We asked our fans to vote for the best ski town in Colorado. The people have spoken and the winners just happen to be some spots with some serious soul.
When we put an online poll up asking your, our readers, to vote for the best ski town in the state, we asked you to rate the place based on its vibe and quality of life as well as easy access to to deep snow, stashes and on-mountain happenings. The response was overwhelming. Some voters publicly bitched that some of the towns in consideration (namely, Boulder, “are not even ski towns”). Great we replied, don’t vote for them. And it all worked out, in that way that messy democracy normally does. You would be hard pressed to find Colorado skiers who didn’t agree that these three towns deserve a spot at the top of the heap when it comes to the hearts of Elevation Outdoors readers. So here they are.
Best Small Town
Silverton, pop. 531
This category saw the most fervent responses with residents, PR folks and frequent visitors getting into Twitter flame wars over the voting (and trying to rig the results). But in the end, Silverton absolutely crushed the competition, which seemed right since no town in the state represents the vitality of soul skiing better than this tough little village high in the San Juans. And the local hill, an expert’s-only dream destination for hardcore skiers from across the planet, simply sealed the deal. Silverton defines ski town.
The Local Hill Silverton Mountain is unlike any ski resort in the world. You won’t find hotels, real estate, armies of ski school instructors, or even basic amenities. But who cares? Wth expert guided skiing, unguided skiing and heli-skiing to choose from, no one is here for the corduroy.
The Vibe There’s a yurt.
Make It Here Do you have a trust fund? Or can you fight with your bare hands? You have to make your own way in Silverton. Only the robust survive. There’s a yurt. Oh, and there is the best in-area terrain in the state at Silverton. Did we mention, there’s a yurt.
Reader Thoughts “The only real ski town where folks actually come to ski is Silverton. Not shop, or spa or dine… Just Ski!!”
Local Thoughts You want credibility? The shaman of the sensual power of powder skiing made her digs here. Dolores LaChapelle—the author of Deep Powder Snow, a major voice in the deep ecology movement and a pioneer of backcountry skiing—lived in Silverton from 1973 until her death in 2007. And she once said something that best sums up life in Silverton: “On a clear winter morning, just as the sun rises high enough for its slanting rays to shine horizontally through the trees, disclosing each branch and needle, backlit and rimmed with fire, each intricate facets of the snow crystals distinct and glittering, each contour and dip of the land plainly outlined by the conforming snow, I lay my track through the snow—a silent listener awaiting Being. And Being responds.” That’s right, people don’t live here. They are too busy being.
South Fork? Ok, we confess, we didn’t know much about the community near the base of Wolf Creek, which does, after all, get the most and most consistent snow in the state. But it sure ended up with a passionate following online. As one adherent said: “The best part about South Fork? It’s not the typical little ski town. South Fork does quirky well.”
Minturn is the little town that could in the midst of the I-70 power corridor. As one online devotee said, “Minturn is the best small town because you can ski Vail all day then ski right down to the saloon, no hustle and bustle with every one running around. It’s more laid back. What more could you want in a small, wonderful little town?”
Best Mid-sized Town
Crested Butte/Mount Crested Butte, pop. 1,487/801
Is it really any surprise that Crested Butte won out here? This place is one of the few real ski towns left. We did include Mount Crested Butte in the vote, which must have horrified some in-town locals, but really the two sides of this coin make up the beautiful dichotomy that is the Butte.
The Local Hill Crested Butte Mountain Resort is a proving ground. The mountain appeals to families from Texas and has a fantastic ski school. But it’s also home to some of the most butt-puckering extreme terrain around—without calling too much attention to itself. The snow can be epic or… well you make the most of what you get.
The Vibe Funky with a flair for achieving something. The place brought back the telemark turn and heralded in the 29er.
Make It Here You must be determined to ski and bike to carve out a living in Crested Butte. A lot of people head down to Gunnison for a living. But self-motivated entrepreneurs will thrive here.
Reader Thoughts “It is the best because the town is real, the locals are genuine and the mountain offers the best lift served terrain in Colorado. Period.”
Local Thoughts “My favorite thing about Crested Butte is that it’s a mountain town—which is like a ski town, but better. Sure there is killer riding here, some of the best inbounds terrain in the state is right out the front door and the backcountry spans many miles beyond that. But it’s the lifestyle, the sense of community and mountain culture that’s been evolving here since the 1880’s that puts our town over the top,” says Mike Horn the editor of StokeLab.com and Kronicle magazine, who moved here from Massachusetts and never looked back.
It’s hard to pass up Telluride, which has been constantly praised as the most beautiful town in the state. One reader put it best: “Colorado racks up a lot of great ski towns, but nobody puts it together in true Colorado style like Telluride. The snow. The charm. The people. And the postcard views in every direction.” And it’s hard to tell whether all the festivals have grown the town’s cred among the ski illuminati or downgraded it with the locals. Here’s a hint: visit during Blues and Brews for the real deal.
Best Big Town
Durango, pop. 16,887
We smiled when we saw Durango rise to the top here. It is not on the tip of the tongue of editors of national magazines when it comes to big ski towns. That’s because they don’t know the meaning of the phrase. Durango is a way of life.
The Local Hill Durango Mountain Resort does not get nearly the praise it deseves. It’s a true locals’ mountain, that can get battered with southern storms and stashes some serious sidecountry. Plus, the San Juans offer endless and often extreme backcountry and Silverton is just up the troad.
The Vibe You can be wahtever you want here. It’s a college town without the bro-brah of Boulder. An outdoor sports paradise without the competitivenes of Vail. The Sothwest with some Rockies flavor.
Make It Here The best job in town? Working at Verde PR and Consulting. The boutique firm handles many of the powerhouse gear brands you see in this magazine, including K2, Scarpa, Ibex, Outdoor Research, Vapur and Atlas Snowshoes. Its employees get to live the Durango dream, travel the world for their clients and still be able to tell their parents they have a real job. Sort of.
Reader Thoughts “For years, Durango has been ‘the most ready for anything’ ski town. Durango has something for everyone.”
Local Thoughts “I love Durango because it is a mountain town with a ski area, not a ski town. This distinction is critical as Durango doesn’t ebb and flow with each passing winter storm. One is quickly humbled in Durango when you can end up sitting next to the some of the best mountain bikers, kayakers and climbers in the world on any given chairlift ride. Nobody at Durango Mountain cares who you are or what you do as long as you are having fun. I have been very fortunate to travel the world and ski hundreds of places, but I still love coming home to Durango. The fresh snow stays around for days and there is no attitude at Durango Mountain. I love that the mountain is so unassuming,” says DMR marketing guru Sven Brunso, a 20-year resident whom you can see ripping in the accompanying photo on this page.
How could we not praise Steamboat, where Olympians are simply the kid next door and every family is out shredding together? We leave you with one reader’s praise: “Steamboat Springs is perfect. There’s great skiing you can follow it up with a soak in the hot springs. What could be better than that?”
You tell us next poll, readers. •
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