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Like Aspen, the town of Crested Butte was once a small mining village. The Victorian gingerbread-trim houses remain—albeit painted in whimsical shades of hot pink, magenta, and chartreuse. Unlike Aspen, however, Crested Butte never became chic. A controversial ad campaign for the ski area touted it as "Aspen like it used to be, and Vail like it never was."
A lovelier setting could not be imagined. The town sits at the top of a long, broad valley that stretches 17 mi all the way south to Gunnison. Mount Crested Butte, which looms over the town, is the most visible landmark in the entire valley. The Elk Mountains, north of Crested Butte, stretch to the Maroon Bells and Aspen, and the West Elk Mountains extend southwest to the Black Canyon.
Crested Butte has always been cutting-edge when it comes to embracing new ways to take advantage of the powdery snow. It was an early hotbed of telemark skiing, a graceful, free-heel way of cruising downhill; and was popular with snowboarders back when few people had heard of the sport. But it's as an extreme-skiing mecca that Crested Butte earned its reputation with some of the best skiers in the land. Although many resorts are limiting their "out-of-bounds" terrain owing to increasing insurance costs and lawsuits, Crested Butte has steadily increased its extreme-skiing terrain to 550 ungroomed acres. The Extreme Limits and the North Face should only be attempted by advanced or expert skiers, but there are plenty of cruise-worthy trails for skiers of all levels.
Crested Butte is just as popular in summer. Blanketed with columbine and Indian paintbrush, the landscape is mesmerizing. It has grown into one of the country's major mountain-biking centers. Once the snow melts, mountain bikers challenge the hundreds of miles of trails surrounding the town.
The ski resort, at the base of the lifts a couple of miles uphill from the old town, is properly called Mount Crested Butte. When people talk about Crested Butte, they might be referring to the old town, the ski resort, or both. You'll have to figure it out from the context.
Crested Butte at a Glance
Sports and Outdoors
Elsewhere in Telluride and Southwest Colorado
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