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12 Reasons to Spend the Holidays in Crested Butte and Gunnison

Thinking about celebrating the holidays in Colorado? What better place than a town that looks like a snow globe! A holiday visit to Crested Butte is magical. Surrounded by snowcapped peaks, this little town exudes holiday spirit. Gunnison, which is just down the road, sports a giant Christmas tree and a decked-out downtown. Come for the decorations and celebrations, or to ski at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Find a cozy place to stay and curl up inside next to the fire. Check out these 12 reasons to spend the holidays in Crested Butte and Gunnison.

1) Skiing at Crested Butte Mountain Resort

What is skiing at Crested Butte like?

A skier skis down a steep rocky run

Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) is located in Mt. Crested Butte. CBMR is known for steep and extreme terrain. Advanced and expert skiers can challenge themselves on the double-black runs Crested Butte is known for. Beginner skiers will find plenty of groomers to enjoy off the Red Lady Lift. Intermediate skiers can check out these intermediate ski runs and trails to get started. Crested Butte also has fun and unique tree skiing. Ski through tightly spaced trees or bright white aspen groves. New to skiing or want a refresher? Take a lesson with the Crested Butte Ski and Ride School. Don’t forget to check out the après scene on the mountain once you’re done skiing for the day! The holidays decorations at the base area can get you in a festive mood.

Three fat bikers ride a groomed track. The bikes have wide tires. There is a mountain peak in the background

2) Fat biking in Crested Butte and Gunnison

It’s no secret that Gunnison and Crested Butte are crazy for biking in the summer months. Fat biking has gained popularity in the winter. Fat bikes have extra-wide, low-pressure tires that enable them to glide over snow.

Fat biking in Crested Butte

There are many miles of groomed trails for fat biking in Crested Butte. The Crested Butte Nordic Center allows fat biking on 10 km of trails. Please ensure you only fat bike on trails that are open to biking. The Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association also grooms for fat biking. Trails include Cement Creek Road and Gothic Road. Please be aware of avalanche danger and ensure you have the proper skills, knowledge and equipment necessary to navigate avalanche terrain. CMBR also allows fat biking with an uphill pass.

Fat biking in Gunnison

Hartman Rocks Recreation Area in Gunnison is a popular fat biking spot. Gunnison Trails grooms 14 miles of singletrack for fat biking at Hartman Rocks. You can access trails from County Road 38 and McCabe’s Lane. You can also fat bike on the Signal Peak trails. These trails are located right in town across from Western Colorado University and the ICELab @ Western. Gunnison is surrounded by many acres of public lands that may be suitable for fat biking in the winter. Check with local field offices to see what conditions are like.

3) Cross-country ski in Crested Butte and Gunnison

The Gunnison Valley is nestled among two million acres of public lands and has over 1,200 miles of trails. In the winter this means there is plenty of opportunities for cross-country skiing.

Nordic skiing in Crested Butte

Sometimes called the “Nordic Skiing Capital of Colorado,” Crested Butte has an amazing network of cross-country ski trails. The Crested Butte Nordic Center grooms 50 kilometers of trails. What makes these trails so special and Crested Butte a great place to cross-country ski? Many can be accessed right from town or reached with a short drive. Many of the trails are also on protected land. This gives you a wilderness experience of pristine skiing and amazing views without having to go far. Ski rentals and lessons are also available through the Nordic Center. Gifting a lesson would be a fun gift for a holiday trip to Crested Butte. Other places to ski near Crested Butte include Slate River Road, Washington Gulch Road, Brush Creek Road, Gothic/Schofield Pass Road and Cement Creek Road.

Nordic skiing in Gunnison

Gunnison Nordic Club grooms a few areas in Gunnison for cross-country skiing. These areas include Van Tuyl Loop, Dos Rios Golf Club, the Western Colorado University practice field and Jorgensen Park. All of these Gunnison Nordic ski trails are suitable for beginners. Hartman Rocks Recreation Area and Mill Creek are other places to cross-country ski in Gunnison. Gunnison Nordic grooms both. Hartman Rocks and Mill Creek are longer and more challenging than other XC ski trails in Gunnison. Head to the McCabe Lane Trailhead for green trails and the Hartman Rocks Trailhead for blue and black trails at Hartman Rocks. Mill Creek is groomed early in the season, but grooming operations cease as the snow gets deeper. This area is best for intermediate and advanced skiers.

Nordic skiing at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of America’s least visited national parks. It is about 60 miles from Gunnison in Montrose, Colorado. This canyon might not be as famous as the Grand Canyon, but it is just as beautiful and dramatic. The National Parks Service closes most of the South Rim Drive in the winter and grooms it for Nordic skiing. There are no entrance costs to the park in winter, so this is a free and fun way to experience a national park in a new way.

a cross-country skier on a groomed track. There are trees and snowy mountain peaks in the background

4) Other Winter Activities in Crested Butte and Gunnison

If skiing isn’t your thing, there are a few other winter activities to try on your holiday trip to Crested Butte. Gunnison and Crested Butte have dog sledding, ice skating and ice fishing.

Dog sledding in Crested Butte and Gunnison

This unique experience will certainly be unforgettable. Most tours allow you and your family the opportunity to learn to mush. You can also choose to sit back and relax the whole ride. Either way, you’re in for good views and hanging out with cute pups during this experience that will make your holiday trip to Crested Butte memorable.

Ice skating in Crested Butte and Gunnison

Get a taste of natural ice in a rink at Big Mine Ice Arena in Crested Butte. Big Mine Ice Arena is next to the Crested Butte Nordic Center. Rent skates from the Nordic Center or bring your own. Jorgensen Ice Rink in Gunnison is right on Highway 50. There is an indoor rink, outdoor rink and frozen pond you can skate on. The outdoor rink and frozen pond are free. Rent skates or bring your own. Blue Mesa Reservoir is a popular natural ice skating spot. Lake skating inherently comes with risks. Please be safe and have all the necessary equipment, skills and knowledge to stay safe if you plan to lake skate.

Ice fishing in Gunnison

If you enjoy fishing in warmer weather, give ice fishing a try! Blue Mesa Reservoir and Taylor Reservoir are both popular ice fishing spots. Hire a guide or bring your own gear.

A lit up christmas tree surrounded by a crowd of people.

5) Holiday celebrations in Crested Butte and Gunnison

Celebrate the winter holidays with tree lightings, special services at houses of worship, gift markets, holiday concerts, visits from Santa (and Santa Paws), and more. View the events calendar to see what holidays events and celebrations are happening during your Colorado winter trip.

Holiday celebrations in Crested Butte

CBMR hosts a holiday celebration at the base area. This festive event has hot chocolate and holiday snacks, a visit from Santa, fun decorations and more. You can also enjoy winter and holiday themed ice sculptures at the base area the whole holiday season. There is also a Menorah lighting ceremony and Hanukkah celebration in Crested Butte.

Holiday celebrations in Gunnison

The Christmas season is kicked off in Gunnison with Night of Lights. Main Street closes down, local businesses serve hot chocolate and cookies, and Santa lights the tree. All of downtown is decorated with lights and festive greenery.

6) Après and shopping in Crested Butte and Gunnison

Gunnison and Crested Butte are home to some of the finest eateries and watering holes in the American West. From casual to fine dining, mild to spicy, and everything in between, you’re sure to find a tasty restaurant to satisfy everyone in your group. You can make like the locals do and enjoy “après ski” at one of the area’s unique bars.

Downtown Crested Butte

Elk Avenue in Crested Butte is colorful and Instagrammable. The historic Victorian buildings are remnants from the days when Crested Butte was a mining town. Today Elk Avenue is lined with local shops and places to get food and drinks. These shops sell local art, outdoor gear, clothing, souvenirs, housewares and more! You’re sure to find something for everyone on your holiday list. Elk Avenue is also the home of the après scene in Crested Butte. Enjoy a cocktail made from local rum, taste Colorado craft beer, munch on everything from sushi to fried chicken, catch some live music at a bar and more.

Downtown Gunnison

Main Street is home to coffeeshops, thrift stores, art galleries, places to eat, local shops, the Gunnison Arts Center and more. Find Gunnison souvenirs, outdoor gear you might have forgotten, local art and gifts for everyone on your list. Main Street is beautifully decorated for the holiday season. All the trees are strung with lights, shops hang wreaths and greenery, and the top of Main Street features a huge Christmas tree decorated with ornaments and lights. Take a walk and snap some photos.

7) Arts and culture in Crested Butte and Gunnison

The Gunnison Valley isn’t just about outdoor adventure and great food. It’s also home to a thriving arts scene. Check our events calendar to see what performances or art walks might be happening. Our galleries and shops are great for last minute holiday shopping as well.

Museums and art in Crested Butte

Take the kids to the Trailhead Children’s Museum to burn some energy and learn about art and STEM. The Crested Butte Museum houses permanent and rotating exhibits about Crested Butte’s history. Learn about the history of mountain biking and skiing, what the town was like in the mining days, and more. Stop in one of the many galleries on Elk Avenue to see art inspired by the area. The Center for the Arts Crested Butte also has a gallery and puts on events, performances, and shows.

Art in Gunnison

Main Street is home to many galleries and the Gunnison Arts Center. If you happen to be visiting on the first Friday of the month, catch an art walk. Start at the Gunnison Arts Center and make your way down Main to view local art. There is also a mural at IOOF Park on Main Street that depicts the local environment.

8) New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade at Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Ring in the New Year in Crested Butte

Celebrate New Year’s Eve at Crested Butte Mountain Resort with the torchlight parade. The Crested Butte Ski and Ride School instructors schuss down the mountain with torches lighting their way. Fireworks follow the parade to ring in the New Year. The festive, welcoming atmosphere is great for families.

A red line of lights going down a mountain. There is a firework going off and a mountain peak in the background

9) Annual Gunnison and Crested Butte winter events

The Alley Loop, Night of Lights, Blister Summit and more

Some of Gunnison and Crested Butte’s most beloved annual events happen in the winter. There are world-renowned ski races, tree lightings, gear testing summits and more. This winter guide can help you plan winter events and activities to do while you’re here.

10) Places to stay in Crested Butte and Gunnison

Find a home away from home to celebrate the holidays in Crested Butte

There are many options for places to stay on your winter trip to Crested Butte and Gunnison. Choices include traditional hotels, vacation rentals, ski-in/ski-out resorts, inns and more. Browse lodging options to find the perfect place to stay. You can browse all the lodging options available for the dates of your trip, your desired amenities, the number of people in your party and more.

11) Getting to Crested Butte and Gunnison

Book flights to Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC)

Though Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley are at the end of the road, that doesn’t mean it’s hard to get here. The drive from the Front Range will take three to four hours, but you’ll be able to avoid taking I-70 and the heavy traffic and road closures that come with it. If you plan to drive check the weather and road conditions before you head out. Or, better yet, fly instead! Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC) is only about forty minutes from Mt. Crested Butte, where Crested Butte Mountain Resort is located. There are a few car rental options and shuttle services. However, you can navigate Gunnison and Crested Butte without a car. Utilize the free public transportation in Gunnison and Crested Butte to get around. Both go right to the base area of CMBR.

12) Snow in Crested Butte and Gunnison

Dreaming of a white Christmas in Crested Butte?

What is perhaps the best reason to visit Crested Butte for the holidays? The snow! The holiday season in the Gunnison Valley usually means snow. Getting outside to enjoy the snow or watching it fall while being cozy inside is a great way to spend the holidays. Check out our webcams page to watch the snow fall in real time while dreaming about a holiday trip to Crested Butte. This page is also handy for planning your trip. See what road conditions are like on Monarch Pass, Highway 50 and more.

Visit Crested Butte for the holidays

Are you ready to experience the magic of holidays in the mountains? Start planning your winter trip to Colorado! Use our trip planning guide to plan things to do, find a place to stay, book flights and more.

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