Crested Butte a Genuine Old West Town

Capping off our Epic Pass tour of Colorado for this year, we took our roving retirement show to Crested Butte Colorado for the first time. We found an approachable, unpretentious, old west ski town with down-home appeal. As with most of the ski towns in Colorado, this one started out as a mining town. But unlike Telluride, Crested Butte has retained its old west mining town roots.

Getting There

Telluride to Crested Butte is about 80 miles as the crow flies, but it is 160 miles for those of us restricted to driving. Happily, we saw a fox, a coyote, elk, deer, and bald eagles from the road to enlighten our trip. Our three+ hour journey included views of numerous “Fourteeners” (14,000+ foot high mountains). Most are part of the Collegiate Peaks and are named Princeton, Harvard, Yale, etc.

If you are flying in, Gunnison is the closest airport to Crested Butte, being only about 40 minutes away. In Leadville, another real mining town on the way to Gunnison, we could see evidence of drilling competitions for miners from previous years.

A Pitstop

We were delighted to visit with my friend Joe from my year off of college in Boston. He runs Crumb Bakery in Ridgway. It seems Joe began baking one day and just couldn’t stop. He treated us to a loaf of bread and I can attest it was pretty damn good.

He and his wife live off the grid about 30 minutes outside of town. Their abode is surrounded by Bureau of Land Management land with expansive views, a greenhouse, a wood-fired hot tub, two cats, and two huge but sweet dogs. We look forward to visiting some time when it is warmer so we can take in the wildlife.

Western Ski Town USA

I really had no idea what we would find as we arrived at Crested Butte. I am happy to report finding the most authentic Western Ski Town I have seen in many years. Crested Butte seems to be growing, albeit slowly, all while managing to keep its small-town feel. It was quite a contrast to our Telluride stop, where the growth seemed a bit much.

There are numerous buildings in town with plaques describing this or that 80 to 160-year-old business. To me, the town felt at ease with itself and quite comfortable to take in.


The town of Mt. Crested Butte is located at the base of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. It has a much newer feel to it and primarily exists to lodge skiers near the hill. Free shuttles can take you between the two towns.

We stayed at Elevation Spa and Hotel in Mt. Crested Butte because it is located very close to the main lifts on the mountain. I would give it a qualified recommendation and we might stay there again in less impacted times. The hotel and room were nice with a decent set of amenities.

My concern came from their complete inability or unwillingness to manage mask-wearing in the public spaces, especially in the workout room and hot tub. The hot tubs were supposed to be limited to 3 people. I was driven out when 4 Floridians decided to join me and two others. The other hot tub already had 8 men in it. The staff acted willfully ignorant, even after I brought up this subject with management.


Befitting the down-home feel and size, there were fewer notable dining choices than in prior stops on our tour. Still, we enjoyed dining at Django’s and Bonez. Come hungry to Ryce Asian Bistro, the portions are large.

The Hill

I read in another review that Crested Butte Resort was worth about three days of skiing. I agree. The hill itself is not very large. There is quite a bit of expert terrain, but only 15 lifts, including some beginner lifts.

The Saturday I skied had lift lines of 10-15 minutes. Not bad, but not great. Unlike any other resort, Crested Butte chose to eliminate a singles lane this year, making it harder to ski as a single. They also put no effort into line or mask management, again unlike any other place I went. Perhaps this part of Colorado was in a time warp. There are some nice views from the hill, making up for the time in line somewhat.

Owing to the size, there were few on-mountain dining choices. I wound up coming back to our room for lunch on a couple of occasions. In normal times, I think the lunch options would improve.


I am happy we chose to stop in Crested Butte. I have wondered about it for 30+ years. In the future, I would return for a few days in winter. I am also curious to find out what the area has to offer in summer.

How does Crested Butte sound to you?

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  1. We’ll, I’m glad you made it to our old stomping grounds, and yes, CB is even more awesome in the summer, especially the high country hikes and mountain biking. Remember us? Don and Ellen- we met you in Playa del Carmen at the IT Hotel. 2020- before COVID. I try to follow your blog, but it’s been awhile. So, just checking in on you guys. We just moved to Portugal, so maybe we’ll cross paths again sometime in the future. take care! Ellen

  2. Ellen, so good to hear from you. We are excited because we are heading to Spain and Portugal next Tuesday. We won’t get to Portugal until the middle of August but you do have to let us know where you are so we can visit and catch up.

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