If you have the guts, Crested Butte’s Extreme Limits terrain delivers the glory.
Welcome to the mountain where the conditions are right, terrain is challenging, and the stoke factor is high. Learn more about the trails that make Crested Butte the birthplace of inbounds extreme terrain and why our 2,700+ feet of vertical is not for the faint of heart, but for the strong in spirit. We tapped CB Mountain Sports Team head freeride coach William Dujardin for tips on how to best ski these five local legends.
Disclaimers: These are the steepest runs marked on the official mountain map. Technically, there are steeper lines on the mountain, but these five are the top official resort-recommended routes.
Give these high-consequence lines the respect they deserve. Do not attempt to ski these runs if you cannot execute a jump turn, straight-line when needed or if you’re uncomfortable with mandatory airs and blind cliffs.
Loaded with plenty of trees, cliffs and rocks, Staircase is a commonly used venue for Crested Butte’s famous freeride competitions. Find this technical entrance skier’s left of Phoenix Bowl and get there via Spellbound or Million Dollar Highway. Be on your game. If you get stuck in a funny spot you’ll need to be able to jump turn, Dujardin says. When you get into the main gut, there are some pillows that look like stairs, transitioning into a fun mogul field at the bottom. Skier’s right of Staircase offers a less technical run called Dead Bob’s. Pick your way down and catch air on any footers that call to you.
2. Phoenix Chutes
Access Phoenix Bowl from Spellbound going right or Million Dollar Highway and traversing all the way out. The steep gnarly stuff is on skier’s left, Dujardin says. To ski chutes, stay on the traverse and eventually you’ll hit the gate and drop in. It starts out mellow with rolling pillows and then the chutes split. Tree chute on the left, rock chute on the right. These speedy gems hold snow really well, so dig in and enjoy the flow.
Crested Butte is full of extremes to hang your bragging rights on and Rambo is the iconic steep, fast and bumpy unicorn. Rated the steepest lift-serviced tree-cut run in the U.S., Rambo gets a lot of hype with its continuous fall line and sheer drop. Ski Powder Rock Glade or Hawks Nest to a cat track to get there. Dujardin recommends side stepping the first 15 boney feet if you’re not comfortable with hopping around prominent rocks. After the initial drop, follow the natural moguls and look for the flow of the trees. The right side tends to be a little easier, left is steeper.
A Crested Butte classic, this playful zone is a locals’ freeride favorite littered with nicknamed features like Box Rock and Rabbit Ears. Hit Headwall from High Lift and take the easier entrance via Halfpipe Gully and then traverse into the main bowl. Perched high on the mountain where loads of soft snow blows in, powder stashes temp from all directions. Ski Headwall Glades on skier’s left for steep trees and chutes or head to the lesser-traveled skier’s right. Be prepared for a steep rollover where you can’t see what you’re about to ski and be ready to rip—these lines are fast and unforgiving. Read: No-fall zones abound.
Banana and Funnel are exactly what they sound like—narrow, long leg-burners. Pole planting and jumping moguls is key in these sister chutes. The entrance to Funnel can get a little spicy and technical with rocks and jump turns, Dujardin says, but once you’re in the chutes they’re beautiful and you’re looking straight down over town. Hit these chutes in the afternoon when the sun is shining and softens them up and poke around in the trees, savoring the 2,200 vertical feet.
Dujardin’s Top Tips for Tackling the Steeps
- Be ready for rocks, cliffs, ridges, hidden obstacles.
- Know how to self-arrest if you fall. Knowing how to fall is important in steep, gnarly zones like these.
- Crested Butte is really rocky; even on a good snow year, they never go away.
- Be comfortable with variable terrain. Snow that can go from very deep to wind-packed in seconds.
- Be ok with filling in core shots in your skis at the end of the day.
- Don’t forget your fundamentals—stay in the front of your boot, be dynamic in turns and use strong pole planting.
- Be aware of your surroundings and don’t go somewhere until you’ve seen it from the bottom.
- A steeps lesson or guided tour is a good idea.