Freeriding Crested Butte
At least once a week I daydream of Crested Butte. When thinking about Crested Butte, I typically suffer from "grass-is-greener" syndrome where all of my life's challenges are solved by being there. But for good reason.
C.B. is an old mining town turned extreme sports mecca, encircled by snow-capped peaks carpeted with aspen forests and wildflower meadows in summer. Did I mention that it has hardcore snowboarding on Mount Crested Butte and the sweetest twisting, packed dirt singletrack trails radiating from town like spokes on a wheel? In this town where cowboys still ride their horses down the streets, mountain bikes (and fat bikes in the winter) far out number cars.
Crested Butte is where many outdoor enthusiasts (junkies) escape to get their fix and to avoid "growing up" in the traditional sense of societal norms. In the 1960's when CB was nearly abandoned, the hippies resettled the town to escape the war and the oppression of conventional civilization. Even with modern telecommunications and ski condo's blossoming like wildflowers up on the hill, old town CB still feels remote and retains its historic flavor with the old Victorian miner homes lining the streets.
As long as you embrace each day fully and live honestly in the moment (which usually means biking, boarding, hiking, kayaking or skiing), there's no societal pressure to achieve more (as long as you cover your share of the rent or mortgage). Peter Pan would have loved this place - as long as he could deal with the snow from September to May (a particular pitfall for myself) and he doesn't mind a construction job or waiting tables (another pitfall). Except for the older wealthy building second homes on the hill or in CB south, you won't find many trust-fund babies here - they stick to the glam of Aspen or Telluride.
Located north of Gunnison on the slopes of Mount Crested Butte, Crested Butte Mountain Resort has more double-black diamond runs than any other resort in Colorado. This is an extremely boarder-friendly mountain due to its conical shape - each run down seems to spawn and spider into several trails. Unlike many ski areas, though rarely needed, the traverses from back to front are even nicely sloped with minimal hiking required, in any. The Crested Butte ski area has 121 runs spread over 1,587 acres with a life-accessed vertical drop of 3,062 feet.
For starters, take the high-speed Silver Queen Lift from the base area (9,375'), which provides excellent access almost all the way to the summit (12,162'). Try the double blacks Peel or Forest (both require lots of snow to open) or consider taking the High Lift (t-bar) to access the steeps and chutes of the double-black diamond Teocalli Bowl. If the hike out of Teocalli Bowl didn't phase you, then you're ready to go further into Teocalli 2 where you'll really feel way out there, but its still avalanche controlled. If you are really adventurous, try the hike to the summit for a total vertical drop to the base of 3,062'.
On pow days afternoons, after stopping at the Ten Peaks Umbrella Bar atop Gold Link, head back early to the Double Top Glades off the Eagle River Lift. If you are up for a challenge and there's enough snow, catch the North Face Lift (t-bar) to hike over to Phoenix bowl with plenty of glades, chutes and drops. Looking for steeps? Then check out the double-black North Face. If you need a powder fix, look for stashes in the glades in Teocalli Bowl.
At the end of the day, check out apres ski at the Avalanche (skip the generic resort-operated Butte 66). For local nightlife, you’ll want to go down into town. The action really picks up after 10pm. Start off at Kochevars and then over to the Eldo. Finish up at the Talk Of The Town.
To me, Crested Butte is dry, deep-blue sky days and crisp countless stary nights. It’s winters deep powder glades and snowcapped peaks all around. Its summers spectacular green meadows of lupines and alpine sunflowers rolling into verdant forests of aspens and firs. And purple Columbines - soft, graceful, complex, wild, magical. It’s cowboys, mountain bikers, miners and snowboarders. It’s rivers cascading from the dozens of snowy summits encircling you. It’s quiet crisp morning walks around town before the sun climbs over the butte while the mist rises from the rivers with a steaming cup of joe from Camp 4 Coffee. It’s hanging out in Kochevars or the Talk after a long day of adventuring to share stories with old friends and new.
Everyone should know of a special place like Crested Butte where the mere thought evokes a sense of calm, peace and passiveness. Only from within this state of being can we fully realize what's important and strive to find a balance in the forces of our lives. From here, we grow a little more. I've found that its not so much actually being in Crested Butte that important to me, but just knowing that it exists, and daydreaming about it makes me feel a little calmer, balanced and empowered to resolve the daily challenges of life.
Website: Crested Butte Mountain Resort (877) 547-5143
Website: Crested Butte Avalanche Center (970) 349-4022