3 Days in Crested Butte (Winter)

Winter in Crested Butte is just as beautiful as the summer, when the abundant wildflowers bloom and earn Crested Butte the honor of Wildflower Capital of Colorado.

Nestled in the mountains of southern Colorado, the small town of Crested Butte is perfect for those looking for a day or weekend away. A short four hours out of Denver, Crested Butte has the ability to make you feel much farther away than you actually are. And while Crested Butte has the luxury of being a stone's throw from Crested Butte Resort, it has a lot to offer those who don't ski. 

Crested Butte from a distance.

When is the best time of year to visit?

Crested Butte has the good fortune of being an ideal place to visit at any time of year. In winter visitors can play in the snow on the ski hill, while in summer visitors can wander amongst the wildflowers. Fall boasts a spectacular display of colorful leaves and in spring the crowds disperse and the prices lower, giving visitors peace and quiet at an affordable price. This itinerary is for Crested Butte in the winter, however whatever time of year you decide to visit, you won't be disappointed.

Where to stay?

Budget:

Crested Butte Lodge and Hostel ($30-100) was deemed by National Geographic Traveler a "hostel for grown-ups…affordable and newly chic." The hostel offers dorm-style accommodations as well as two private rooms (one with a shared bath, one ensuite) and one two-bedroom apartment. The facilities have a shared living room and kitchen and the building is attached to a laundromat. In Crested Butte to ski? A free bus will bring you right into town or onto the slopes. Alternatively enjoy the atmosphere and take a short walk into town or to the Center for the Arts. Saving money has never been more convenient.

Cristiana Guesthaus ($125-150) has all the charm of a European lodge. They offer queen, king, and double/queen rooms that are comfortable and warm after a long day skiing. The lodge is located one block north of Elk Avenue, the main food and shopping street in town, and a one minute walk from the bus stop that offers free rides to Mt. Crested Butte or the Nordic Center. The best part? They provide bed and breakfast, as well as cookies at the end of the day. Cozy up next to their picturesque fire with a book and enjoy the far away mountain feeling.

Splurge:

Mountaineer Square ($110-500) is located steps from the ski hill. The full service hotel has a heated pool, hot tub, and sauna, as well as on site dining. Accommodations range from king rooms to three-bedroom suites. Cozy up next to the fire on a cold winter's night, or enjoy live music and family entertainment. 

The View of Crested Butte from a Mount Crested Butte Ski lift.

What to do?

Ski

Mount Crested Butte has an incredible 1,547 acres of terrain at up to 12,162 feet in elevation. Fifteen lifts lead to a variety of terrain, including beginner, intermediate, and expert (some of which must be hiked to). Lift tickets are available for purchase online (for a discount, at least three days in advance) or from the Adventure Center at Mountaineer Square. Day passes range from $71-120, with a partnership with the Epic Pass as of 2018.

Snowshoe or Cross Country Ski

The Crested Butte area has plenty of trails, both groomed and ungroomed. If you are looking for adventure on free trails with your own equipment, try Teddy's Winter Trail, Upper Upper, or Brush Creek Trail. Note that the Snodgrass trail closes seasonally, but Teddy's Winter Trail (same trailhead) is groomed and open in the winter.

At the Crested Butte Nordic Center you can rent snowshoes or classic/skate ski, boots, and poles for $20 per day. Tours operate 7 days per week in the high season and start at $90 for a half day and $60 for each additional person. They also offer Nordic ski lessons, both private and group. The group lessons operate every day at 9 am, 10:30 am, 12 pm, and 1:30 pm. Prices may vary.

Explore the Town

Elk Avenue.

The hub of the town of Crested Butte is historical main street Elk Avenue. Many of the buildings are over a hundred years old, giving an old-world charm to your afternoon stroll. Pop into some of the quirky shops, including an apothecary called Rooted and a gourmet pet shop called Mountain Tails. For more on the history of the town, stop into the Heritage Museum. Located in what used to be a blacksmith shop in 1883, which later turned into a hardware store and gas station called "Tony's", the museum holds a series of evolving exhibits and events featuring the town. At the shop, you can buy a brochure with a walking tour of Crested Butte and its historical buildings for $1. 

Grab a Cup

What would any vacation be without coffee? Crested Butte is home to its own coffee roaster called First Ascent, located on Elk street. They roast their coffee in house and make their own organic syrups and nut milks, priding themselves on knowing exactly what is in their coffee. For a cup of espresso to-go visit the quirky Camp 4 Coffee, known for delicious coffee roasted by hand in small batches. If you are in the market for incredible pastries alongside your espresso visit The Guild, who work with Mountain Oven Organic Bakery and feature a specialty "steampunk coffee" and "honey cayenne latte." Or, lastly, if you are more of a tea person, try Rumors. If you love chai or loose leaf tea, this place is for you, though they also serve coffee and espresso drinks, which makes everybody happy.

Night Life

For active night life try The Eldo: brewery, restaurant, and pub. They offer happy hour specials, as well as live music, dancing, pool tables, foosball tables, darts, and more. It's a favorite of the locals. If live music is what you are looking for, try the Public House. The Public House boasts to "celebrate local Colorado craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries, seasonally relevant and farm-driven food, generous lodging, and the conviviality of live music." The pub frequently hosts live music concerts and events. Additionally, The Crested Butte Center for the Arts holds a regular calendar of events, including concerts and festivals, canvas and cocktails, culinary classes, and more. 

Where to Eat?

Perhaps the most important question of them all is "where to eat?" and Crested Butte is not short of options. For cheap eats try the highly-rated Teocalli Tamale, offering tamales, burritos, and tacos at affordable prices. Or perhaps you crave a higher-scale Mexican food, in which case try Bonez. Bonez features delicious margaritas with natural sweeteners (making them not so sweet as other restaurants) and homemade Mexican dishes, chips, and salsa. Owned by the same people, The Secret Stash offers creative pizza options in a quirky setting. Try their "Mac Daddy" or "Buddha's Belly" pizza for something a little different. Every day they feature excellent single slice options, as well--great for on a budget. Pitas in Paradise is another budget option, offering Mediterranean fusion like the "Reuben Pita." Sherpa Cafè offers nepalese and Indian dishes that will warm you after a long, cold day. Try their sherpa stew and date na’an bread for something hearty and filling. And finally, while this list is by no means exhaustive, for those looking for a fine-dining experience try Soupçon, a french-American bistro. Located in a charming mining cabin, one feature is the carefully crafted ambiance. That and the food, like the crispy duck confit and twice-baked potatoes with date coulis, port gastrique, haricots verts almandine, and apricot demi glace. Bon apetit! 

Crested Butte's Trails boast incredible views.

3-Day Itinerary 

Day 1: Arrive and Explore

  • Check-in and get settled at your lodgings. Orient yourself with a map of the town and ski resort.

  • Take a leisurely stroll down Elk Avenue. Pop into the museum or into a few of the shops, taking your time to breathe in the mountain air and feel the distance between you and your life back home.

  • Eat dinner at one of the place we suggested above, or somewhere that appealed to you on your earlier stroll.

Day 2: Ski and Relax

  • After sleeping to a reasonable hour, wake up and hit the slopes. Take a lesson if you want to brush up on your skills, or venture out on your own with your loved one.

  • Once you have completed a long day of skiing, you are likely to be tired. Take a dip in your hotel's hot tub or take a nice hot shower. Once you get cleaned up (and maybe stretch a bit!), you will be ready to again hit the town.

  • Eat a hearty dinner to recuperate after a tiring day.

  • See a show or listen to live music. Enjoy the local night life.

Day 3: Play and Depart

  • Check-out of your lodgings and store your luggage at the hotel or in your car.

  • Your last day, you might want to get another day in on the slopes. Or, maybe you want to try snowshoeing or nordic skiing. Whatever the case, get in as much fun as you can before you have to depart.

  • Eat a final lunch before you head back to where you came from, taking in the last breath-taking sites of the Butte.

Feel free to comment or contact me with questions or comments. Enjoy your trip!

This post was last updated 04/30/2019.


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