Crested Butte Mountain Resort: The Makings of an Unprecedented Family Vacation
posted by: Amber Johnson
My family had an unprecedented vacation to Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR).
It wasn’t just attributed to the eight inches of fresh powder without a lift line in sight or the glistening Elk Mountains (the frozen equivalent of Shangri-La). But rather, because I skied my first double-black diamond run (Rachels)…and later managed to fall getting off the chairlift as I avoided a wayward ski-schooler.
Par for the course in a funky mountain hamlet where you should expect the unexpected.
Hands down, Crested Butte is my favorite Colorado mountain town (read my summer exploits) and I was positively giddy to ski Crested Butte Mountain Resort for the first time.
My family awoke to snow flurries but by the time Hadley and Bode headed to Camp CB in the Whetstone Building, it was a bluebird day with fresh powder. The children’s center’s location requires a bit of a hike in snow boots but was characteristically uncrowded (great news as it pertains to teacher-to-student ratios) and we met Bubba and Betty, the resort’s friendly mascots.
Four-year-old Bode was enrolled in the Explorers Level II program. There are two magic carpet areas (Aspen and Pine) and he spent his day on the more advanced of the two mastering his pizzas and stops. Hadley bonded with her teacher “Sparkles” and was thrilled to graduate to a Level 5 skier under her guidance.
At the end of the day, I took Haddie for a run down the Red Lady lift. She impressed me with her parallel-turning moxie so I decided to return the favor.
“Do you want to watch Mommy ski deep powder?” I pointed to an untracked snowfield.
“No. I want to ski powder, too!” And much to my shock, she fearlessly glided through the stash. I didn’t ski deep powder until I was 25.
Next time, I’m hitting Camp CB.
Kids Ski & Ride School starts at $145 for a lesson and lunch (go here for pricing). Lessons take place between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Mom and Dad at Play
While the kids were in ski school, my husband and I skied in a state of bemused joy. With 16 lifts, 1,167 acres and 121 trails, CBMR had enough terrain (and powder) to keep us entertained for our two days on the mountain without overwhelming us.
The mountain’s terrain is comprised of 23% beginner, 57% intermediate and 20% advanced. My favorite runs were off the Paradise lift where it was not uncommon to find half a trail groomed with the other half covered in moguls, perfect for non-committal types like me who like to go back and forth.
That’s a nice way of saying I get lazy.
For $1/run, skiers or riders can do a timed run down the NASTAR track. My ultra-competitive husband and I wound around the two cross-hill gates like the pros. The smack-talking began as we posed to commemorate the moment prior to the race. The person taking the picture observed:
“Amber, you’re in Jamie’s shadow.”
“She’s used to it,” he smartly replied.
Not for long: Victory was mine that day (I’m on the left).
On-mountain upscale dining
Crested Butte Mountain Resort has two on-mountain dining options: Paradise Warming House, which has typical cafeteria fare including sandwiches, super salads and a selection of daily homemade soups and chili.
Not-so typical is CBMR’s most recent addition: Uley’s Cabin. Named after famed local bootlegger Uley Scheer, this cabin nested at the base of the Twister Lift is rustic on the outside and gourmet on the inside with elegant lunches and sleighride dinners in the evening. There is also a sun-soaked outdoor patio or you can cozy up to the Ice Bar made of (you guessed it) ice.
Hands down, Uley’s Cabin was the best on-mountain lunch I’ve ever had with offerings like pan-roasted chicken breast with black truffle puree, lobster risotto cake or the apple-wood smoked beef tenderloin (entrees start around $19 and soups at $8. If you bring the kids, be sure to get their delicious made-to-order chicken fingers).
But my very favorite thing on the menu was the Forest Mushroom Bisque. As I savored it to the lost spoonful, I contemplated, “What’s the difference between soup and bisque?”
Jamie joked: “About $7.”
At Uley’s, it’s worth it.
For lunch reservations call 970.349.2275. For Sleighride Dinner reservations call 970.349.4554.
Let’s face it: Not everyone wants to hit the slopes. The Trailhead Children’s Discovery Museum at CBMR’s base is a fantastic indoor alternative. Features include a Dig Pit, Dark Room, Light Table, Play Set, Music Table, Wedgits and Magnet Table. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and cost is $6 per person (children under age 1 are free).
Another great option is The Adventure Park, also located in the base area. After a full day of skiing, I was unsure if my kids would have enough energy to tackle ice-skating, bungee trampolines, climbing wall and lift-served tubing. I was wrong.
The Adventure Park is open daily from 2-5 p.m. and the skating rink’s hours are from 2-6 p.m.
Climbing wall and Bungee Jump are weather dependent. Activities may be purchased a la carte or pay $30 for all four features ($25 if you already have a lift ticket).
Hands down, my favorite ski-in, ski-out property is the Lodge at Mountaineer Squarefor their beautifully-appointed rooms, views and heated pool. The Grand Lodge is another great slope-side option for families.
If you’re looking for affordability, the Crested Butte International Lodge & Hostel is very family-friendly with a family room and apartments that sleep up to six people. The Old Town Inn is Crested Butte’s largest property (33 rooms) that includes breakfast. Pioneer Guest Cabins are located 10 miles from town on Gunnison National Forest land with great Nordic skiing nearby.
You will love Crested Butte’s Parent’s Ski Free package (because all ripping parents in the world need a bit of love). Details: Purchase a multi-day child or young adult lift ticket and receive a free single day adult lift ticket (through February 17).
The Bad: Crested Butte is a bit of a haul and took my family a little over four hours to drive from Denver. Take interstate 70 west, exit to highway 470 west, highway 285 south to Fairplay then Poncha Springs, highway 50 west to Gunnison, then highway 135 north into Crested Butte.
The Good: Crested Butte’s remote location is one very major reason this mountain hamlet is so charming. Take time to explore. This quirky, multi-hued town is a National Historic District, played host to outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and has a two-story outhouse.
It doesn’t get any cooler than that.
Disclosure: Mile High Mamas is deeply committed to providing you with honest and accurate reviews even though some services may have been discounted or comped. Our reviews are only what we would tell our best friends and we welcome any dissenting feedback.