The Outdoors,  Travel Guides

The Ultimate Ski Trip Itinerary-Best Things to do in Crested Butte, Colorado

These days, we are attracted to more offbeat adventures throughout Colorado. While Breckenridge certainly never disappoints, making the trek from Denver to Crested Butte for a ski weekend proved more than worth it. The 4-5 hour drive Southwest along route 285 from Denver to Crested Butte not only avoids I-70 traffic but is one of the most scenic drives in Colorado. You’ll pass through the collegiate peaks wilderness and take in the sweeping vistas along Monarch Pass atop the continental divide. And don’t worry, skiing and aprés aren’t the only things to do in Crested Butte. Beyond the renowned ski resort, is the picturesque town of Crested Butte. What began as a mining town, has transformed into a vibrant downtown with fine dining and local watering holes. Along the main drag of Elk Avenue, you’ll find antique saloon-like buildings painted all sorts of colors from bright yellow to turquoise and pink that provide a scenic juxtaposition to the winter snow. So, prepare for some expert skiing with unique experiences and take a trip off the beaten path to Crested Butte, Colorado. 


Where to stay in Crested Butte:

Mt. Crested Butte Ski-in Ski-out

Staying at the base of a ski resort is always going to cost a bit more so you’ll have to weigh what’s important to you…convenience or price. It made sense for us to stay at the base with our pup so we could check on him regularly. Check out my guide on planning a ski trip with your dog in Colorado for more info. I also booked our stay 6 months in advance as a birthday gift to my boyfriend, which made it significantly more affordable.

  • The Grand Lodge at Crested Butte:  
    • I booked our stay at the Grand Lodge through Airbnb and spent a bit over $500 on our lodging for 2 nights with endless amenities. I cannot recommend this stay enough as it is the perfect balance between comfort and budget. The Grand Lodge truly feels grand from the moment you enter the lobby with luxurious stone fireplaces burning, complimented by rustic mountain decor, and friendly 24/7 staff. My favorite part of The Grand Lodge was most definitely the location and convenience. Not only is it within walking distance to the lifts, but its roundabout is a stop along the free shuttle into town, so you don’t have to fret about driving and parking for your dinner plans. Other amenities include dog-friendly rooms, on-site breakfast, free parking, and a “ski check” service so you don’t have to carry your skis all over the resort. Save 20% on your booking with an Epic Pass!
  • The Plaza Condominiums are another more budget-friendly base option and are recommended for larger groups and travelers with kids! 
  • Luxury ski-in/ski-out options include The Lodge at Mountaineer Square, Elevation Hotel and Spa, and Westwall Lodge.  

Other Mt. Crested Butte Stays

  • Just like any other ski town, Crested Butte has a whole lot of condos that are up for grabs on Airbnb and VRBO. Mt. Crested Butte is not enormous and offers convenient shuttle services that get you to the base with minimal hassle. 
  • Nordic Inn is a great bang for your buck with a history as the oldest running lodge in Gunnison county. Not to mention, it offers many of the same amenities as luxury stays like hot tubs, dog-friendly rooms, free parking, free shuttles, and continental breakfast. 

The Town of Crested Butte

I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but the free shuttle service makes staying in the town of Crested Butte an accessible option for skiers. Stay in town if you’re looking for more unique and historical stays.

Winter Things to do in Crested Butte:

Ski

Crested Butte is known for some of the best “lift-accessible” extreme ski terrain in the nation. For those like me who prefer a nice, wide-open blue, don’t worry there is plenty of incredible leisurely runs as well. Truly the best skiing I’ve done this year. 

  • Lift Tickets: Crested Butte Mountain Resort is part of the Epic Pass, so if you’re planning a ski trip here then I recommend purchasing the pass that’s right for you. You can learn more about the benefits of purchasing through Epic in my guide to the ski season in Colorado. If you missed out on the Epic Pass, I recommend buying lift tickets as early as possible for the cheapest prices. 
  • Transportation & Parking:
    • The Mountain Express is the free shuttle that runs through the town of Crested Butte and up to the resort. There are 2 stops in town at the Old Town Hall and the 4-way stop. You’ll get dropped off just steps from the base. 
    • If you plan to drive to the base, you can pay $15 to park in the main lot which is walkable to lifts. The lot opens at 7 am. I recommend arriving as early as you can to snag a spot on weekends. 
    • Not stoked about driving from Denver to Crested Butte? Take the new Bustang route which will drop you in town at the 4-way stop. You can then take The Mountain Express up to the resort.  

Other Outdoor things to do in Crested Butte

Head to the Crested Butte Nordic Center to rent cross-country skis,  snowshoes, or fat bikes. You’ll have to purchase a pass to explore the nordic center’s freshly groomed trails with your rental equipment. Dogs are welcome for a fee! Directly next to the nordic center is the Big Mine Ice Arena where they host public ice skating. If you don’t have skates, you can rent some from the nordic center then head next door. Open skate varies, so check out the schedule!

Spas

There are other things to do in Crested Butte beyond extreme skiing. For example, get some rest and relaxation at one of their many spas. Elevation Spa is a full-service spa located in the Elevation hotel right at the base of the mountain. You can also head into town for a variety of spa services at Creekside Spa, Escape Bodywork Boutique, Native Nectar Botanicals, and Infinity Bodywork.  

Shopping

There are plenty of things to do in Crested Butte along Elk Avenue including browsing retail. Our favorite stop was the boutique pet store Mountain Tails. We brought our pup in to pick his favorite treat for the ride home. You could spend an entire day on Elk Avenue perusing local shops, from clothing and home goods to art galleries and dispensaries, only stopping to grab lunch between your purchases. 

Where to Dine and Drink

There are several places to dine at the resort, but our recommendations are for heading into the town of Crested Butte. Unfortunately, between the dog and skiing, we didn’t eat out as much as we hoped. So, I encourage you to explore recommended casual dining and fine dining options in Crested Butte as well. 

Ryce Asian Bistro

Ryce doubles as not only an excellent choice for takeout but an impressive dine-in spot. The modern and aesthetic dining room is tucked away in one of the small & charming buildings that line Elk Avenue. We ordered Ryce for take-out on our way in after a long and snowy drive. The pad thai, crab wontons, and basil chicken were delicious enough to turn our tired and sour attitudes around for the evening. Highly Recommend! 

The Dogwood

The Dogwood was hands down our favorite dining experience in Crested Butte. Their specialty is fine cocktails with lite food pairings and sweets. Just a block or so off of the main drag sits an old miner’s cabin transformed into The Dogwood. Its small and rustic appearance juxtaposed with the elevated food and drink inside provides you with the feeling of exclusivity. The actual definition of a hidden gem. Except not so much, The Dogwood is popular enough that the hostess had to turn people away at the door. They were totally booked for the evening…somehow we snuck in. And I am so glad we did. I ordered an incredible seasonal special that tasted like a milkshake. My boyfriend went in the opposite direction with a tropical-tasting Poco Loco. 

Talk of the Town

If you’re looking for something less fancy, check out a local favorite dive Talk of the Town. You know, so much of a dive that their “website” is a Facebook page. The perfect place for aprés or a nightcap if you ask me. Sip cheap drinks, play pool, choose your favorite jam on the jukebox, and relax. They serve pizza if you’re feeling hungry! 

I hope I’ve convinced you that Crested Butte is a must-visit ski destination in Colorado. Despite the longer drive time from Denver to Crested Butte, it provides exceptional skiing, reasonable lodging prices, and incredible dining experiences. You can feel the love that locals have for their home in Crested Butte and I think that seeps into the immaculate presentation of their town to visitors. With all of the convenient amenities not to mention the endless friendly staff we encountered, stress and logistics were off the table. It felt like a luxury vacation without the luxury prices. So, happy skiing, I wish you nothing but fresh powder and an unforgettable vacation. 

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