If you’re searching for the spirit of the old west, you’ll find it at every turn in Crested Butte, Colorado. This historic mining town of about 1,500 residents is a year-round destination for outdoor lovers, history buffs and travelers seeking uncommon destinations.

Crested Butte is unlike most of Colorado’s ski towns; as you explore local cafes and shops, it’s easy to get drawn into the town’s slower pace of life and laid-back attitude. When you take a walking tour through downtown Crested Butte, you’ll quickly discover why the National Trust for Historic Preservation calls Crested Butte one of America’s “Dozen Distinctive Destinations.” This former coal mining town has spruced itself up and now showcases dozens of meticulously preserved Victorian-era buildings in an official National Historic District, located at Whiterock and Maroon Avenues between 1st and 8th Streets.

Crested Butte is also a walkable, pedestrian-friendly community. If you stay in downtown or at a major resort like the Lodge at Mountaineer Square, you won’t need a rental car; shuttles are always available to take visitors between the ski areas and Crested Butte’s major attractions any time of year.

Just beyond downtown’s quaint streets you can ditch civilization and escape to the Gunnison National Forest. You’ll have unfettered access to Colorado’s most uncrowded, breathtaking settings for outdoor  activities ranging from mountain biking to fishing, to skiing and hunting. Although Crested Butte is one of the state’s most remote ski towns, you won’t have any problem finding things to do any time of year.

Crested Butte is a four hour, scenic drive west from Denver. If you fly in to Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport, give Gunnison-based Alpine Express a call at 970-641-5074; this reservation-only shuttle can take you up the mountain to Crested Butte.

Rustic Historic Lodging

One of downtown’s most lovingly restored hotels is the Elk Mountain Lodge. This 19-room, family-owned bed and breakfast was built to accommodate workers during the town’s mining boom of the early 1900s. Today its woodsy charm continues attracting guests who enjoy being treated like extended family by local owners Mike and Amy Nolan.

Elk Mountain Lodge features individually-decorated rooms with modern conveniences and little luxuries like wireless Internet and an indoor hot tub, all for less than $200 per night. Your nightly stay also allows you to enjoy the only full-service, hot breakfast served in a Crested Butte inn. After a long day on the trails, you won’t even have to leave the lodge to find a great meal; local chef Dana Zobs is available to prepare personalized multi-course dinners featuring local and organic ingredients. When dinner’s over, you can cap off your evening in the lodge’s on-site bar with a full array of wine, beer and spirits.

The lodge’s intimate setting is perfect for small groups. Everyone from biking clubs to wedding parties are welcome to take over the entire property for their special event, since Elk Mountain also features a meeting space and on-site plated meal service for up to 40 people.

Luxury Base Camp on the Slopes

Crested Butte’s newest luxury lodging option is just minutes from downtown. The Lodge at Mountaineer Square is a 120-room full-service luxury resort in the heart of Crested Butte’s ski area on Butte Mountain, where guests enjoy daily activities including world-class skiing, dozens of dining and entertainment choices and all-season outdoor adventures for adults and kids alike.

The Lodge at Mountaineer Square is a member of Summit Hotels and Resorts, a worldwide group of fine hotels. As part of this group of elite hotels, the Lodge at Mountaineer Square has all of the amenities one would expect in a luxury hotel: 24-hour front desk and concierge service, on-site fine dining and lounge entertainment, a heated swimming pool, sauna, hot tub, fitness center, ski valets and complimentary bike and ski storage areas. When booking a room, you can choose from several different room types configured to meet the needs of every type of vacationer, from singles to families. In addition, large parties from weddings to corporate events are easily accommodated with the 500-seat, 9,000 square foot conference center. Room rates start at $169 for a king room.

Although the lodge is located a few miles from downtown Crested Butte at the base of the ski area, you won’t need a car rental. A free shuttle can take you to and from downtown Crested Butte’s most popular attractions, restaurants and shops.

Offbeat Lodging in the Heart of Downtown

Crested Butte continuously lives up to its reputation as an unpretentious ski town that anyone can afford to visit. Unlike Colorado’s more upscale and expensive ski communities, the town boasts a large selection of affordable accommodations for every traveler’s budget. One of the town’s more bohemian destinations for visitors includes the Crested Butte International Lodge and Hostel, a community-minded economical lodging choice for singles, families and any outgoing traveler who thrives on interacting with fellow adventurers.

When you arrive, leave your preconceived notions about hostel lodging at the door. The International Lodge and Hostel isn’t just for youthful vagabonds. Accommodations range from private rooms to family rooms, apartments to standard dorm-style sleeping areas, all with gender-separated bathroom facilities and securely locking doors and storage facilities.

In the celebratory spirit of hostel lodging, every guest at the International Lodge and Hostel is welcome to engage with fellow adventurers by utilizing the fully-stocked kitchen, cozy living area and recreation room that features a fireplace, wireless Internet, games and a library. On-site ski and bike storage is available in addition to laundry facilities and business services such as copying and faxing.

Perhaps the best part about the hostel and all of its amenities are the rates; during the height of ski season, guests pay just $38 per night for dorm-style lodging to $263 per night for an apartment rental that can sleep six people.

If You Go

Elk Mountain Lodge
129 Gothic Ave (at Second & Gothic)
970-349-7533
http://www.elkmountainlodge.com

The Lodge at Mountaineer Square
620 Gothic Road
Mt Crested Butte, CO 81225
970-349-4000
http://www.skicb.com/cbmr/lodging/mountaineer-square-lodge/mountaineer-property-info.aspx

Crested Butte International Lodge and Hostel
615 Teocalli Avenue
Crested Butte, Colorado 81224
888-389-0588
http://www.crestedbuttehostel.com

Rene Agredano enjoys sharing travel tips about Colorado – her favorite state in the U.S. – when she’s not at her mountaintop cabin retreat in Red Feather Lakes, she’s RVing around America writing from the road.

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