Crested Butte — Mountain layout
Our base elevation in the stats box is at the point of the lowest lift, East River. The base area where the facilities are located is about 200 feet higher, at 9,375 feet. Our stats reflect lift-served access—you can hike to the 12,162-foot summit for a 3,062-foot-vertical descent.
Be aware that the trail map warns of extreme terrain, marked “EX” on the mountain, but not labeled on the map itself. It is possible at any time while on double-blacks to come upon sections with EX trail signs. Anyone who plans to spend extensive time in the Extreme Limits should consider buying the Extreme Limits Ski Guide, a trail map that covers this territory in depth.
Crested Butte does not offer any gates to the backcountry and it is illegal to go out of bounds here. Given the extensive number of cliffs, chutes and other extreme features, it is wise to heed this law if only so you live to enjoy another day on the mountain.
Free guided tours meet daily at 9:45 a.m. to help guests learn their way around the mountain. Heres a larger, more detailed trail map.
|Expert, Advanced: The overwhelming sense of “feeling exposed” is the first hint that Crested Butte is no ordinary mountain. Then watch skiers work their way through rocky chutes to launch themselves off 40-foot cliffs and you know you are among some of the most elite skiers on the planet. Youll find some of the toughest in-bounds terrain on the continent here, much of it serviced by a T-bar ride. And while you don have to traverse or hike, youll find yourself doing so anyway in search of yet more fresh tracks, the best lines and more adrenaline thrills.Its advisable to make friends with a local or a mountain guide before venturing off into Crested Buttes steeps. They are filled with cliff bands, so be sure to know your line before jumping in. The hardcore runs are the infamous Extreme Limits, comparable to their more famous counterparts across the boarders in Utah and Wyoming. Pitches average 39 to 44 degrees, and extreme terrain is described by the Ski Safety Act as “cliffs with a minimum 20 foot rise over a 15 foot run and slopes with a minimum 50 degree average pitch over a 100 foot run.” If that doesn make you think twice before venturing out, then nothing will. And, as you might suspect, the Extreme Limits usually don open until mid-January or later.To test your mettle on something difficult, but not too hairy, try Peel (just off the Silver Queen lift). Anything in this vicinity offers the longest amount of vertical. For a chute thats wide enough for some error but sure to give you rubber legs because of its 2,000-foot descent, try the 40-plus-degree Banana and its sister chute Funnel. To find where the untracked snow stays longest, work your way out to the farthest reaches of Teocalli Bowl and Third Bowl. If the weather and snow conditions are right, consider hiking to the summit, taking in the view, and floating turns down The Peak or Hall of Fame.Note: You can hire a mountain guide for the Extreme Limits for $30 per person, and thats a steal of a deal (see Lessons for details).
Crested Buttes single-blacks are long, bumpy and fun. The well-traveled ones are under the Silver Queen lift, but the Twister lift is the local secret. Try anything in that area. While it is in the middle of everything, it doesn get the traffic you would expect. The Double-Top Glades served by the East River Lift are a nice test of your skills. Crested Butte doesn have many single-diamonds and the double-diamonds are demanding. If you
e adventurous, try the double-blacks that are just off lifts, which will cut down on long and exposed traverses—Peel, The Glades, Rachels, and Half Pipe Gully into Headwall are good choices. If you prefer groomed terrain, youll be relegated mostly to the realm of the blue-square, which can give you a rush but won be challenging.
|Intermediate: Crested Butte has added intermediate terrain, all linked by conveniently placed lifts, making it easy to work your way across the mountain to get to increasingly more demanding runs. Warm up on the Gold Link and Prospect lifts, exclusively serving intermediates. From here, head to the Teocalli and East River lifts for yet more isolation from faster skiers. When you
e ready for a big-mountain experience, Paradise Bowl awaits, giving you a taste of powder on good days. Explore this area and find many hidden, yet non-intimidating, nooks and crannies. From this area, put it in auto-drive down lovely, long trails such as Treasury, Ruby Chief, Forest Queen, Bushwacker and Gallowich. Advanced-intermediates can manage most of the runs down from the Silver Queen lift. The short and steep Twister and Crystal both have good bailout routes about halfway down. Lower-intermediates will enjoy the greens off the Red Lady Express.Kids can find plenty of fun in the glades off the Gold Link, Prospect and Red Lady lifts—they
e more like luge runs though the trees. Keep an eye out for the signs with cartoon characters pointing the way. Be sure to pick up a kids trail map too.
|Beginner, First-timer: Red Lady Express accesses a nice variety of beginner trails. Wide-open green-circles are plentiful here. For solid beginners and beginner-intermediates this is heaven—all fun runs with no chance of getting in over your head, and few encounters with yahoos going too fast. For a change of scenery, head up Painter Boy Lift and take Gunsight Pass around the back of the mountain to the Teocalli Lift, which drops you off at the top of the same area served by Red Lady Express. Be sure to stop by the midmountain cabin and outdoor seating at the top of the Painter Boy lift when you need a break.If you have only been on skis a few times or are a timid beginner, you might find some of these runs are more turquoise—greens leaning into blues. In this case, however, youll be safe if you stick to Houston as well as skiing off the Peachtree and Painter Boy lifts. Confident beginners should try the wide-open intermediate cruisers off Gold Link.
The resort has a terrific learning setup. First-timers are separated into one area for adults and another for kids, each served by a moving carpet. Kids also have a small snow play zone where they can get used to moving around on skis. Practice for a day or two on the three trails off Peachtree Lift before attempting the Red Lady Express. When you
e ready for Red Lady, try Houston first since its the gentlest. Houston also takes you to Painter Boy Lift.