First-Timer’s Guide to Crested Butte: The Mountain, Part 1
Navigating a new mountain on a Colorado ski trip can be difficult. This guide breaks down some of the best steep early-season terrain at Crested Butte. It is geared toward advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders skiing Crested Butte Mountain Resort for the first time. Check out this Crested Butte beginner skiing guide if you’re a first-time skier.
Skiing at Crested Butte Mountain Resort
Crested Butte Mountain Resort is known for steep and extreme terrain. 37% of the mountain is expert terrain and 25% is advanced. This double-black terrain is called the Extremes. The gnarly lines and steep slopes at Crested Butte are often outside backcountry gates or permanently closed at other resorts. It is avalanche-controlled, open to the public and lift-served at Crested Butte. The Extremes usually open in January, when they open. This terrain can only open when snowfall and avalanche conditions are right. However, there is plenty of steep terrain to shred outside of the Extremes. Many of them are only rated single black, but don’t let that fool you. Tight trees, short steep pitches, and rocks will force you to stay light on your feet and focused on your lines. Be safe and smart if you decide to push yourself on these lines. With some of the best in-bounds skiing in the Lower 48, it’s easy to find something to ski or ride before our snowpack is at its deepest. Poke around and explore; we’re sure that you’ll find something to get the blood pumping even before the Extremes open completely.
Paradise Bowl Area
The first place to start is the easiest to get to. On the way down to Paradise Express lift from the Silver Queen Express there is a section of trees and chutes called Beaver Slides that drop onto Ruby Road. This is a busy area funnels a lot of traffic on the mountain. Spot your exit before dropping onto Ruby Road and watch out for other skiers. There is another steep slope below Ruby Road called Westwall. If you scout out your line just right you can find the cliff drops hidden in the woods.
Tower 11 Chutes
Tower 11 Chutes is one of the first true double-black runs to open. It can be accessed from a short cat road on the skier’s right of Paradise Bowl. These Chutes have a rocky entrance that leads into a series of tight chutes to the left that you can pick and choose from. It’s right under the lift line so it’s worth a quick scout from the lift before dropping in. Be aware that there are rocks in this area.
Horseshoe and Horseshoe Springs
Horseshoe and Horseshoe Springs are accessed off of Yellow Brick Road to skier’s left from Paradise lift. These runs don’t feature a ton of vertical feet but they will keep you on your toes. The entrance of Horseshoe Springs drops off to the skier’s left through the glades. Drop into Horseshoe proper on skier’s right off the ridge wherever looks good to you. It isn’t recommended to go all the way to the end of the ridge until much later in the season. That area is rarely filled in in the early-season because of its aspect and impressive collection of scree and talus.
East River is one of the best areas for glade skiing at Crested Butte. Two of the steepest early season glades can be accessed off of the East River Lift. The first is called Bakery Trees and is the real deal for early-season skiing. The second is known locally as Resurrection Trees and is a little more difficult to find. Explore more tree skiing at Crested Butte.
Bakery Trees is a treasure trove of tree skiing with many different lines. You must side step or hike up a short hill and traverse through the trees for about 100 feet to get to the top of the run. Skier’s right tends to be a bit friendlier since it’s primarily an aspen grove and little more open. The middle and skier’s left can get very steep and tight, but that’s all part of the fun right?
Resurrection Trees are the glades to the skier’s left of Resurrection, Crested Butte’s classic lift-line mogul run. Start off on Resurrection and look for the road to the left. Ski into the woods on some low-angle terrain just before the bottom drops out. From here the middle and right are your best bet for a warm-up, allowing you to bail to Resurrection at any time. Going skier’s left gets steep and very tight, eventually dropping you onto Lower Treasury. If you choose to ski right or center it is not recommended to ski past the second road that you come too. The trees below are riddled with spindly willows and the pitch is so slight that you will end up walking out. Another great early season run in the East River zone is the bumps on skier’s left of Resurrection. On a day with some fresh powder nothing beats carving turns on the bumps, popping off moguls, and sending the cat tracks.
All of the frontside runs are accessed by the Silver Queen lift. You can also take Paradise and cut over on Ruby Road if you don’t mind missing out on some vertical. A word of warning, the frontside is a fair bit rockier than the East River runs. Keep those feet light and look ahead to avoid putting a core-shot in your skis or board.
Monument is the best place to start since the gate is just below the Silver Queen Chair. Monument is a classic Crested Butte run. To find the gate you’ll have to ski/ride down to Windy Gap, the picturesque flat area before you take the Silver Queen Road or Keystone. Enter the run with a traverse to skier’s left. There is a fence down the middle of Monument that splits it into two parts. The skier’s right of the fence is mellower. Going to the left of the fence will put you into the wind-buffed chalky goodness that Monument is known for. Be careful at the exit since it drops onto the busy Ruby Road trail. It is sometimes undercut and ends in an abrupt flat landing.
Crystal and International
From Ruby Road trail you can drop into the trees between Crystal and International. If you pay attention to the fall line and stay to the right you can score one of the best sets of glades on the whole mountain. These trees eventually dump you out just above Sylvanite. From here you get one last bit of steepness before heading down to the lifts.
Psychedelic Rocks is the last bit of gnar you can hit before returning to the base. You can actually ski this line from the top of Red Lady lift. Keep your speed up on the long cat track that marks the entrance to Sylvanite to reach these cliffs. Look for a series of trails to your right at the halfway point of the cat track. Ski out to the cliff line and scout your line. Several fun cliffs and chutes are scattered along this short ridgeline. Exit out on the Red Lady lift-line run to get back to the bottom.
Plan a Colorado ski trip
Looking for other resources for planning a Colorado ski trip to Crested Butte? Get started with this weekend ski trip itinerary. Still not convinced you should give Crested Butte a try? Here are seven reasons to ski Crested Butte. Book flights, browse lodging and more with this trip planning guide.