Crested Butte is nestled 8,900 feet high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. It’s home to some of the steepest ski runs in the state, but there’s plenty to keep you busy off the slopes.
Here are just a few ideas.
1. Explore Downtown Crested Butte
There are two parts to Crested Butte. The mountain, Mount Crested Butte, is home to the ski area, restaurants, and hotels. There’s also the town of Crested Butte, which is just down the hill. Getting between the two areas is easy with the town’s free bus service, which runs all day and into the night. Be sure to check out the designs on the buses -- a local artist painted each one!
The main street in downtown Crested Butte is called Elk Avenue, and it’s lined with locally owned shops and restaurants. Imagine a quaint mountain town -- that’s exactly what Elk Avenue is. You could easily spend a day just strolling the street and ducking in and out of shops. There are art galleries displaying and selling local artists’ work, home decor shops with unique handmade items, and clothing boutiques.
Rumors Coffee and Tea House is your stop for handcrafted espresso drinks. You might even get to see an art exhibit or hear live music while you’re there. Take your drink next door to Townie Books, an independent bookstore selling new books, children’s books, and Colorado-themed titles. And if you’re looking for a souvenir, pop in to Mountain Tops, where you’ll find Crested Butte items that aren’t sold anywhere else.
After all that shopping (or maybe before!), kick it up a notch with a free rum tasting and tour at Montanya Distillers. The popular distillery also offers live music, small plates, and specialty cocktails.
Leave the main drag for some exploring, and you’ll find an array of colorful cottages. A stroll around these -- especially when they’re covered in snow -- is worthwhile.
2. Go Cross-Country Skiing Or Snowshoeing
The Crested Butte Nordic center has an extensive trail system for both cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Its 31 miles of trails are groomed daily, and most are good for both cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The center offers clinics, rentals, and lessons. A day pass will run you $20; the senior rate is $16. The trails are open 24 hours a day, so you can enjoy them any time.
There are free trails in town accessible from the trailhead behind the Crested Butte Community School. Crested Butte Nordic grooms a little more than 6 miles of trails there for public use.
Work up an appetite for dinner by trying a yurt dinner. The Magic Meadows Yurt is only accessible in the winter, and you will have to snowshoe or cross-country ski on a mile-long groomed trail to get there. Once there, warm up next to the wood stove before devouring a five-course meal. There are guides on hand to help you get to and from the yurt, and they recommend that beginners opt for snowshoeing. The yurt also offers brunch on Sundays.
3. Go Ice Skating
Right next to Crested Butte Nordic is a free ice arena called the Big Mine Ice Arena. If you have your own skates, you can skate for free, but if you need to rent some, they are available at the Nordic for $20. Be sure to check online for free-skate times or call the iceline at (970) 349-0974.
4. Go Snowmobiling
There are several options for snowmobiling in Crested Butte, with multiple snowmobile companies to choose from and excursions for first-timers and expert riders alike. Opt for a shorter guided tour past old mining towns or nearby lakes, or take the snowmobile out to explore on your own for a few hours. There are also private guided tours if you’d prefer a more personalized experience.
5. Go Dog Sledding
A magical way to experience the snow and Crested Butte’s backcountry is dog sledding. Lucky Cat Dog Farm offers 2-hour tours of the backcountry with Alaskan Huskies pulling you along. You can either sit or stand on the sled to enjoy the scenic ride. Arrive early to learn how to harness the dogs, and stay afterward to pet them. Dog sledding is pricey -- it will run you $200 per trip, and you’ll need to make reservations.
6. Relax At An Area Spa
If your muscles are tired from the day’s activities, or if you just want a vacation of pure relaxation, Crested Butte has a number of spas that can help you unwind.
In town, there’s Creekside Spa, where you can get a variety of treatments while listening to the soothing sounds of the nearby Coal Creek. Or if the altitude has you feeling down, head to Sea Level Spa to try out its oxygen bar.
7. Go Fat-Tire Biking
Mountain biking isn’t just for summer anymore! Explore the snow on two wheels by fat-tire biking. A fat-tire bike is a mountain bike with special tires that grip the snow, allowing you to explore the town’s trails.
Before you go, be sure to check where you can ride. A lot of the groomed trails don’t allow fat-tire bikes, but the public trails do allow them. This is a good page to check to get updates on all the trails currently open for fat-tire bikes.
8. Head To Crested Butte Adventure Park
Crested Butte offers world-class skiing, but it also offers other fun winter activities at its Adventure Park located at the base of the resort.
There are five zip lines, with the longest stretching 400 feet high in the trees. Each adventure is about 2 hours long and promises to be exhilarating! Make sure to make reservations for zip-lining, since the activity is popular and only runs on the weekends.
The Adventure Park also has bungee trampolines, a rock-climbing wall, and miniature golf. It’s open to everyone, kids and kids at heart alike.
Eating In Crested Butte
Eating is just another sport to partake in while visiting Crested Butte.
Secret Stash Pizza
If you can only go out to one restaurant, make it Secret Stash Pizza in the heart of downtown. Its pizza and wings have won awards every year since the restaurant opened in 2002. The unique pies may sound intimidating, but they are delicious. The local favorite is the Mac Daddy -- pizza topped with Thousand Island dressing, ribeye, pickles, lettuce, and more. There’s even a pizza topped with French fries -- it’s a must-try. Secret Stash has salads and wings, too.
Woodstone Grille inside the Grand Lodge at the base of Mount Crested Butte is the place to stop for a hearty breakfast before heading out for a day of activity. It offers an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet on weekends for under $20 and a la carte items during the week.
Butte 66 Roadhouse Bar & Grill
A popular afternoon spot is Butte 66 Roadhouse Bar & Grill in the base area. It’s a great spot to watch skiers and boarders come down the slopes, and it has -- get this -- adult milkshakes! Your favorite milkshake flavors plus your favorite liquor equal a great way to warm up in the winter.
In the town of Crested Butte, there’s a hidden gem just off the main street -- a cocktail and small-bites bar called The Dogwood. It’s an intimate place with one-of-a-kind cocktails, nibbles, and desserts (the chocolate fondue comes with gummy bears!). It’s a perfect spot for a pre- or post-dinner drink.
Niky’s Mini Donuts
A trip to Niky’s Mini Donuts will have you feeling like a kid again. Follow your nose, and you’ll find it along the town’s main street. The family-owned shop makes its mini donuts fresh every day and offers about two dozen toppings. It also sells candy and ice cream.
For a truly Crested Butte winter experience, hitch a ride on a snowcat to Uley’s Cabin on Mount Crested Butte. Blankets will keep you warm as you travel on the snow up to the cozy cabin adorned with fireplaces and alpine decor. The food is described as a cross between Coloradan and French and promises to be a true fine-dining experience.
What To Know Before You Go
Crested Butte is harder to get to than other areas in Colorado, but you’ve got a few options. You can fly straight into Crested Butte, but flights are limited. Montrose Regional Airport is a little less than 2 hours away, and there are shuttles that will take you to Crested Butte. The cheapest airfare might bring you into Denver International Airport, but it’s about a 4-hour drive from there. But at least it’s a scenic one!