Although it’s still blazing hot in most of the country, it’s never too early to start planning those wintertime adventures (ski season will be here before you know it!). Here are Lanee’s picks for where to eat, stay and play in Crested Butte, Colorado—one of her favorite ski towns in the country:
You’ve probably heard about Colorado’s fabulous, glam ski resorts, such as Aspen or Vail. But if you’re looking for something quirker and quieter, Crested Butte is for you. At 12,000 feet, it’s both a killer ski hot spot by day and a funky historic miner’s town to hang out at by night. What it lacks in glam, Crested Butte more than makes up with in quirky charm and intriguing local color. This is a town without stoplights or chain stores — and here’s how to do it up right.
Crested Butte Mountain Ski Resort, the proud recipient of 132 feet of new snow since the beginning of the year, offers terrain for all types — from mogul maven to beginner bunny. Wait time at the ski lifts are less than five minutes, even at the base. Free transportation to the mountain (on Burning Man-esque hand-painted buses) is offered every half hour from the town, which is three miles away. Also, you can test your skills at driving a massive snowcat, with lessons available on the weekends.
Montanya Distillery: Located on the main drag, Montanya shakes up serious concoctions with their very own Colorado rum, distilled on site. A bar on par with big-city craft-cocktail hotspots, their syrups, rum infusions and tinctures are all made in-house as well. Check out daily specials like the Coquito (evaporated milk, spices, coconut milk and Montanya Platino), or stick with local favorites like the Maharaja Martini (ginger beer, Montanya Oro, Maharaja spice syrup, cardamom). On the weekends, the scene heats up with local bands playing live tunes.
Kochevars Saloon: Opened in 1886, this saloon is everything you ever wanted in truly devilish dive bar: soul music, fireball shots, beer pong, darts, hot BBQ chicken wings and loads of local characters to chat up.
Dogwood Cocktail Cabin: The other craft-cocktail scene in town takes place in a dark, 1891 miner’s cabin, outfitted with kitsch knickknacks like the 1970s must-read book on skating in photo below. Martini happy hour is from 5 to 7 pm But you can also check out a few of the classics they’re famous for: the Beetnik (vodka, ginger, beet) or the That’s a Mole margarita (tequila, banana, mole bitters, stout beer).
Ice Bar at Uley’s Cabin: Reward yourself with a drink after a day of skiing or snowboarding in this rustic, old-timey outdoor bar at the bottom of Twisted Lift. Go on, have another hot buttered rum. You’ll deserve it after the tricks you pulled off on the chute-packed terrain.
The Grand Lodge: Roll out of bed, pick up some coffee at Camp 4 Coffee, and you’re ready to hit the slopes. Rooms at the hotel — located just a few cartwheels from the mountain — are comfy, equipped with a mini-stove, dishes and fridge. A massage at Wildflower Spa, combined with a soak in the huge, outdoor hot tub will have you raring to tear up the mountain for another day.
Izzy’s: It’s where locals go to carb load on housemade bagels (topped with breakfast fixings) before heading out for a day of play in the snow.
Wooden Nickel: Head to Crested Butte’s oldest saloon for a stiff drink paired with a juicy steak or chicken-fried steak as big as Frisbee. Up for a game of dice while hanging out at the bar? Just ask the bartender. They’ll gladly supply them.
Secret Stash Pizza: Hands down, the best pizza in town — maybe in the entire state. Check out crazy combinations like the Figalicious (fig, prosciutto, blue cheese) or Meat Candy (glazed pork, mustard). Cocktails are stellar, too, especially downstairs in the Red Room, their speakeasy-style bar (photo below).
Soup Con Bistro: The town’s only true fancy, fine-dining spot is worth the splurge to feast on foie gras, escargot and Colorado lamb. Interestingly enough, the petite restaurant’s chef, Jason Vernon, also owns Kochevars Saloon, the dive bar around the corner — covering his bases in both the high- and low-brow worlds.
Uley’s Cabin: Ride up the mountain in a snowcat (evenings only) for five-course gourmet meal paired with fine wine at the on-mountain restaurant named after a local bootlegger.
Although it’s not super simple to get to Crested Butte, it’s worth it to avoid crowds at other nearby resorts. Fly into Gunnison (GUC) airport — direct flights on American Airlines are available from Dallas, Houston or Chicago during the ski season and Alaska Airlines (new direct flights from Los Angeles to CB for the 2015-2016 ski season). Rent a car, and drive roughly 30 miles to Crested Butte. Or take the shuttle that Grand Lodge or most of the other mountain hotels will send with advance reservation.