We’re an offbeat bunch in a mountain town off the beaten path. Read more about our favorite ways to dive into Crested Butte’s wild side.
Quite possibly the most hardcore postman of all time, Al Johnson trudged through treacherous winter canyons to deliver Gunnison Valley mail in the late 1800s. Deep snow, high elevations and incredibly heavy mail sacks didn’t stop Johnson from strapping on huge planks for skis and schussing from mining town to mining town.
Occasionally, Johnson and fellow high country legends would meet and race for cash prizes, pioneering the nation’s first professional skiing circuit. Today, the Al Johnson Memorial Uphill/Downhill Telemark Ski Race—dubbed simply The AJ by locals—is a time honored event as diehard as its namesake. Grab your costume (extra points for the wacky and homemade) and join the hundreds of skiers in the extreme terrain of Mt. Crested Butte. Climb, plummet and free-heel your way down extreme terrain to the finish line and the riotous town party.
Even the transportation transcends convention in Crested Butte. Local artists are selected to hand paint the latest additions to the funky fleet of town shuttles, making for a unique and colorful way to get around and showcasing our town’s open-minded love of creativity. Look for dozens of Mountain Express buses spinning around town displaying works that include the cow bus, the Aspen tree bus, the lizard bus, the flower bus and the beloved Elk Avenue bus.
Hiking and skiing down the Peak is a rite of passage around here. Not for the faint of heart or those who flinch at heights, Crested Butte’s famous pinnacle tops out just above 12,000 feet and delivers an exhilarating 2.6-mile run. This one is sure to get your pulse racing and the view from the top reveals miles upon miles of glorious public land. To get there, ride the Silver Queen lift to the High Lift T-Bar, pass through the ropes and head skier’s right toward the Peak. Enjoy the 20-minute nerve-tingling hike to the top, gulp in panoramic views and then drop into steep open terrain for the bragging rights ride of your life.
Long before claiming ski town status, Crested Butte’s fame hung on lucrative silver and coal mines. Thousands of men flocked to the valley, setting up coal camps and shaping our town’s buzzing main vein known as Elk Avenue. Stroll the vibrant historic district and see why we’re known as the town “at the end of the road.” Bright buildings are filled with colorful people ready to strike up a chat about their favorite tree runs and après hideaways, how they fell in love with the tucked away-ness and landed here as lifers. Stop into the rainbow of Victorian-era shops, galleries, restaurants and bars and immerse yourself in our quirky small town vibe. Elk Avenue is where we throw parties and parades, finding any excuse to bike and wear costumes. It’s where we celebrate the good life and genuine mountain living.
Score first dibs on fresh pow before the lifts open to the public with the mountain’s First Tracks program. Meet your instructor between the Red Lady and Silver Queen chairlifts at 8 a.m. and take advantage of a full hour to ski untouched powder and groomed runs before anyone else. Your guide will lead you right to the mountain’s hidden gems. First Tracks is offered Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, December 20, 2019–March 29, 2020 and costs $75 per person. One instructor is provided for every six guests.