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Crested Butte Vs. Monarch Mountain

If you’re planning a ski trip to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, you might be wondering if you should ski at Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) or Monarch Mountain. CBMR is located in the Gunnison Valley and is a quirky ski town in the Rocky Mountains. Monarch Mountain is located in Salida, Colorado.


Where is Crested Butte Mountain Resort located?

Crested Butte Mountain Resort is in Crested Butte, Colorado. Crested Butte is located at the end of the road on Highway 135. Crested Butte is sometimes referred to as the “last great ski town.” This quirky mountain town was once a mining town that was revitalized with the beginning of recreational skiing. CBMR opened in 1960 and is one of the pioneers of freeskiing. Crested Butte is about 30 miles north of Gunnison, Colorado. Gunnison is a mellow college that is home to Western Colorado University and is known for access to the outdoors. It is also more affordable than Crested Butte. The elevation in the town of Crested Butte is 8,900 feet. The elevation at the peak of the resort is 12,162. The average snowfall at the resort is 234 inches.

Where is Monarch Mountain located?

Monarch Mountain is located in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains near Salida, Colorado on Monarch Pass. It is about 20 miles west of Salida, about 160 miles southwest of Denver and about 35 miles southeast of Buena Vista, Colorado. Salida, Colorado is situated along the Arkansas River and has many opportunities for outdoor recreation. The base elevation of Monarch Mountain is 10,790 feet and the summit is 11,952 feet.

A skier on a steep slope

Skiing at Crested Butte vs. Monarch

Skiing at Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Crested Butte Mountain Resort has some of the steepest in-bounds skiing in the U.S. CBMR is famous for this terrain and draws expert skiers excited about these double-black ski runs from all over the world. Though the steep terrain is a hallmark of CBMR, skiers of all abilities have runs to enjoy. Start planning the runs you want to ski with this guide to intermediate ski runs and trails at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Crested Butte has 1,547 skiable acres. 14% is beginner, 24.6% is intermediate, 24.8% is advanced and 36.6% is expert. Brand-new skiers and those trying to hone their skills can take advantage of the Crested Butte Ski and Ride School in a group or private ski or snowboard lesson. CBMR is on the Epic Pass. Crested Butte Mountain Resort doesn’t have backcountry access. There are two million acres of public lands in the Gunnison Valley if you’re looking to backcountry ski. Please ensure you have the necessary skills, knowledge and equipment to safely navigate the backcountry if you plan to venture into it.


Skiing at Monarch Mountain

Monarch Mountain has 800 skiable acres. 22% is beginner, 27% is intermediate, 36% is advanced and 12% is expert. The average annual snowfall of Monarch is 350 inches. Monarch Mountain is smaller than Crested Butte Mountain Resort and has fewer lifts and trails. Monarch Mountain is not on the Ikon or Epic Pass. You can purchase a Monarch-only pass or a pass that also has access to partner resorts such as Copper Mountain, Angel Fire Resort and Powderhorn Mountain Resort. Uphill access is permitted before, after and during operating hours for the ski area with an uphill pass. Monarch Mountain has backcountry access via the Panorama Lift.


Après at Crested Butte vs. Monarch

Après at Crested Butte

The hub of the après scene at Crested Butte is Elk Avenue, which is the main drag in town. Here you’ll find bars, places to eat, live music and more. Food choices range from fried chicken, Nepalese fare, pizza and bar food, and burritos. Enjoy Crested Butte-made rum, craft beer, cocktails and more when looking for a drink after a fun day of skiing. The base area has a few places to eat and get drinks as well. Before the lifts stop spinning, check out the on-mountain options for food and drinks.


Après at Monarch

Monarch Mountain has a lodge at the base area with a few options for food and drinks. The ski area is located on Monarch Pass. There is no town at the base area of Monarch Mountain. Salida, Colorado is about 20 miles away. Downtown Salida offers bars, restaurants and breweries.


Nordic Skiing in Crested Butte

Crested Butte is often lauded as the “Nordic Ski Capital of Colorado.” The natural beauty of the area and the diverse trail system in Crested Butte make it a must-see Nordic skiing destination. The range of terrain in Crested Butte offers options to skiers of all abilities. The Crested Butte Nordic Center grooms 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) of trails in Crested Butte for cross-country skiing. Many of the Nordic Center trails are close to town. Nordic Center trails are also available for snowshoeing, and some are groomed for fat biking. A few trails are dog-friendly. You must purchase a pass, for you and your dog, and display it to use Nordic Center trails. There are even more that are ungroomed. Other places to cross-country ski include Slate River Road, Washington Gulch Road, Gothic/Schofield Pass Road, Cement Creek Road and Brush Creek Road. There are Nordic skiing trails in Gunnison as well. A few areas with trails include Hartman Rocks Recreation Area, Van Tuyl Ranch and Mill Creek.

Two skiers nordic ski on a groomed ski trail

Nordic Skiing near Monarch Mountain

There are a few places to cross-country ski off Monarch Pass. Some include Fooses Creek, Lost Wonder Hut and Chalk Creek Pass. Check out Hancock Pass, a 5.9-mile-out-and-back beginner trail, to get to the ghost town St. Elmo. Other options include Graham Gulch, Raspberry Gulch and Cascade Falls.


Fat Biking in Crested Butte

Fat biking allows cycling enthusiasts to keep enjoying their bikes in the winter. These bikes have extra-large tires that allow them to float over the snow. CBMR and the Crested Butte Nordic Center are some of the best places to fat bike in Crested Butte due to their usually consistent surfaces. The east side trails of the Crested Butte Nordic Center are especially good for beginners since the trails are groomed and mostly flat. Fat biking at CBMR requires an uphill pass and is only available before and after hours.


Fat biking near Monarch Mountain

Fat biking trails in Salida include Arkansas Hills, the Methodist Mountain Trail System and S Mountain. Other options include local snowmobiling trails. Monarch Mountain has fat biking access. Fat biking at Monarch is allowed before and after the ski day. You must have a pass to fat bike.


What is Crested Butte like?

Crested Butte, Colorado is a quirky ski town that got its start as a mining town. It is often referred to as a “surf town in the mountains” thanks to its laid-back vibes. The downtown is colorful and historic. Many of the shops and restaurants are in Victorian buildings still standing from the mining days. Along with the après scene, downtown Crested Butte has shops and art galleries. You can also find live music venues and an arts center. Attending a local event can help you get a feel for the local culture. Check out the events calendar to see what’s going on during your trip.

A skier on a jump at a ski area

What is Monarch Mountain like?

Monarch Mountain is in Salida, Colorado. Downtown Salida is about 20 miles from Monarch Mountain. Salida is in the Arkansas River Valley and is primarily known for whitewater boating. Downtown Salida has local shops, places to eat and get drinks, art galleries and more.


Similar Colorado Ski Areas

There are a few other similar Colorado ski areas to Crested Butte Mountain Resort and Monarch Mountain. These resorts have similar terrain and comparable amounts of snowfall. Wolf Creek Ski Area is privately owned and receives abundant snowfall over its diverse terrain. Purgatory/Durango Mountain Resort is similar in size and has a good mix of terrain. Telluride Ski Resort is independently owned and an Epic Pass partner. It is also known for its steep terrain.


Winter events in Crested Butte

Winter is a busy time in Crested Butte! There are a variety of fun and unique winter events to attend on your visit. Some of these events include the Alley Loop Nordic Marathon, the Al Johnson Memorial Telemark Race, Blister Summit, the Winter Songwriter Shuffle Series and more. The best part of many of the events in Crested Butte? Most of them also double as a costume party!


Plan your trip

Need more convincing to ski at CBMR? Check out seven more reasons to ski at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Start planning your ski vacation! Use our trip planning guide to find a place to stay, plan things to do and book flights. Book lodging and flights early for the best rates.

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