We love online polls. Hey, who doesn’t love online polls? The thing is, it can be so easy for a savvy marketing department or even a computer-savvy dude in a basement somewhere to manipulate them. So when it came time to run our annual Top Towns readers’ poll this summer, we decided to try a new system that would be close to impossible to mess with and give every town a fair shot at claiming the title of best spot for adventure in the state of Colorado.
We used a “Hot or Not” format, pitting each of 45 Colorado towns randomly against each other. The more readers voted, the better chance they had of seeing their favorite town pop up—and the more accurate our vote became. The top ten made sense (plus we hope we got some good coverage for smaller towns) and it’s hard to argue with our ultimate winner. Crested Butte is always a crowd favorite. It’s both geographically and emotionally the heart of the state, a place that all of us outdoor junkies head to at least once a year on a pilgrimage of sorts. But there’s more to the prominence of the town than its privileged spot in the Elk Mountains—it’s the people who live here and their dedication to the place that puts it at the top of the charts.
So we ask you to consider the wisdom of the locals:
“My favorite thing about Crested Butte is 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 founder of Stoke Lab, who moved here from Massachusetts and never looked back.
And Mike Horn is not alone. Crested Butte is home to a wide range of freaks and believers. As are all of Colorado’s towns. We love the winners here, but also take a moment to consider (and visit) some of the others in our contest. Spend some time in Jamestown, devastated by last fall’s floods, where you can bomb the downhills on your road bike then relax with a beer at the Mercantile. Or Canon City. Or Pagosa Springs. Or maybe even Denver, where even if you find yourself pining for the mountains on the horizon, you can cruise 850 miles of bike paths. Finding adventure? Hell, you live here. It’s in your town.
The Top Ten
1. Crested Butte
2 (tie) Telluride, Buena Vista
6. (tie) Durango, Glenwood Springs
Can’t-miss Adventures in the Butte
Reno / Flag / Bear / DEADMAN’S
Crested Butte is one of two spots where the mountain bike was born (Marin, California, is the other) and it still might be the single best place to mountain bike on the planet. So any adventure here starts in the saddle. Sure, 401 is the classic ride in CB, a romping singletrack through chest-high wildflowers that seem out of Alice in Wonderland, but this 20-mile epic just south of town is a true adventure. If you need beta, contact Big Al’s (bigalsbicycleheaven.com).
Paraglide the Butte
One true adventure: soar off the top of the famed butte itself. Visiting pilots must receive a site introduction from a local pilot, be current in high altitude launch skills with HA and TUR special skills ratings, sign a CBMR waiver and site regulations agreement, have a Colorado Search and Rescue Card (i.e hiking permit or fishing or hunting license—available at outdoor stores for $3) and stay at least 300 feet above and to the sides of any chairlift. Or contact the Crested Butte Soaring Society on Facebook.
There’s plenty to catch locally, but the best fishing adventure you can embark on from CB (or in the state of Colorado at all) is to hike down into the nearby depths of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and cast into the Gold Medal waters. Dragonfly Anglers (dragonflyanglers.com) leads day trips from its store in town.
At 13,208 feet this summit may not be one of Colorado’s esteemed 14ers, but it is one hell of a day hike, offering up a sweeping view of the Elk Range and a bit of a challenge with steep exposed slopes.
Irwin Lodge at The Eleven
Of course it goes to 11 here when it comes to skiing. This cat operation takes on terrain that claims an average of 600—yes six-freaking-hundred—inches each year. That’s tough to beat. winter.irwincolorado.com