Crested Butte Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
Crested Butte Trail Map
  • Vertical (ft)
    9,100 – 11,875 (2,775)
  • Average Snow Fall
    234 inches
  • Lifts (15)
    4 high speed quads
    2 fixed grip quads
  • Ski Season
    late Nov - early April
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 121
    Longest run – 4.2 km
    Beginner - 26%
    Intermediate - 57%
    Advanced - 14%
    Expert - 3%

Crested Butte Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Crested Butte has pretty good ski and snowboard terrain for beginners and intermediates, but the signature of Crested Butte is the delightfully gnarly terrain. During good seasons when the snow is really flying, the double black diamond terrain absolutely goes off. Along with Silverton and Telluride, Crested Butte has the best steep terrain in Colorado. The only snag is that the rocky steeps require significant snow cover. It usually takes until mid to late season for the terrain to fully open, and some years the Extreme Freeskiing Championships (held in February) have been postponed or cancelled.

Crested Butte is a medium sized ski resort. It officially has a skiable area of 1,167 acres (472 hectares), but when the whole ski area is open it feels bigger than that.

Crested Butte Lifts

Another signature of Crested Butte is the absence of crowds and distinct lack of lift lines. The only exception to this may be the North Face surface lift on a powder day when powderhounds line up to hit the Extreme Limits.

Crested Butte has four express quad chair lifts which cover a large part of the terrain, so intermediates could just ride these lifts and get a lot of mileage in each day. The rest of the lift infrastructure consists of two fixed grip quads, very slow double and triple chairs, a couple of surface lifts that service the double black diamond terrain, and a couple of magic carpets for the little ones. The placement of the lifts is reasonably good. The only limitation is that you have to ride multiple lifts to ski the steeps.

Lift Tickets

A ski vacation at Crested Butte is very affordable relative to the major Colorado ski resorts. The exception is the lift ticket prices which are not too far shy of Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek and Keystone tariffs, and the infrastructure on offer at CB is not comparable to these high profile resorts.

Crested Butte Snow

The average snowfall per season at Crested Butte Mountain Resort is pretty good; the only problem is that the snowfall is very inconsistent. Some seasons they get bucket loads, whilst other seasons are a shocker. However the quality of the snow is really good as Crested Butte is often a little colder than some other areas of Colorado.

Early season or during lean years, Crested Butte Mountain Resort still manages very well. CB can rely on their manmade snow which covers 29 perfect of the mountain and includes the green slopes, many of the blues and double blues, and even a steep groomed black run.

Their ability to farm snow and groom snow is also very impressive. They use a grinding technique to pull up the snow, so that the groomed runs don’t become slick and icy. Some other Colorado ski resorts say they use the same technique, but it doesn’t seem that apparent compared to Crested Butte. CB have employed staff from out east, so they know a thing or two about managing icy slopes!

Beginner Ski Terrain

Crested Butte is very well set up for beginners. The first-timers area is located at the base with a couple of magic carpets for the kids and short mellow runs off the Peachtree Lift. Beginners can learn in peace here without hoons whizzing past.

The next progression is onto the Red Lady Express lift where there are a multitude of green trails to choose from, as well as the Painter Boy lift. Beginners can also ride another couple of lifts and take meandering trails down the mountain.

Crested Butte Skiing for the Intermediate

There are better ski resorts in Colorado for intermediates, and the statistic of 57% blue trails probably exaggerates the amount of intermediate terrain on offer. Nevertheless for a modest sized mountain, Crested Butte is more than satisfactory for most intermediate skiers and snowboarders.

There are lots of easy blue runs off the slow Prospect and Gold Link lifts. Intermediates wanting to get lots of vertical can do mega laps off the fast East River and Paradise lifts.

One of the great things about Crested Butte is the sub-division of trails into single and double blue, so there are various lovely steep groomers where you can let your boards rip. Strong intermediates could also tackle International, a groomed black run where you can really fly and scare the bejeezers out of yourself.

There are plans afoot to expand the Crested Butte Mountain Resort which will add a lot more intermediate terrain to their repertoire.

Terrain Parks & Pipes

The freestyle areas are congregated together. The kids’ terrain park is located off the Painter Boy lift, providing small jumps and hits for beginner shredders. Just over the rise is the Cascade terrain park that has larger features for bigger kids and it feeds into a superpipe. This area has snowmaking which increases the likelihood of the park and pipe being constructed early in the season.

Advanced Boarding and Skiing Crested Butte

Advanced terrain is not the forte of Crested Butte. There are very few single black runs, so advanced riders may experience a bit of déjà vu. International is the highlight and there are also a handful of short black mogul and tree runs off the slow Twister lift.

Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain

There is a big leap between the advanced terrain and the double black diamond terrain, which is true experts’ terrain and much of it is extreme terrain; the type of runs you’d love to send your ex-wife down! There are no groomed runs to bail out to in case you lose your nerve, there are few signs or warnings, and it’s only minimally patrolled. Trail names such as “Body Bag” and “Dead End Chutes” give an indication of the gnarliness of the terrain! Joys to be found include steeps in excess of 50 degrees, nasty trees, narrow chutes, bowls and cliffs.

Route finding can be a little tricky if you’re not a cliff hucking extreme rider. A lot of lines can’t be scoped from a lift, and even if you follow other tracks there’s a good chance that they’ll lead you over a cliff considering the calibre of intrepid riders at Crested Butte. It’s possible to buy an “Extreme Limits Ski Guide” book for about $10 at one of the Crested Butte ski shops. It has detailed trail maps of the double black areas which will give you some decent hints about where to go. However your best bet is to hire a guide from ski school or head out on one of their workshops - “Extremes with Ease”.

The Extreme Limits terrain is the ducks nuts. The runs aren’t super long, but your heart mightn’t survive if they were any longer. It’s serviced by a surface lift and much of the terrain will also require a degree of hiking and traversing to get to the untouched rewards. Closest to the lift is The Glades, the friendliest part of the terrain which understandably gets tracked first.

The High Lift, another surface lift, provides access to steep terrain on the Headwall that is almost equally challenging. Teocalli Bowl is another rite of passage and is worth the 10-15 minute hike required to get out at the bottom.

Or take the half hour hike up to the Peak to ride the Banana Funnel down to show off to the village and punters on the chair lift, or you can hide in the steep trees. Alternatively a traverse in from the Silver Queen chair will also provide lots of tasty tree skiing and other bounties.

It’s worth following the CB Ski Patrol twitter account because they often tweet when they’ve finished doing avalanche control work and are about to open up an area.

Slackcountry and Backcountry Skiing and Riding

Slackcountry opportunities are nonexistent at Crested Butte because it’s private land outside the resort boundaries.

However backcountry skiing in the Crested Butte area (not from the ski resort) is fabulous, and the backcountry (the “five fingers”) receives significantly more snow than the ski resort. Crested Butte Mountain Guides offer a multitude of different options for backcountry riding. Trips are customised and you can do just a small amount of skinning or really go for it. You can head over the mountains to Aspen, do other overnight hut trips, or undertake an avalanche safety course. Jayson also has any required gear such as split boards, skins, beacons and other safety equipment.