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After the past few weeks of difficult travel days, Crested Butte felt like the universe finally rewarding us for all of our troubles. While the snow report for Crested Butte remained bleak up until the day we arrived, the overall “chill” factor of the town itself more than made up for dismal snow conditions.
To clarify, we made plans to travel to Crested Butte long before the ski season began and before we were aware of just how low the snowpack would be throughout the Colorado Rockies. Crested Butte served as a convenient meeting place to see my parents and hand over our 2004 Honda; from there they drove the trusty Honda back to Kansas for safe keeping. And while there’s a whole saga that goes along with our adventures from Oregon to Colorado, Crested Butte made all that effort seem like a minor pittance.
My parents booked a condo for the duration of their stay so we spent the first few days with them at their Condo in Mt. Crested Butte (just a short jaunt from town and closer to the lifts) and the second half of our trip bouncing around in Crested Butte proper. I can see the benefits in staying in either section of town, but given that we’re the sort of people that enjoy our happy hours and good public transportation, we’ll likely choose to stay in Crested Butte proper when we visit again.
Speaking of public transportation, this might very well be what keeps Crested Butte’s chill factor so high. A free shuttle, or rather large school buses decorated in a variety of artistic flair take you from town to the base of the lifts – for FREE! They appear to run overtime on weekends, and the conversations overheard while in transit are worth the short 5-minute ride. There’s even a free shuttle into nearby Gunnison where you’ll find Western Colorado University and a more robust selection of facilities like gas and groceries.
Despite the easy access, we were hesitant to stay in Gunnison where, at first glance, parking for campers seemed more abundant. Staying in town was the obvious preference but the nearest RV park is on the edge of town and the staff weren’t the most responsive to our inquiries. Given our string of recent bad luck, we weren’t interested in unknowingly breaking any laws, so we opted to visit the Chamber of Commerce and ask directly about the parking rules.
Given the relaxed vibes of Crested Butte, it probably shouldn’t have been so surprising how easy-going the staff at the Chamber of Commerce were when we asked about camper parking, but it was. The conversation went something like this:
US: “So, what are the laws regarding parking campers along the side of the road here in town?”
CoC Employee: “I mean, you’re planning on sleeping in this camper, right?”
US: “Uh . . . maybe . . .”
CoC Employee: “Just follow the posted parking signs and keep it on the DL” followed by a string of practical advice for boondocking in Crested Butte . . .
I kid you not, the employee told us to “just keep it on the DL.” I mean, when’s the last time you heard someone use the phrase “DL”? Crested Butte is just that cool.
So this is exactly what we did. The posted parking signs can be a bit confusing – 1 AM on Monday does not equal Monday morning, it means Sunday night . . . yeah, wrap your head around that after a few pints at elevation. Despite having to move every day, which in retrospect was probably good for our Diesel truck that doesn’t like cold starts, we had the most relaxed experience boondocking on the street. Even neighbors living nearby hardly gave us a second glance. To be fair, we were as respectful as possible and did our best not to linger outside of the camper and attract attention to ourselves.
As for the reason we arrived in Crested Butte – the ski resort, well, that didn’t disappoint either. Despite the low snowpack year, there was still plenty of fun to be had. Much of the more extreme terrain was closed due to the lack of snow, so we spent a great deal of time riding intermediate runs off of Red Lady and East River Express before finally making our way to Silver Queen which gives access to more of the difficult terrain. I knew Crested Butte had a reputation for being steep and given my propensity to freak out on steep runs, I was anxious to see for myself why this reputation prevails. I lived to see another day, and wished we’d spent our entire trip riding Silver Queen, it was that good.
We paid for our lift tickets with the very popular Ski Free promotions sponsored by nearby gas stations – although the closest participating station we could find was in Montrose two hours away. This was the one time where Big Red’s poor gas economy worked in our favor. We purchased 20 gallons of gas over the course of our trip and scored two buy-one-get-one tickets to the resort, enough for two full days of skiing for the both of us.
After we’d used these two days we opted to check out Crested Butte Ski Resort’s uphill route – fresh terrain for me to try my new splitboard. Once again, we were not disappointed. The uphill skinning route for Crested Butte takes you just left of the terrain park before slinking you into a forest of aspens with beautiful views to boot. Given Crested Butte’s high altitude this is a real lung burner. If you’re sensitive to altitude, and you’ll know if you are once you arrive in Crested Butte, then I might suggest you save this until you’re at least slightly acclimatized.
Overall, we couldn’t have asked for a better experience than the one we had in Crested Butte. We’ve both already discussed moving to the quaint ski town full time once we’re done traveling, and we definitely plan on visiting again when the wildflowers are in full bloom. When it comes to resort towns, you really cannot beat Crested Butte’s relaxed vibes, sweeping views, and excellent terrain. No matter the time of year you visit, Crested Butte is a destination that will not disappoint.