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Crested Butte or Telluride

When planning a Colorado trip you might be considering Crested Butte versus Telluride. Both of these Southwest Colorado towns are known for skiing, mountain biking, hiking and more. Crested Butte is known for summer wildflowers and steep Colorado skiing. Telluride is known for peak bagging and quintessential Colorado views. We put together this guide on the differences between Crested Butte and Telluride to help you plan a Colorado trip.

What is Crested Butte like?

Crested Butte is located in a valley of the Elk Mountains. There is a sweeping view of the surrounding mountains from town. You can see Crested Butte Mountain for miles on the drive into town. The environment is high alpine with an elevation of 8,909 feet. Aspens and wildflowers grow plentifully. Crested Butte is even known as the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado.” Dozens of varieties of wildflowers in as many shades cover Crested Butte’s landscape every summer. The annual snowfall average in Crested Butte is 236 inches. Gunnison is only about 30 miles south of Crested Butte, but because the elevation is lower is the environment is different. Gunnison is a high desert with an elevation of 7,703 feet. This environment lends itself to rolling fields of sage brush, technical rock formations and higher temperatures in the summer. Learn about the nuances of each season in Gunnison and Crested Butte.

What is Telluride like?

Telluride is located in the San Miguel Canyon. This gives the town more of a boxed-in feeling. Telluride is also in an alpine environment. It experiences cold winters and summers with mild temperatures. Many of the peaks surrounding Telluride are high alpine and reach over treeline. The elevation in Telluride is 8,750 feet. Nearby Mountain Village sits at 9,547 feet.

A person skis down a steep slope with a mountain peak in the background. Crested Butte Mountain Resort is known for steep skiing.

Skiing at Crested Butte

Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) is known for steep and extreme terrain. These double-black runs account for 36.6% of the resort. Most of the extreme terrain at CBMR is lift-served. Not an expert skier? There are still runs you can tackle. 14% of the terrain is beginner, 24.6% is intermediate and 24.8% is advanced. The Crested Butte Ski and Ride School offers lessons for beginners and anyone looking for a refresher. CBMR does not have backcountry access, but the Gunnison Valley is surrounded by over two millions acres of public lands. Backcountry skiers can connect with the Crested Butte Avalanche Center to learn more about avalanche risks in the Gunnison Valley. Please ensure you have the proper skills, knowledge and equipment to venture into the backcountry. CBMR has 1,547 skiable acres in total. The elevation of the base area is 9,375 feet. The elevation of the peak is 12,162 feet. Crested Butte is on the Epic Pass with unlimited days on the Epic or Epic Local Pass.

Skiing at Telluride

Telluride is also known for steep terrain. You must bootpack to access it. The resort has 2,000 skiable acres. 23% of the terrain is beginner, 36% is intermediate and 41% is advanced/expert. Telluride also has backcountry access through gates backcountry skiers can take to legally enter the backcountry. Full Epic Pass holders get seven days of skiing at Telluride.

Nordic Skiing and fat biking in Crested Butte

Crested Butte is widely referred to as the “Nordic Ski Capital of Colorado.” The Crested Butte Nordic Center grooms over 50 kilometers of trails for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. Most of these trails are easy to access from town. Even though they’re close to town they offer a pristine experience. Crested Butte is nestled among many acres of protected lands, providing these quiet and serene views while Nordic skiing. Please note that many Nordic Center trails require a pass. You can even get a pass for your pup. Please display your pass at all times, on you and your dog, and only bring your dog on dog-friendly trails. Many summer hiking trails can also be cross-country skied in winter. The trails outside of the Nordic Center are usually not groomed. The Gunnison Nordic Club in the south end of the Gunnison Valley groom for Nordic skiing as well. Nordic ski trails in Gunnison include Van Tuyl Ranch, Hartman Rocks and Mill Creek. Most of the Nordic trails in Gunnison and Crested Butte are also open to fat biking. The Crested Butte Nordic Center allows fat biking on 10 kilometers of trails. CBMR allows fat biking before and after the lifts are spinning with the purchase of an uphill pass. Gunnison Trails grooms over 14 miles of singletrack for fat bikes at Hartman Rocks.

Nordic Skiing and fat biking in Telluride

Telluride has a few areas for Nordic skiing. Some include Telluride Town Park, the top of Chair Ten at the ski area, Trout Lake and the golf course in Mountain Village. These areas offer a variety of trails for skiers of all abilities. Some trails are dog-friendly. Some of the groomed Nordic trails also allow fat biking. Make sure fat biking is allowed before setting off.

a downtown street with a pointy mountain peak in the background. Elk Avenue is Crested Butte's downtown. Find places to eat and get drinks, shops, galleries and more.

Downtown Crested Butte

Elk Avenue is the heart of Crested Butte. This picturesque downtown area is colorful and historic. Many of the buildings are Victorian and have been there since the coal mining days of Crested Butte. This downtown area is about three miles from the base area of CBMR. Utilize the free public transportation in Crested Butte to head to town. Elk Avenue is where you’ll find most of the places to eat, get drinks and see live music in Crested Butte. There is also shopping, art galleries and museums. The Center for the Arts Crested Butte is close to downtown. The Center has performances, shows, art classes and a gallery space.

Downtown Telluride

Downtown Telluride has bars, restaurants, shops and galleries. There are also historical points of interest such as an opera house. Mountain Village is about 20 minutes away. The towns are connected by a free gondola. Mountain Village is newer than Telluride, but offers many of the same amenities.

Flights to Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC)

The closest airport to Crested Butte is Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport. GUC is located in Gunnison, which is about 40 minutes from Crested Butte. This is the easiest way to get here. There is a free public bus system that runs from Gunnison to Crested Butte. This bus isn’t equipped to carry large luggage. If you’re staying in Gunnison, you can ride the bus with your skis and be dropped off right at the base area of CBMR. There are rental car and shuttle services available at GUC. Flying in to Denver? You can ski at Crested Butte and avoid driving on I-70. Denver International Airport (DEN) is about four hours from Gunnison and about four hours and 40 minutes from Crested Butte.

Flights to Telluride

There are two airports close to Telluride. The Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ) and Telluride Regional Airport (TEX). MTJ is about an hour and a half from Telluride. Denver International Airport (DEN) is about 6 and a half hours from Telluride.

a person rides a mountain bike over a rock in a grove of aspen trees. Mountain biking in Crested Butte, Colorado is high alpine

Summer things to do in Crested Butte

Crested Butte is known for mountain biking. Not only is the area a pioneer of the sport, but it was also one of the first places to build MTB trails. Today there are over 1,200 miles of trails in Gunnison and Crested Butte. 800 of these miles are singletrack. These mountain biking trails are part of the two million acres of public lands that make up the Gunnison Valley. Mountain biking not your thing? There are many things to do when you visit Crested Butte in summer. You can also hike, horseback ride, rock climb, off-road, gravel bike, and boat and fish on these public lands. Learn more about summer activities and events with our Summer Guide.

Summer things to do in Telluride

Telluride summer activities include fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, rafting, off-roading and more. There are many 13ers and 14ers around Telluride. Peak bagging is a popular activity. Some 13ers include Mount Sneffels and Teakettle Mountain. Two 14ers are Mount Wilson and Wilson Peak.

Visit Crested Butte

Crested Butte is one of the best Colorado mountain towns. It’s a year-round destination with outdoor fun suited to every Colorado season. Our trip planning guide can help you browse lodging options, book flights, plan things to do and more. Start planning your Colorado vacation to Crested Butte now!

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