By Kim Fuller Published in the Summit Daily News
This state’s mountain towns all share recreation-inspired lifestyles, accompanied by their own beauty and unique culture. They are not all cut from the same cloth, however.
“Crested Butte was founded on coal mining, Telluride was founded on silver and Aspen was founded on gold,” said Megan Collins, marketing communications manager for Crested Butte Mountain Resort, “and as you go through each town, you can kind of see how they have stuck with their roots.”
Visit Crested Butte and you’ll see all the wood buildings (in Aspen there’s mostly brick, and in Telluride, a combination of wood and brick). At Camp 4 Coffee off of Crested Butte’s main street, Elk Avenue, the outside walls are covered with license plates — a way to keep in the heat during the winter season.
“Because the coal miners were so poor, they used license plates to cover the holes in their houses,” Collins said.
The deep history of the town is still apparent today, and the down-to-earth community was no doubt excavated from the area’s modest roots.
“We’re at the end of the road,” Collins said. “You have to try a little harder to get here, but we think it’s worth it.”
The Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum is one of the first steps back in time you can take in the town. The building on Elk Avenue was originally a hardware shop with a blacksmith in the back, and there’s still nostalgic remnants of the building’s more recent time as a Conoco gas station.
“I love it when people walk in and say they feel like they are walking into history,” said Shelley Popke, the museum’s executive director.
The front portion of the museum is a store, and the rear, a $4 journey back in time. Photos, instillations and memorabilia detailing the days of coal mining, the birth of mountain biking and the culture of skiing in Crested Butte are interwoven into a chronological narrative.
Rows of historic houses in the town make the international destination a cozy place to stay. Check into the Elk Mountain Lodge on Gothic Avenue for a bed and breakfast option, located only one block from downtown shops and restaurants. The building was put up in 1919 as a miner’s hotel, so there are plenty of room styles to choose from. Dogs are allowed too, but in the downstairs rooms only. Queen rooms and doubles start at $119 per night; kings from $149 per night.
Be sure to try breakfast out in town at least once, because The Guild Cafe can’t be missed. It’s open until 3 p.m. every day, so you can grab lunch there, too. The eatery is home to the Mountain Oven Organic Bakery and First Ascent Coffee Roasters, so everything from the bread to the coffee and chai is homemade, and well worth the stop.
Once you’re fueled up for the day, skiing and snowboarding is just three miles from town at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. In the winter, there’s a free bus that runs every 15 minutes, so you can stay in town and easily get to the mountain.
With one base area, the resort is nice for families, because everyone ends in one place. There’s plenty of runs for beginners and intermediates, and Collins said the area has some of the best extreme terrain in the country.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort opens for the season on Wednesday, Nov. 25. Opening day is always free skiing and riding; This year, there’ll be a Pirate Theme, with a treasure hunt, too.
Early season is the time to go for families, since kids ski free until Dec. 17. The Get Away pass goes on sale on Dec. 1 at locations all over Colorado, including Slopestyle Ski Breckenridge. The deal is $319, and good for two days of skiing for two people, and one night of lodging at the Grand Lodge.
For more snow fun, take a snowshoe tour up to the new 35-foot umbrella bar, located at the mid-mountain Ten Peaks location on Crested Butte Mountain Resort. The Crested Butte Nordic Center rents snowshoes as well as cross-country ski gear, and hosts yurt dinners throughout the winter for $125 per person.
“The yurt is about a mile from the trailhead and we have a gourmet, five-course meal out there, with live music and a wood stove,” said Drew Holbrook, marketing director for the Nordic Center.
Learn to skate ski free at the Nordic Center on the first Thursday of every month, and kids ski free all season long, with free rentals, too.
New on-snow activities are still taking hold in the Crested Butte area, like fat biking.
On your way into town, stop in Gunnison for a coffee at Double Shot Cyclery off of Main Street, where you can pick up a map of Hartman Rocks and talk to the local experts about winter fat tire biking options. Head to All Sports Replay to pick up some fat bikes to rent for the day.
The first ever Borealis Fat Bike World Championships will be held in Crested Butte Jan. 27 – 31, 2016.
After your recreation action, call on local bodyworker Elizabeth Lamphere, owner of Crested Butte Mobile Massage, for a treatment where you’re staying, or at her studio downtown.
“Everyone does different things and needs different work done,” Lamphere said. “The reason I don’t specify deep tissue or Swedish, or categorize at all, is because inevitably there are different spots that can be benefited by different techniques.”
Lamphere also teaches yoga, and offers a private 30-minute yoga session, followed by an hour massage, for $150.
For a cool down out in the community, stretch your mountain muscles at Yoga For The Peaceful in its quaint studio house on Elk Ave.
“People who come here just completely fall in love with our studio,” said Monica Mesa, co-owner of Yoga For The Peaceful. “We have a really great community of locals, as well as second-home owners and visitors to the area.”
Mesa said what she loves about Crested Butte are the “small town luxuries” of getting to know everybody, and being able to ride your bike, skateboard or walk anywhere you want to go.
“There’s that joy in having a unique community style that is very rare in community living these days,” she said. “And then of course we have the outdoor beauty and adventures and things, which is awesome, but because it’s a resort and an international destination, we also have music, theater, art and year-round events.”
The Center For The Arts Crested Butte, located on 6th Street, offers a year-round schedule of live music, dance and theater performance, along with local and regional exhibitions.
After a full day of play, head to the neighborhood rum distillery, Montanya. Co-founder, Brice Hoskin, says the high altitude in the mountain town makes a difference in everything from the fermentation process to the taste of Montanya rum. Sit at the tasting room bar or table to try one of their craft cocktails, like the Montanya Old Fashioned, and their first new product in years — a three-year aged rum, kept for two years in Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey barrels, and one year in Sutcliffe Vineyards port barrels. It’s smooth, and almost too easy to sip, sip, sip.
Keep wetting your whistle, but with tequila and tacos this time, at Bonez — just down the street, on the same side as the rum shop.
“Bonez came out of the desire to do kind of a fun, eclectic mountain town take on Mexican-inspired cuisine,” said Carson West, partner in Bonez and its restaurant company, which also owns the well-known pizza joint, The Secret Stash. “It originally started with just street tacos, and now we have kind of morphed into creating different takes on classic Mexican cuisine.”
The space is large, but it’s lengthy list of tequila selections, along with authentic and creative decor, wraps warmth around locals and guests.
“Crested Butte is one of those place where you get people from all over, and they come into a place like Bonez, sit at the bar and rub elbows with locals,” West said, “and they can really get a feel for the culture here.”