You have to make an effort to get to Crested Butte, but once you do, the town, the snow, and the hill are unreal. Photo: Coen.

It’s an effort to get to Crested Butte, but once you make the journey, the town, the snow and the hill are unreal. Photo: Courtesy of Ann Coen

The sun has barely set at Crested Butte, and you’re exhausted. You just did run after run without spending any time on a lift line.

Where is everyone? The big dump of the early week has been followed by bluebird skies, and you found yourself on these secret runs without a person in sight. No complaints here.

Granted, it's late January, traditionally a slow week. The holiday and winter break crowds have all gone. But it's all about geography because this hill of 3,062 vertical feet is 230 miles from Denver, the nearest population base. You don't get folks that come to ski or ride for the day.

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So, when those storms come barreling through the former coal towns of the Southern Rockies, it's really only those who are already posted up or the locals of the of the town of Crested Butte and Gunnison (28 miles away) who are there to enjoy it.

It's a remote mountain with fantastic terrain and charm. So what should you check out while you're at Crested Butte?

Camp 4 Coffee

Al Smith

Al Smith’s Camp 4 Coffee is reminiscent of the town’s coal mining days, and the coffee is all roasted by hand. Photo: Courtesy of Ann Coen

In the days of coal mining, the cold was often kept out by tacking license plates to the outsides of buildings. You still see this history at Camp 4 Coffee at 402 ½ Elk Avenue.

It’s a great place to start or end the day. Inside, they're busy hand-roasting delicious coffee in small batches. There are two other locations as well: one at Mountaineer Square by the base lodge and one at 161 Gillaspey Avenue in Crested Butte South.

East River

It

It’s not strange to find your crew alone at the East River area. Photo: Courtesy of Nathan Bilow

In general, Crested Butte, with 1,547 acres of terrain, offers a lot of room to spread out. But if you're still looking for the road less traveled, you can hit up the East River.

Accessible via the Paradise Express lift, it's a less tracked area that has fast cruisers, glades and some steeps. Use the East River Express lift and lap it for hours.

The Town of Crested Butte

The town of Crested Butte. Calling it a "charming hamlet" isn

Calling the town of Crested Butte a “charming hamlet” isn’t a stretch. Photo: Courtesy of Ann Coen

Towns sprung up in the Rockies during the gold and silver rushes like daisies, but most of them wasted away after the get-rich-quick crowd moved on. Crested Butte, however, survived as a coal mining town and a trade center for the region.

But it was the building of the ski area in the 1960s that brought the town into its own. In 1974, the whole town was designated a historic district, preserving the vintage look, and the newer buildings are designed to fit the aesthetic.

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Since it’s so far off the beaten path, tourism is the major industry. Hence, the folks who live in Crested Butte are there because they love it.

Fortunately, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, rafting and fishing have made this as much a summer destination as the mountain has made it a winter destination. It’s three miles from the base of the hill and accessible by the Mountain Express‘ free shuttle.

The Secret Stash Pizzeria

Secret Stash in the town of Crested Butte features a great vibe and creative pizza by East Coasters. Photo: Ann Coen.

Secret Stash in the town of Crested Butte features a great vibe and creative pizza by East Coasters. Photo: Courtesy of Ann Coen

After a full day of riding, what could be better than pizza? Or, specifically, a lively joint with a bar owned by two East Coasters who make super creative pizzas like the Pinhead Pesto and the Notorious F.I.G.

The folks at The Secret Stash Pizzeria, located at 303 Elk Avenue in the heart of Mount Crested Butte, are all about craft beer and amazing appetizers.

The Banana

the banana, crested butte

The Banana has majestic views, but make sure you’re ready before attempting this chute. Photo: Courtesy of Robb Pennie

A testament to how serious the terrain is at Crested Butte, the Banana isn't something you play around with until you're really ready, but just heading up the Silver Queen lift is a majestic sight.

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This west-facing chute — home to mind benders like Peak, Peel, Sunset Ridge and Funnel — is the drop of the actually butte that is shaped like a banana. It's only ridden with a serious amount of fresh snow and should be researched before heading up.

Third Bowl Homemade Ice Cream

Third Bowl Ice Cream serves handmade ice cream, and doughnuts for the chilly mountain days. Photo: Aaron Sheffield/Flickr.

Third Bowl Homemade Ice Cream serves handmade ice cream and doughnuts for the chilly mountain days. Photo: Aaron Sheffield/Flickr

Ice Cream; you earned it by hiking that little ridge and plowing through the trees. Third Bowl Homemade Ice Cream has it, good and homemade.

This ice cream is made on the premise of natural ingredients from local sources — Honey Lavender, Cowboy Coffee, Green Chili Chocolate, Spiced Latte and a bunch of nondairy varieties.

If you’re not into ice cream at a place that gets 300-plus inches of snow a year, they have homemade donuts, too.

Paradise Bowl

Paradise Bowl is a wide open bowl that pretty much anyone can handle.

Paradise Bowl is a wide-open bowl that pretty much anyone can handle. Photo: Courtesy of Trent Bona

The name kind of says it all. Accessible from the base of the mountain via the Silver Queen Express lift, Paradise is a wide bowl that sits in the sun all day.

What makes it so unique is that pretty much anyone can ride or slide this largely intermediate terrain. Carve the openness, or find fun in the small stands of trees and natural features.

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