By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
To Antram, the best hairy rides are found on the following: Slot Rock, Sock It to Me, Dead End Chutes and, a name favorite, Body Bag Glades. "You can just drop off into the cliffs on those," she says. For more air, she finds the Paradise cruisers and jumps off the 'Cat tracks there. "There are a lot of 'Cat tracks near Twister Lift, too," she adds. "Good bumps, and it's on the front side of the mountain, so it stays open during a blizzard."
Antram, an extreme snowboarder, rarely lets a little snow stop her. "To get really radical in some serious trees, I'd go to Head Wall," she says. "Take the T-Bar Extreme Lift that goes almost all the way to the top of the peak, and get off mid-way. There are some big chutes there--the Figure 11 chutes that got their name because they're straight and parallel to each other." Then there's Big Chute, which is more open. "I'd call it tree skiing," Antram says. "It's not quite like a trail." To get information on the little-known extreme areas of Crested Butte, Antram relies on a booklet called the Extreme Limits Ski Guide. "You can get it at ski shops here," she says. "It has photos and names of chutes, stuff that isn't on the resort trail map. Some locals did it way back when." For more tame rides, Antram names Keystone, both the run of that name and the area of the Keystone Lift, where she says things are more intermediate to expert. "They usually keep upper Keystone groomed," she says. "And intermediates will like the trail under Paradise called Canaan. It's a cruiser where you can get big air if you go fast enough." And beginning 'boarders should head to Teocalli, she says, for an introduction into what Crested Butte has to offer.
For an introduction into the dining scene in the town of Crested Butte, Antram delivers this caveat: "I'm a vegetarian," she says. "So I'm going to give you a totally different view." In her mind, the best that the area has to offer is the Backcountry Gourmet (435 Sixth). "There's a beautiful bar, and the food is kind of pricey but really good," she says. "You can go in with a couple of friends and share two or three apps and a salad, and you'll be fine." She adds that the Backcountry serves an international menu heavy on curries and pastas. She says hungry 'boarders looking for cheap Mexican usually go to Donita's (332 Elk Avenue), which she says is "okay, but greasy," adding that "better margaritas can be had at the Power House (130 Elk Avenue), a cool hangout that used to be a generator building." And, she notes, the Idle Spur (226 Elk Avenue) "sometimes has good bands."
In the early hours, Antram says the cheapest breakfast comes from the Bakery Cafe (302 Elk Avenue). "They do an excellent onion cheese roll," she says. Her other morning pick: the Paradise Cafe (307 Elk Avenue). "I only go there when I'm really hungry," she adds. "And you have to get there early, because it gets packed. It's great for carbo-loading, though--the Paradise skillet is the thing to order, with potatoes and mushrooms and cheese, and you can get salsa on it, too, and eggs if you want 'em.
"But really, I mostly hit the grocery store for cheap food. Listen, Gunnison is only thirty minutes away," she says. "There you can find your Wal-Mart and way cheaper groceries than you're ever going to find in Crested Butte."
General information: 1-800-544-8448
Snow report: 1-970-349-2323
Location: 230 miles southwest of Denver via U.S. Hwy. 285, U.S. Hwy. 50 and Colo. Hwy. 135.
Opening and closing dates: November 27 to April 20.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 24% beginner, 57% intermediate, 19% advanced. 2,775' vertical drop. Base: 9,100'; top: 11,875'; longest run: 2.6 miles. Additional 550 ungroomed acres for experts.
Lifts: 2 high-speed quads, 3 triple chairs, 4 double chairs, 4 surface lifts.
Lift rates: Adult full-day $44, half-day $32; senior (65-69) half off at-window price; children 12 and under pay their age per day.
Lessons: Group lessons: 2 hours $35.
Private lessons: 90 minutes $80. Snowboard lessons: $35.
Rentals: Adult recreational $13; child $9. Snowboard package $21. Call 1-970-349-2241 for more information.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Snowboarding terrain park. Lessons and rentals available.
Cross-country: Crested Butte Nordic Center has 20 km of groomed trails. Call 1-970-349-1707 for information.
Special events: Snow skating, racing clinics, North Face guided tours and mountain tours; free lift tickets, Nov. 27-Dec. 21; Christmas Celebration, Dec. 24; New Year's Eve Celebration, Dec. 31; 3rd Annual U.S. Extreme Snowboarding Championships; 6th Annual U.S. Extreme Skiing Championships.
Cuchara Ski Valley
Laurie McIlvaine loves being one in a thousand. That's the estimated population of La Veta, the tiny town near Cuchara Ski Valley that captured McIlvaine's heart in 1989. "I went to college in Albuquerque," says McIlvaine, who started skiing in Taos twenty years ago at the age of eighteen. "And since my dad's a pilot, I've been everywhere. But I came here one summer to visit and just fell in love with the small-town atmosphere.
"It's a bonus to me that there's a mountain just down the road," she adds.
She fell in love with the mountain, too, though, and became an EMT and a patroller after years of working as a waitress and restaurateur didn't make it easy enough for her to ski as much as she wanted to. But those jobs were nothing compared to teaching. "I couldn't believe how little money I made doing that," she says. "It was so stressful, and you spend all your free time grading papers."