On Day two of my "Follow the snow tour," I traveled to Crested Butte. This was the second time I skied at the Butte, and the same feeling struck me: The Butte is a skier's mountain. Other places may try to claim it, but the Butte is the real deal. The town likes to claim the title "the last great ski town," and there's good reason for it. The Butte doesn't have the glitz and glam of places like Vail and Aspen; instead, it offers some of the best ski terrain on the planet.
As Ted Alvarez wrote,
is the mountain town you want to marry. The home prices are affordable, and more important, the residents are there to live the mountain lifestyle. The Butte isn't about rich billionaires buying second homes and posing as outdoor adventurers; it's for people who want to commit to living differently.
I met up with Kirsten Texler, the Butte's communications manager, early in the morning, and she took me on a tour of the some of the mountain's lesser known areas, including Uley's Cabin, named after Uley Scheer, an old bootlegger and mountain man. Crested Butte hosts sleigh ride dinners and concerts at the Cabin.
One nice thing about the Butte is that skiing at places like East River offers smooth groomers for beginners and more technical challenges off in the trees for experts. The Butte may have a reputation as being an expert's mountain, but there's plenty of intermediate and beginner terrain as well.
If you are an advanced skier, you need to go to the Butte. The mountain offers a lift-servivced vertical of 2,775 feet and some of the most sustained vertical in Colorado. After skiing a few runs with Kirsten and getting the low down on some of the history, as well as the potential expansion at Snodgrass across the valley, my friend Kathy and I headed up to the goods.
First up on the agenda was Teocalli Bowl, which is accessed off the High Lift T-bar. Teocalli offers nice steeps and excellent snow, and since getting back to it involves skiing all the way to the base and taking the Silver Queen lift again, the bowl doesn't get skied out, even days after a storm.
After that, we headed over to North Peak. North Peak is what really sets the Butte apart from other areas. We did the 15-minute hike over to the Spellbound Bowl drop in, and 2000 feet (more or less) later, we'd skied to the base of Phoenix Bowl and followed the hike out.
It's not so much the steeps,. although the Butte has plenty, but the isolation of the runs, and the sustained vertical, that separates Crested Butte from other pretenders. Standing at the base of Phoenix Bowl and looking at the start of Spellbound Bowl, the vertical really hits you. It's sustained steep skiing for about 2000 feet, something no other resort in Colorado can claim.
The Butte is having a good, but not great, snow year so far this season. Most of the mountain is open, and they hope to have skiing from the summit at Mt. Crested Butte open after the next storm.
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Next month, Crested Butte will host the Extreme Telemark Freeskiing Championships, which I will be covering. In the meantime, enjoy these pics of the incredibly varied terrain the Butte offers.