It’s no secret that Colorado has some of the best skiing on the planet. People come from all over the world for a small taste of what Colorado has to offer. Unfortunately, because of the price of lift tickets for an entire family, far too many skiers who live in the state can’t always take advantage of the famous powder that’s right in their backyard. Colorado Ski Country USA’s 5th and 6th Grade Passport Program was designed to change that and make exploring these world-class destinations a little easier to swing for Colorado families by giving all 5th graders in the state 3 free days of skiing or snowboarding at each of the 20 member resorts. The 6th Grade Passport Program is similar, except participants have to pay $115 for the pass, but in return, they get 4 free days of skiing or snowboarding.

With green runs spread out across the mountain, Crested Butte is a great choice for families with skiers of all levels. Photo by Tom Stillo

With green runs spread out across the mountain, Crested Butte is a great choice for families with skiers of all levels. Photo by Tom Stillo

One of the resorts that families will have an opportunity to explore by taking advantage of the 5th and 6th Grade Passport Program is Crested Butte. Tucked back into the West Elk Mountain range about 40 minutes north of Gunnison, Crested Butte certainly isn’t the easiest ski resort in the state to get to, but once you’re there, there’s little doubt that the destination is well worth the trip.

Crested Butte isn’t built on the pomp and circumstance so many ski resorts are famous for. Large tracts of wide-open space are so prevalent here that it begins to feel like the land that condominiums forgot. The buildings along Elk Avenue (Crested Butte’s venerable Main Street) maintain their original character and color (aside from that Bud Light stunt) without ever appearing outdated or run down. The town instantly welcomes visitors into its population and makes them feel like they’re coming home for the holidays. It’s so welcoming and so charming it’s entirely likely that you’ll spend an entire week here before you realize that you haven’t seen as single franchise restaurant or chain retail store.

Crested Butte is one of those rare places that never feels like a place you’ve travelled to, but rather a place where you’ve come to. It’s a place that always feels like an escape. Especially if you like skiing.

It’s impossible to drive into Crested Butte and not be in awe of the mountain cutting into the sky and dominating the horizon. As impressive as it is to look at, however, it’s even more impressive once you get your skis on it. What’s most impressive about the mountain is that it offers something for everyone. From long, calm green runs that are spread out across the mountain to make sure none of them ever get too congested to the Extreme Limits terrain of double blacks that are enough to get even the most advanced skiers’ hearts beating a little faster, Crested Butte Mountain Resort has enough variety to ensure you won’t ever be bored no matter what level of skier you are.

Where to Stay

Crested Butte's friendly and welcoming attitude is contagious on and off the slopes. Photo by Lydia Stern.

Crested Butte’s friendly and welcoming attitude is contagious on and off the slopes. Photo by Lydia Stern.

Just like the mountain itself, both Crested Butte, and Mount Crested Butte (the village at the base of the ski resort) offer something for everyone when it comes to lodging. Nestled in the center of Mount Crested Butte, Elevation Hotel and Spa offers luxury rooms and all the amenities you could hope for without going over the top to point where it becomes unrealistic for regular families to stay here. The hotel is steps away from the main lifts, making it a simple matter toreturn to your room for lunch or the quick cup of hot chocolate that makes long days of skiing so much easier to manage for little legs. Elevation Hotel is also step away from nearly everything else you could possibly need during your stay – from restaurants and gift shops to a grocery store and the lift ticket office. And getting into the town of Crested Butte is just as convenient thanks to the free shuttle buses that run every 15 minutes and stop just around the corner from the Elevation Hotel.

There are many other reasonable and attractive lodging options both in Mount Crested Butte and Crested Butte, but families who are looking to participate in the Passport Program on the tightest budget possible should check out the Gunnison Getaway that might just be the best stay-and-play deal in the area.

Where to Eat

Crested Butte is home to a wide assortment of restaurants that offer everything from casual to fine dining (just don’t expect to find a fast food joint within half an hour’s drive in any direction) but if you want to get a taste of a true local landmark, you owe it to yourself to head over to the Secret Stash pizzeria. The flavors aren’t what you’ll find at your local Dominos, but be bold and try something that you’ll never find anywhere else. You’ll be happy you did.

What to Do

Although the mountain is definitely the most dominate feature in town, Crested Butte offers much more than just an amazing alpine experience. It’s no surprise that the town that is the birthplace of mountain biking has abundant opportunities to experience the fat bike phenomenon that is sweeping through the West.

The Crested Butte Nordic Center is a great place for families to go to explore other favorite winter activities. Photo by Xavier Fane.

The Crested Butte Nordic Center is a great place for families to go to explore other favorite winter activities. Photo by Xavier Fane.

And for a taste of a much older form of winter recreation, head over to the Crested Butte Nordic Center where you can get lessons and rentalsthat will help everyone in the family take advantage of the miles of Nordic ski trails that run throughout Crested Butte. If you’ve never tried it before, it’s an exhilarating way to enjoy the spectaculars scenery, and it might just be the most inexpensive activity available for families since children 17 and under ski free. But if Nordic just isn’t your family’s style, the Nordic Center also has an ice rink and snowshoes that will give you something else to do just in case you need a break from the enormous mountain at the center of town.

For more information, or to begin your travel plans, visit www.VisitGCB.com.