Perhaps it was the four-hour drive from Denver with the threat of two screaming kids in the back that kept us away from Crested Butte for so long. Most likely it was sheer ignorance. We didn’t know that we were missing out on one of the most charming ski towns in Colorado and one of the most family-friendly.
There are many amazing places to go in Crested Butte with kids. As part of my family ski resort series, I decided to go beyond my two-hour radius from Denver and explore something new. My husband and I packed up the kids and drove to the town they call “the last great Colorado ski town.” A former mining town, Crested Butte is known for its laid-back local vibe. During the Summer months it’s also known as the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” where people from all over the country come to see the flowers in bloom.
We quickly discovered that it’s a beautiful drive from Denver to Crested Butte with winding roads snaking through the mountain tops and zig zagging through stark plains. One of the best things about getting there is that you avoid highway I-70, a main vein of transportation that (during peak weekend hours) becomes a clogged artery. Ditching the mainstream traffic, we made our way across the dramatic Colorado landscape to Crested Butte.
Mt. Crested Butte – The Ski Experience:
We stayed at the Plaza Condos, a centrally located vacation rental a minute’s walk from the lift. This 2-bedroom provided the space our family of four needed; the kids got their own room and hubby and I wouldn’t have to tip-toe around all night.
As a M.A.X Pass Ambassador, I’ve received a complimentary ski pass to experience its benefits across a wide range of resorts. If you haven’t heard about the M.A.X (Multi Alpine Experience) pass, here’s what you need to know. This ski pass gives you access to 44 mountains all over North America. Everywhere from Big Sky Montana, to Kicking Horse Resort in British Columbia and Alyeska in Alaska, just to name a few. Pass holders get five days of skiing or riding at each of the resorts. There are no blackout dates and you don’t have to use those days consecutively, so that’s a total of 220 days on the mountain.
I flashed my pass and got my lift ticket for the day. Launching into the ritual of getting my ski equipment on, I slipped into my boots and took off for an epic day of skiing. Often the whims of the weather will dictate your experience on the mountain. We were blessed with a blue-sky day and fresh powder from an overnight snowfall, so the conditions were awesome.
Some stats about Mt. Crested Butte. It’s 1547 acres of terrain with a peak elevation of 12,162 ft. There are 15 lifts, with 121 total trails (26% beginner, 57% intermediate, 14% advanced and 3% expert) and a lift capacity of over 20,000 people per hour. A lot of their check-in procedures are still manual, and that personal touch makes for a nice lift line experience.
photo credit: Tom Stillo
Best Places to Go in Crested Butte With Kids
One of my favorite parts of traveling to Crested Butte is how kid-friendly it is! The Trailhead Children’s Museum (open Wednesday-Sunday 10-4pm) is certainly one of the places to go in Crested Butte with kids. It features interactive exhibits kids will love. Located conveniently at the base of the mountain, the children’s museum has a Lego wall, a grocery story, a pirate ship, a construction pit, foam blocks, a teepee nook, an art bar, puppet theatre and more. Parents can spend the afternoon there with their young kids (particularly good for babies – 5 years old), swapping out supervision duties while the other parent skis. Their outdoor space has a musical garden (with lots of things to bang on) and a treehouse, where kids can climb and slide straight in the snow. There is so much for little ones to discover and this place is certainly one of the best I’ve encountered across all the Colorado ski resorts I’ve experienced.
If you’re looking for a little adult time sans kids, take advantage of the Kids’ Night Out babysitting service for kids 4-12 ($95 per child. Available nightly 4 – 8 pm). Kids are hosted at Adventure Park, where there’s dinner and games to keep the kids entertained.
So now that the kids are happy and you’ve arranged some along time with your significant other, where should you go in Crested Butte? My husband and I discovered that there are many restaurants and bars that are great for a romantic night out without the kids. From Soupcon, a romantic French restaurant in a cozy cabin (just make sure to make reservations in advance since they only have two seatings a night) to Ginger Café, for Thai and Indian food. We grabbed drinks at the Wooden Nickle, an old-school tavern with an impressive wine selection and taxidermy Moose heads to match. Then we went to Secret Stash, an eclectic pizza joint with Day of the Dead-esque skeleton décor and a fun atmosphere.
During the day, another one of the best places to go in Crested Butte with kids, is Elk St, the main drag with all the shops and restaurants. The town has such a laid-back, authentic feel. No big retail chains or big brands, just small local business, which is such a welcome change from other more commercial resorts! The storefronts ooze history and look like something out of a Wild West film set. One of the highlights on the street is Nikki’s Mini Donuts. Decorated in vintage posters and kitchy paraphernalia from the 1950’s, this sinfully delicious donut shop serves up the most unusual treats that are sure to energize the kiddos and give you the strength to hit the ski slopes.