Pronounced “beaut” this resort is a real one – no pretensions, no aspirations to Aspen, in fact it plays up to its anti-glitzy, “downhome” image. This is where you grab an early lift, savor the untracked powder, and go big. Which is why the North Face of the mountain has hosted many Championships.
Whatever their Colorado allegiances, skiers in the know regard Crested Butte as unique. In a state with some of the world's best powder and several very high-profile resorts, the Butte claims to be more real on every level, from its old mining village center to its gnarly mountain terrain. The result is a mountain community first, ski resort second. Local skiers certainly reflect this-the town has more than its fair share of telemarkers and backcountry skiers who revel in an average of nearly 298 inches (745 cm) of snow each season. The closest they come to chic is during the annual Crested Butte-to-Aspen overnight ski race across the mountains, which must rate as much culture shock as mountain marathon for the participants, who arrive at dawn into the glitz of Aspen. The connection between the two resorts is as tenuous as this crazy trek implies-it might be just a few miles as the crow flies, but it's hours by the most direct winter road link and even further in spirit.
For Europeans and many Americans, that's the appeal: Wild West of the genuine variety. It's also far enough from Denver and the Interstate that crowds are almost unknown. The one lift that regularly has a line is the North Face poma, where you might have to wait long enough to read the instructions on how to ride it. Only when you try to put them into words do the actions seem complicated, yet this style of lift is such a rare challenge in the U.S. that if you make it to the top first time you're considered good enough for the expert terrain that it accesses: the ungroomed bowls and steeps interspersed with bands of rock that are home to the U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Championships each year.