NORDIC SKIING

You may already know that Crested Butte is the Wildflower Capital of Colorado, but did you know it’s the Nordic Skiing Capital, too? Every year the Crested Butte Nordic Center grooms 50 kilometers of trails in the upper Gunnison Valley, while Gunnison Nordic grooms a large trail network in Hartman Rocks, other places further down the valley, and a few places in town.

Between Gunnison and Crested Butte are several forest service roads that are left un-plowed in the winter. These roads become popular multi-use areas and are fantastic for access farther into the backcountry. They may or may not be groomed for Nordic skiing.

If you plan on cross-country skiing outside of the Crested Butte Nordic Center or the area surrounding Gunnison, please check the Crested Butte Avalanche Center to learn about the avalanche risks of the day.

PLACES TO NORDIC SKI NEAR CRESTED BUTTE

Crested Butte Nordic Center

Other Users: Snowshoers, fat bikers on certain trails

Dog Friendly?: Specific trails are dog-friendly. Your pooch needs a pass to be on them.

Directions from Crested Butte: Several in-town accesses exist. Peanut Lake Road, Town Ranch behind the high school, and the Nordic Center building on 2nd Street and Belleview Avenue are the most popular.

Description: You’ll need to purchase a day pass or season pass to use these trails. It’s well worth the price. With in-town access, beautiful views and trails that are groomed to immaculate standards, it’s hard to beat the Crested Butte Nordic Center trail system for convenience and fun.

There are over 50 km of trails that are regularly groomed. The Nordic Center offers a full-service rental and instruction center and welcomes skiers of every skill level. Want to learn to skate, go on a backcountry tour, or tackle downhills on cross-country skis? The Nordic Center offers daily lessons and tours, as well as camps throughout the season. You can also fat bike, snowshoe, and ice skate here.

The Crested Butte Nordic Center also puts on some of the best events of the year including the Alley Loop, Elk Mountains Grand Traverse, the Gothic Mountain Tour, and their entertaining yurt dinners under the Slate River stars. More information including a trail map, event calendar, and passes can be found here.

Slate River Road

Difficulty: Easy to medium

Other Users: Snowmobilers, fat bikers, snowshoers, backcountry skiers

Dog Friendly?: Yes, but weekends can be busy.

Directions from Crested Butte: From the 4-way stop, head north on Gothic Road towards Mt. Crested Butte. In .9 miles turn left on Slate River Road. Follow Slate River Road for 2.6 miles until you arrive at the winter trailhead.

Description: Skiing the Slate under the looming massif of Mineral Point is one of the most aesthetically pleasing activities in the valley. This is the closest Nordic skiing area to town that does not require a Crested Butte Nordic Center Pass and is also one of the main access points for backcountry skiing and snowmobile tours. This can make it crowded during peak times and weekends, but most folks have learned to share the Slate and ride, ski and, exercise their pets in a respectful manner.

Washington Gulch Road

Difficulty: Easy to medium

Other Users: Snowmobilers, fat bikers, snowshoers, backcountry skiers

Dog Friendly?: Yes

Directions from Crested Butte: From the 4-way stop, go north on Gothic Road towards Mt. Crested Butte. In 1.7 miles turn left onto Washington Gulch Road. Follow Washington Gulch Road for 2.4 miles when you reach the winter trailhead parking area.

Description: The first bit of the trail is on private property; please stay on the road regardless of your means of transportation. Washington Gulch is also scenic and relatively close to town. The lower part of the road before the bottom of Gothic Mountain can be a safe place to ski when avalanche danger is high.

Gothic/Schofield Pass Road

Difficulty: Easy

Other Users: Fat bikers, backcountry skiers, snowshoers

Dog Friendly?: Yes, but keep your dog restrained in the town-site of Gothic. Don’t let dogs roam off the road in other areas since Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratories has lots of research sites in the area.

Directions from Crested Butte: From the 4-way stop travel north on Gothic Road for 4.3 miles to the Snodgrass Trailhead.

Description: This is one of the best Nordic skiing trails in the area. Snowmobiling and motorized access are not permitted so you can enjoy the quiet and solitude of the East River valley. A 3.5 mile rolling downhill will bring you to the townsite of Gothic. Please stay on the road through this area to protect research stations. Continuing further can bring you pretty far into the backcountry so make sure you’re equipped with proper equipment and avalanche knowledge.

Cement Creek Road

Difficulty: Easy to medium

Other Users: Snowmobilers, fat bikers, snowshoers

Dog Friendly?: Yes

Directions from Crested Butte: From the 4-way stop travel south toward Gunnison on Hwy 135. In 7 miles turn left onto Cement Creek Road. Drive straight for 3.8 miles to the winter trailhead and parking area.

Description: Skiing Cement Creek starts with a ¾ of a mile climb through a scenic and rocky creek before you exit into a large open meadow unlike any other in the Crested Butte area. While the climb up is steep, the meadow is generally pretty easy to ski and there is usually a groomed classic track as well. You might see snowmobilers, but they aren’t too common. If you pick your time right, you may not see anyone at all.

Brush Creek Road

Difficulty: Easy to difficult

Other Users: Snowmobilers, fat bikers, snowshoers, backcountry skiers

Dog Friendly?: Yes

Directions from Crested Butte: From the 4-way stop travel south on Hwy. 135 for 2 miles. Turn left on Brush Creek Road and follow it for 2.5 miles to the Brush Creek Trailhead.

Description: From the parking area at Brush Creek Trailhead you have two options for Nordic skiing. The first is to take the Ditch Trail along the backside of Mt. Crested Butte. It is a very easy ski and a popular place for dog owners to get some exercise with their dogs.

Option two is to follow Brush Creek Road. Although the road is usually plowed to the first ranch, you still need to park and walk from the trailhead parking area so the family can have access. The skiing starts out easy and is flatter than any other ski aside from the CB Nordic Center. Things start to climb in terms of elevation, difficulty, and danger after crossing Brush Creek.

Going further requires the gear and knowledge to deal with avalanches, as well as a map and compass and a defined route plan. Be sure to check the avalanche forecast before you go. Lots of fun exists up here. Endless roads and trails are a boon for the experienced backcountry Nordic traveler. This drainage has been the traditional winter route from Crested Butte and Aspen for over 100 years!

PLACES TO NORDIC SKI NEAR GUNNISON

Mill Creek

Difficulty:Medium to difficult

Other Users: Snowshoers, fat bikers

Dog Friendly?: Yes

Directions from Gunnison: From the stoplight at the corner of US 50 and Hwy 135 go north on Hwy 135 for 3.5 miles. Turn left on Ohio Creek Road. In 9 miles turn left on Mill Creek Road. Follow it for 3 miles until you reach the parking area.

Description: Skiing in Mill Creek is downright impressive. As you travel up the canyon on any of the trails you become slowly enclosed by massive spires and columns of weathered rock. There are lots of trail options winding through the spruce and aspen groves, but judgment must be used to avoid avalanche hazard, especially in the upper canyon. Gunnison Nordic occasionally grooms trails in Mill Creek.

Hartman Rocks

Difficulty: Easy to difficult

Other Users: Snowmobilers, fat bikers, snowshoers

Dog Friendly?: Yes

Directions from Gunnison: Follow US 50 West from the center of town. Just before crossing the Gunnison River turn left on CR 38 (Gold Basin Road). Follow this for a couple miles to the Hartman Rocks parking area. Access also exists off CR 32 (McCabe Lane) a couple more miles down US 50 West.

Description: With acres of shrubland, unique rock formations, and endless views, Hartman Rocks offers a more expansive Nordic skiing experience than many places in the valley. Gunnison Nordic focuses most of their grooming efforts on keeping the miles of trails in the area in tip-top shape, and long loops and day trips are easy to piece together here. Maps of the area are available at the trailhead and online here.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Difficulty: Easy

Other Users: Snowshoers

Dog Friendly?: No

Directions from Gunnison: Follow US 50 West from the center of town for 57 miles. Turn right on CO-347 and drive another 4 miles. Park at the South Rim visitor center.

Description: Even in summer, Black Canyon is one of the least-visited National Parks. In winter, you’ll pretty much have the place to yourself. South Rim Road is groomed starting at the visitor center. Call the park before you go to inquire about conditions and whether theres enough snow for skiing. From the visitor center, you can ski or snowshoe along the road as far as you want to go. Be sure to stop at the overlooks to check out the views of the canyon and have a snack. The mellow grade of the road is appropriate for any skill level. This is an unforgettable way to experience the beauty of one of the country’s most unique National Parks.

If you’re looking for a mellow ski in town in Gunnison, Gunnison Nordic grooms the golf course at Dos Rios, the practice field at Western, and Van Tuyl Loop.

GEAR SHOPS, RENTALS AND LESSONS

Want to go Nordic skiing on your vacation, but didn’t bring any gear or need to learn? Don’t worry! We have you covered with multiple gear and rental shops as well as phenomenal instructional programs.

Nordic Skiing Lessons
Crested Butte Nordic Center
Gunnison Nordic
Adaptive Sports Center

ACTIVITIES IN GUNNISON-CRESTED BUTTE

While you’re here check out Crested Butte and Gunnison’s other winter activities: skiing and snowboarding, fat biking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice skating, dog sledding, and sleigh riding!

CRESTED BUTTE AND GUNNISON HOTELS

Whether you’re looking for a cabin or a condo, a hostel or a traditional hotel, we’ve got you covered for a vacation rental. Visit our Lodging page to learn more!

FIND A SKI GEAR OR RENTAL SHOP NEAR YOU

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