Crested Butte vs Steamboat Springs

Crested Butte and Steamboat Springs are both classic Colorado ski towns. We’ve put together this guide that compares some similarities and differences of these Colorado vacation destinations for you to consider while planning your winter 2022 Colorado ski trip. Crested Butte is known for its steep, extreme terrain and laid-back vibes and is often called Colorado’s last great ski town. Steamboat Springs is known for its hot springs and incredibly light and dry powder.

Crested Butte Mountain, Crested Butte, Colorado in winter

Where is Crested Butte, Colorado?

Crested Butte is located in the Rocky Mountains of western central Colorado. It’s in Gunnison County and has an elevation of 8,909 feet. A few miles north is the town of Mt. Crested Butte, which is the literal end of the road and home to the ski area, Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR). Gunnison, Colorado is about 30 miles south on Highway 135. On average, Crested Butte receives 234” of snowfall annually.

Where is Steamboat Springs, Colorado?

Steamboat Springs is located in northern Colorado’s Yampa Valley. Its elevation is 6,695 and it is located in Routt County. Nearby towns include Clark, Coalmont, and Craig. Crested Butte and Steamboat Springs are about a five-hour drive from each other. Steamboat Springs receives 314” of snowfall annually on average.

How to get to Crested Butte, Colorado

Crested Butte is located 28 miles north of where State Highway 135 and U.S. Highway 50 intersect in downtown Gunnison. You can fly or drive to Crested Butte. The closest airport is Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC) in Gunnison. If you’re coming from Denver and wish to avoid I-70, you can reach Crested Butte by taking U.S. Highway 285 S to State Highway 306 and then County Road 209 to County Road 742 and finally State Highway 135 N. I-25 S to State Highway 115 S to U.S. Highway 50 W to State Highway 135 N is another option for avoiding I-70.

How to Get to Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Yampa Valley is 160 miles northwest of Denver and is about a three-hour drive. Steamboat Springs can be reached from Denver by taking I-70 W to State Highway 9 N to 6th Street in Steamboat Springs. The closest airport is the Yampa Valley Regional Airport (Steamboat/Hayden HDN) which is 22 minutes outside of town.

Skiing in Crested Butte, Colorado

Skiing in Crested Butte, Colorado

Skiing is an important part of Crested Butte’s history and culture. Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR), which is part of the Epic Pass, has been open since 1961 but is predated by skiing as a form of transportation and entertainment dating as far back as the 1890s. The high snowfall in Crested Butte and extreme terrain has helped make it a popular ski areas in Colorado. 32% of the terrain on the mountain is rated expert and draws visitors from all over the world. However, if you’re not an expert don’t worry! 18% of the runs are beginner, 29% intermediate, and 21% advanced, so there is plenty of terrain for every ability level. Pull on your goggles and dust off your skis because there’s something for every skier and snowboarder at CBMR.

Though there isn’t backcountry skiing access at CBMR, there is plentiful backcountry skiing throughout the Gunnison Valley due to the large amount of public land. There are several guide services in town that offer backcountry skiing tours. Please be certain that you possess the education, skills and gear necessary to safely navigate through avalanche terrain.

Skiing in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Steamboat Ski Resort is the primary ski area in Steamboat Springs. It is on the Ikon Pass. This resort is known for its light and dry powder and family-friendly runs. There are many terrain parks in the resort as well. 14% of the runs are beginner, 42% intermediate, and 44% advanced. There is not much for expert skiers to explore, but intermediate skiers will be challenged and have many runs to choose from. Called Ski Town, USA, many Winter Olympic athletes train at Howelsen Hill Ski Area, another ski area in town.

Fish Creek Canyon is a backcountry ski line accessible from the ski area. There are other opportunities to backcountry ski around town and some guide services to go with as well. Please be certain that you possess the education, skills and gear necessary to safely navigate through avalanche terrain.

Nordic skiing in Crested Butte, Colorado

Nordic Skiing in Crested Butte, Colorado

Crested Butte has been dubbed the Nordic ski capital of Colorado. The Crested Butte Nordic Center grooms a network of 50 kilometers of trails in Crested Butte. Many favorite summer mountain biking trails in Crested Butte are also available for Nordic skiing in the winter. Slate River Road, Washington Gulch Road, and Gothic/Schofield Pass are a few. Gunnison, Colorado is just 30 miles south of Crested Butte and offers unique groomed Nordic skiing at Hartman Rocks Recreation Area, courtesy of Gunnison Nordic. Many of these trails are also open to snowshoeing.

Nordic Skiing in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Some options for Nordic skiing in Steamboat Springs include Haymaker Nordic Center, Howelsen Hill Ski Area, and Stagecoach State Park. Passes are required for some trails. Many trails are groomed and also open to snowshoeing.

Fat biking in Crested Butte, Colorado

Fat Biking in Crested Butte, Colorado

Since mountain biking is so popular in Crested Butte, fat biking really took off here when fat bikes began to be commercially produced. Local trails organizations have worked hard to devise a grooming technique that is sustainable and practical for the snow and trails in Crested Butte. Fat biking is allowed on some trails at the Crested Butte Nordic Center with the purchase of a day or season pass. This is a great option for those looking to try it out since most of the trails are flat and groomed daily. CBMR also allows fat biking with an uphill pass before or after the ski day. Hartman Rocks in Gunnison is available for fat biking as well.

Fat Biking in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Fat biking has also gained popularity in Steamboat Springs. Places to fat bike in Steamboat Springs include Howelsen Hill Ski Area, Emerald Mountain, and Haymaker Nordic Center. Howelsen Hill and Haymaker Nordic Center both require trail riders to purchase a pass. Fat biking is permitted at Steamboat Springs Ski Resort with an uphill pass.

Downtown Crested Butte, Colorado in winter

Culture of Crested Butte, Colorado

Crested Butte is often referred to as a surf town in the mountains. The vibes are chill and laid-back. A walk down Elk Avenue will give you a good taste of Crested Butte’s quirk and eclectic charm. Elk Avenue is also the home of the après scene. Head there once the day is over to try anything from fried chicken to locally distilled rum to flavorful and offbeat pizzas. There is also a vibrant arts scene in Crested Butte, which is on display in the various art galleries around town and The Center for the Arts.

Culture of Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Steamboat Springs has a strong ranching heritage and is known for being relaxed and family friendly. The downtown hosts a variety of places to eat and shop. There are several art galleries in Steamboat Springs as well. The mountain village has the après spots to hit after the day on the slopes is done.

Crested Butte Hotels

Accommodations in Crested Butte range from cozy bed-and-breakfasts in town to traditional slopeside hotels in Mt. Crested Butte. Learn more on our Lodging page.

Site developed by Agency Tourism Marketing