Crested Butte: A Steep-Seeking Family Haven

18th March 2016 | Krista Crabtree, OnTheSnow Ski Test Director

News Regions: Colorado, Rocky Mountains

Resorts in this article: Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Crested Butte not really a butte - ©Krista Crabtree

Though it’s called Crested Butte, it’s not actually a “butte,” but a 12,168-foot mountain with an iconic shape that offers up some incredible skiing.

Copyright: Krista Crabtree

Crested Butte may be the antidote to what your family needs—a mountain and town where kids can be kids and adults can find their inner child. 

The Place

Crested Butte might seem remote, but that’s the magic. If you’re coming from other locations in Colorado or flying in, “The Butte,” as it’s affectionately called, does feel like a long way away... from stress, traffic, work and school. When you drive the 30-mile road from Gunnison to the town of Crested Butte, you pass vast ranch land and miles of game tracks in the snow as the Elk Mountain range sprawls around you. 

Though it’s called Crested Butte, it’s not actually a “butte,” but a 12,168-foot mountain with an iconic shape that offers up some incredible skiing—like the double-black diamond chutes called Banana, Funnel and Peel. Out of the 1,547 acres of terrain, there are numerous bowls, chutes, glades and cliffs, but more than half of Crested Butte’s terrain suits beginners and intermediates. This variety creates a snowsports-enthusiast’s playground for all ages. 

As if the mountain didn’t provide enough of an adrenaline rush, CBMR has pumped up their adventure park and activities around the resort’s base, creating a picture-perfect family adventure playground. And for the particularly restless that need more action still, four legendary races or challenges include:

1. The Vertical Challenge: See how many lift-served vertical you can rack up in six hours
2. The Gore-TEX U.S. Ski Mountaineering Championships: Upwards of 5,000 feet vertical climb over 10 miles, individual and team courses
3. The Gothic Mountain Tour: A backcountry ski race circumnavigating Gothic Mountain
4. The Grand Traverse: A 40-mile winter endurance race from Crested Butte to Aspen

Dropping into the CB steeps. - ©Krista Crabtree

Dropping into the CB steeps.

Copyright: Krista Crabtree

The Latest

Since we visited six years ago, the adventure park has grown into an entertainment hub. The bungee trampolines are located on the Butte 66 deck, and parents can enjoy a beverage while watching their kids. There’s also mini-golf and a rock-climbing tower nearby. Lift-served snow tubing happens daily on the tubing hill—all accessed with an adventure park ticket for less than $30. 

The adventures don’t stop there. The mountain offers a two-hour zipline tour, which includes instruction and a full harness and helmet. Parents and kids zig zag down the ski hill on five different ziplines, all connected by suspended wood bridges and high platforms. Guided snowmobile tours, uphill ski tours, winter horseback trail rides, Nordic skiing, snowshoe tours, sleighrides and yurt dinners are also available. 

The newest on-mountain après area is called The Umbrella Bar, located at Ten Peaks near the Painter Boy Lift. A terrain park drops down in front of the new bar, conveniently located for parents who would like to soak up sun on the 2,400 square foot deck while their kids entertain themselves on boxes, jumps and rails. The new bar has a 35-foot diameter retractable umbrella roof, outdoor seating and a food cabin.  

Parents and kids zig zag down the ski hill on five different ziplines, all connected by suspended wood bridges and high platforms.  - ©Krista Crabtree

Parents and kids zig zag down the ski hill on five different ziplines, all connected by suspended wood bridges and high platforms.

Copyright: Krista Crabtree

The Experience

Crested Butte News, the local paper that's police blotter that mostly involved speeding in town, recently asked: “What do you like most about Crested Butte?” Readers responded: “The small town spirit,” “the local smiles” and “skiing out of your back door.” To that same question, our 10-year-old daughter had this to say: “Crested Butte is a big mountain that skis really well and has a bunch of terrain parks. I also liked the pool at the Grand Lodge and the ziplining and the bungee trampoline.” 

We liked all that too. Truth be told, maybe the best part of our family adventure in Crested Butte is that we got to act like kids—with our kid. 

The Grand Lodge pool is the place to be at Crested Butte. - ©Krista Crabtree

The Grand Lodge pool is the place to be at Crested Butte.

Copyright: Krista Crabtree

She's at the age where we can all ski together as a family, but if you go with younger kids (as we did six years ago), Crested Butte’s Ski and Ride School is excellent and offers kid’s ski and snowboard lessons as well as a nursery.

If you’re a passionate skier, you’ve come to the right place. If you like quaint, historical Colorado mountain towns, you’ve come to the right place. If you want to enjoy a family ski trip with access to good food, lodging and kid’s activities… you get the picture. 

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