Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Crested Butte Colorado - Huge snowfall, great skiing and lots of new condos/houses


Recently we had the chance to head down to Crested Butte from Boulder for the long President's Day weekend. The boys get out from school and we make sure to get a little further away from the front range resorts. Sort of a new tradition in our household. En route we stopped in Salida for an evening and skied the next day at Monarch Mountain - see earlier blog post - before driving to Gunnison and onto Crested Butte.

We were easily lured as we had not been back in over a decade and my wife and I would make this an annual visit prior to starting a family. We were way overdue and the snowfall had been reported to be of epic proportions.

The afternoon drive was a picture perfect day with blue skies and easy driving. The huge snowfall has led to massive piles of snow. Some up to second floor stories of buildings and at the tops of all roads signs. Over 320 inches of snow to date by February 17th.

We would be staying at Mountain's Edge 201. A 1970’s built condo, 2 bedroom and cozy with a hot tub. Booked through Peak Property and Real Estate, the condo was very convenient to the lifts. A short couple of minutes walk to the lift and the base area.

We started the first day, and most days, with a couple of high speed cruisers off of the Silver Queen lift down International. The corduroy snow was great for loosening the legs and getting one ready for the great skiing and riding in front of us. From there we took the high lift a t-bar above the head wall into Teocalli bowl. It had been 13 years since we last skied here and I had never been in Teocalli Bowl. The snow was awesome with soft powdery conditions and great steeps, once at the bottom there was a 10 – 15 minute hike out to a ridge that deposited us just above the t bar accessing the North Face. There is now doubt Crested Butte is a unique and special place with incredible amounts of steep and truly extreme terrain. With snowfall like they have had this year, there is hardly a rock to be seen. Once at the top of the T-bar you have your choice to keep heading west to Phoenix or Spellbound bowls. We would choose the North Face bearing right. There are countless lines for you to select from. Just make sure you do not have a cliff band to launch over, unless that is what you are searching.

Once at the bottom of the North Face, or other bowls you have a short hike out. Then it is a cruise, or bumps down to the East River Express chair. When skiing this terrain you then need to take this lift and then the Paradise lift back up to access the t-bar and complete the circuit again. There is an earlier exit to the left where you give up some vertical and can end up at the Paradise lift, thus eliminating the extra chair. However, that being said if you have come to Crested Butte for the steep terrain and real back country feel plan to do some hiking, traversing and ride the extra chairs. The skiing and riding is like no other place in Colorado.

In the afternoon we went and skied the Banana Peel and Funnel. These runs to the extreme upper right of the area are seldom, and in most years not, open. This year with the snow it was the time to ski these runs. We went in and had three young skiers and boarders all of 12, 10 and 9 with us. It was spectacular seeing them work there way into these step and narrow terrains and simply rip and smoothly links turns through the rock outcroppings. the snow was perfect and we only wanted the day to keep going. See photo gallery shots for pictures.

The next couple of the days was more of the same. We had till Monday to devour as much of the great steep terrain and perfect Colorado snow as we could keep our legs consuming. While we did not get any of the storms as they had previously it was terrific to ski and see everything and let the skis fly in the steep, or high speed cruisers. Crested Butte is not all about the steeps for many. The area offers a great mix of bumps, cruisers, with lots of groomed runs everyday and beginner terrain for everyone.

There has been significant development starting at the base of the area - the start of a Village center area - with many new homes and condos along the resort, immediate mountain and surrounding area. It still does not have the overbuilt feel and rush that exists in so many other resort areas that have been built out. Crested Butte still embodies a slower more relaxed pace with new amenities with the promise of more to come. Real estate in Crested Butte is creeping upwards, but the comparative prices to resorts like Vail or Aspen make this place still a bargain. I know management plans to sell more lift tickets as well and I am sure they will, but the access and location will ensure Crested Butte never gets too big and loses the feel and soul it has. The mountain and surrounding peaks beckon and provide that great glow that comes being in a true alpine environment.

Look to save on lift tickets? Make sure to use Mountain Sports Club discounted lift tickets and lodging for members. Crested Butte lift ticket discounts valid on single day and multi day lift tickets.