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Crested Butte really is a gem among Colorado ski resorts. It’s rarely crowded, has incredible terrain, and has managed to maintain all of this despite being part of the Epic Pass Conglomerate (which has caused overcrowding at most other resorts).
It really had just about everything we could want in a family ski resort, and we were continually impressed as we skied there. Best of all, the ticket prices are lower than most other big Colorado ski resorts, making it one of the best Colorado lift ticket deals. On top of that, the prices for everything seemed cheaper here than at most of the I-70 resorts. We found that everything from lodging and restaurants to burgers and groceries were cheaper in Crested Butte.
We recently took a spring ski trip to Crested Butte with our kids ages 4, 7, 9, 12, and 14. They range from advanced beginner skiers to experts and Crested Butte had something that was perfect for each of them.
Getting To Crested Butte
Crested Butte is a bit off the beaten path. It’s 3 hours from Grand Junction and 4.5 hours from Denver. However, if you’re willing to make the trip out there, you’ll be nothing but impressed. We visited in March, in the bad snow year of 2022, and were shocked to see piles of snow around town that were 8+ feet tall. While the mountains just to the south are generally dryer, Crested Butte’s unique location allows massive amounts of snow to accumulate every winter (averaging over 250 inches per year).
Crestesd Butte ski area is a few miles north of the town of Crested Butte in the town of Mt Crested Butte, but you can easily stay in either town.
Escaping The Crowds At Crested Butte
Crowds and Crested Butte don’t actually go together. On a typical weekday, you’ll never wait in a line longer than a minute or two. Weekends can have lift lines of up to 5-10 minutes on a REALLY CROWDED day. Compare that to the hour + lift lines at Breckenridge and Keystone and this is pretty incredible.
To get out of the base area at Crested Butte, you have 2 main options for major lifts to ski. The first the the Red Lady Express, which is perfect for beginners who know how to stop and turn (for absolute beginners, head to the magic carpet first). If you’re an intermediate or advanced skier, take the Silver Queen Lift to get up higher on the mountain and to give you easy access to the expert terrain on the T-Bar’s. We found that the trails directly underneath Silver Queen were not a great family friendly mix, since the most skiable trails were either steep black diamond mogul runs and the other option was a very flat green cat track. For better intermediate terrain, head to the back side of the mountain towards Paradise lift.
Best On Mountain Food at Crested Butte
Mountain dining is notoriously overpriced at just about any ski resort. Imagine my shock when we actually found affordable ski food at Crested Butte. The best place to eat lunch on the mountain at Crested Butte is the Paradise warming hut. It’s located at the base of the Paradise lift and has a great selection of food. Burgers and sandwiches were about $18 each, but we were thrilled that a hot cocoa was only $4 and that a massive plate of french fries was only $5 (with our Epic Pass discount).
The real deal for the best food at Crested Butte is technically right off the mountain. Head to the base area and head to the Crested Butte Burger Company. Burgers start at just $4 each and for a fully loaded double burger, you’ll only pay $9.
Best Skiing For Beginners at Crested Butte
For absolute beginners, start at the magic carpet. This is never crowded and is the best place to make sure that kids can stop and turn before going up on a bigger lift. I cannot stress this enough since it can be really hard for kids to learn on the bigger hill.
Once you graduate from the Magic Carpet, head over to the Peachtree Lift, which is great for beginners and younger kids.
One of the best things about beginner skiing at Crested Butte is that there are no other runs that funnel into the Peachtree lift, so you don’t have to be worried about big crowds or out of control skiers all over the beginner hill. This reason alone is enough to make the trip out to Crested Butte worth it. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find uncrowded beginner skiing hills, but Crested Butte has a great one.
Best Skiing For Advanced Beginners at Crested Butte
If you have a beginner who’s doing really well and starting to get more and more confident, they’re probably ready for the Red Lady Express lift. While the terrain is a little steeper than the Peachtree lift, it is SIGNIFICANTLY longer, so don’t rush onto this lift too early. Truthfully, we never found a bad run off of the Red Lady lift. There were lots of little trails through the trees that the older kids loved and there was a huge variety of green terrain that’s perfect for kids.
Best Skiing for Intermediate Skiing Kids at Crested Butte
Crested Butte’s intermediate terrain is really SO MUCH FUN! Our kids and their friends were hooting and hollering all day as they kept finding new “secret tree trails” and plenty of little jumps and berms on the side of the trail to play on. Paradise is our top recommended lift for intermediate skiers, though if you want a bit more of a challenge, the East River Express is pretty amazing (even if it is really far out).
Best of all, I love that nearly all of the trails funnel easily into the bottom, so that as a mom, I don’t have to worry about anyone getting lost, because they’ll all be funneled right to the bottom of the lift.
Advanced and Expert Skiing at Crested Butte
If you’re an advanced skier, or have kids who are, you’ll be in heaven at Crested Butte. Crested Butte has one of the best expert ski setups that still works for families. We can have one parent skiing Paradise or Two Rivers with the younger kids, while the other parent is skiing double blacks of Phoenix and Spellbound off the North Face T Bar with the older kids, and everyone can meet up at the bottom.
Truly, there are few better places for expert ski families than Crested Butter. Ther terrain is steep, the powder stays long after a storm and there are so many black and double black areas, that it’s rarely crowded. If you’re up for a challenge, you can even ski Rambo, the steepest ski run in North America! Our oldest two kids skied it with Dad and they were so happy they could have bragging rights after doing an awesome job on this 52 degree slope.
Ski School at Crested Butte
The ski and snowboard instruction at Crested Butte is incredible. Our friends who are Crested Butte locals told us that the program is so good, that many people come to Crested Butte just for the amazing instructors. Unlike many resort towns where instructors just stay for a season or two, many of the Crested Butte ski instructors have been there for over a decade and know skiing and the mountain like the back of their hand.
Best of all, since Crested Butte is rarely crowded during the week (except for holidays and spring break), if you sign up for mid week ski lessons, you’ll likely have a very small (if not private) class size.
Best Time To Ski Crested Butte With Kids
Crested Butte typical has the best snow in February, though if you have an early spring break, it’s hard to beat spring skiing with kids in Crested Butte. Crested Butte is a great place to beat the crowds and is one of the least crowded Colorado ski resorts that still offers a large variety of terrain options. Even though Crested Butte is less crowded than other ski towns, popular attractions and ski school fill up regularly, so plan on booking as far in advance as possible.
Crested Butte Apres Ski With Kids
There’s not a whole lot going on for family friendly apres ski at Crested Butte. Our kids favorite was hanging out around the giant fire pit at the base of the village and climbing on the rocks. There is a new location of Tin Cup ice cream that was scheduled to open the week after we visited, so after visiting their in town location, we’re fairly confident that this will be the best apres ski spot with kids in Crested Butte.
Non Ski Day Activities in Crested Butte With Kids
Free Ice Skating In Crested Butte
Yes, you can go ice skating for free in Crested Butte. The Big Mine is a covered outdoor ice rink in Crested Butte and access is free. Skate rentals are $15 for adults and $7 for kids, but if you bring your own skates from home, you can use the ice rink for free. Afternoons and evenings are often full of hockey players, so to avoid these peak times, plan on going ice skating in Crested Butte with kids in the morning or early afternoon.
Best Places for Sledding in Crested Butte
Sledding is one of the most fun, and free things to do in Crested Butte in winter. With a ski town that receives lots of snow, there’s no shortage of best places to sled in Crested Butte.
Pyramid Sledding Hill Crested Butte
This sledding hill is on the North end of Crested Butte just off of Gothic road on Pyramid Ave. It’s easy to see and access and has a large wide open area and is the best place to sled with young kids in Crested Butte.
Crested Butte School Sledding Area
The hills behind Crested Butte’s K-12 school are perfect for sledding and are steep enough that even your adrenaline loving teens will have a blast! There’s plenty of parking behind the school at the Town Ranch parking lot. NOTE: this area is best visited after school hours
Snodgrass Hill, Mt Crested Butte Sledding
If you’re looking for the best place to sled in Mt Crested Butte, Snodgrass hill is the place to go. This is both the longest and steepest sledding hill in the area. Park at the Snodgrass trailhead, and head straight up the hill (you can’t miss it)!
Dog Sledding With Cosmic Cruisers
If you want to add a bucket list adventure to your Crested Butte family ski trip, dog sledding Crested Butte with kids is one of our top recommendations. Cosmic Cruisers is a great option for family dog sled trips especially since they offer the option of half or full day trips, so it’s easy to find a dog sled trip that’s just right for your group!
Snowshoe Crested Butte With Kids
Crested Butte is packed full of trails, but to access many of them in the winter, you’ll want a pair of snowshoes. Crested Butte has an incredible Nordic Trail system that’s perfect for snowshoeing, so head to the CB Nordic Center for rentals and trail recommendations.
Stroll Elk Avenue
A visit to Crested Butte wouldn’t be complete without a walk down Elk Avenue. This is the main tourist street in town and it’s packed full of great little shops. It’s no surprise, but our kids favorite was Pooh’s Corner Toy Store and their huge assortment of wild stuffed animals was a huge hit with our kids!
Best Places to Eat in Crested Butte with Kids
Ice Cream at Tin Cup
The Ice Cream at Tin Cup is absolutely WONDERFUL, and is sure to be a hit with the kids. The staff there were also super friendly, and the kid are begging to go back when we visit next.
Secret Stash Pizza
Secret Stash is the best place to eat in Crested Butte with kids. The atmosphere is fun and friendly, and the pizzas are absolutely incredible. While on the pricier side for pizza, we quickly learned that instead of ordering 2-3 pizza like we normally do to feed our big family, we could get by with one large pizza and some breadsticks and salad since they’re VERY GENEROUS with their toppings.