of Montanya’s signature cocktails. When I ask if my friends are nearby, I’m told they are out skiing.
Skiing? Now why would anyone want to do that?
– John Trousdale, Mountain Correspondent, Colorado Ski Country USA