Peter Hines

by Peter Hines

Skiing in Southern Colorado

Part 1

Getting to Crested Butte


Photos and videos by the author

We began planning a ski tip to Colorado in November. There were several back and forths relating to locations and dates.

Phil, Mike and I finally settled on Crested Butte Mountain Resort and Purgatory Mountain resort for the first week in February.  Both Crested Butte and Purgatory are in southern Colorado.

Our plans were made before the El Nino blossomed and dumped on the west.

We found good deals on flights and car rentals on  Traveloscity flying into Montrose.  We opted for an SUV in case there was snow.  It paid off in the end.

With the travel arrangements in place by mid December we hoped smooth sailing leading up to departure.

Altitude sickness can ruin a trip. As I was going from the 300 feet abound sea level to over 7,500. I took precautions.  I ordered some Altitude Adjustment pills and planned to take them before I left home. I had started hydrating the night before drinking about as much water as could handle. 

On the morning of departure I woke at 3:50, before the alarm, to be picked up at 4:15 to go to the airport for a 6:00 flight.

With groggy eyes I looked at my cell phone only to see a text message from United Airlines that our flight was delayed to 7:20 with a 9:20 arrival to Newark and then a 9:50 departure to Montrose, Colorado. Darn this is tight, I thought; Bags probably won’t make it.

I immediately tried to reach Mike and Phil via text.  No luck.  I called Mike’s cell at 4:05.  They were already on their way to pick me up.  Oh well, time to go with the flow I thought.

Upon arrival at the airport the United desk agent looked at our connections.  Agreeing that they were too tight, he re-routed us from Newark to Chicago then to Montrose.  This provided for an almost two hour layover which was plenty of time for the bags.

The flights were uneventful except the seats were a little tight in the United CRJ 700 on the Montrose leg.  We did not see too much snow on the ground approaching Montrose.  Pulling up to the gate there were several other larger flights unloading; one from Dallas and one from Phoenix. Montrose is not a big airport so the baggage retrieval was crowded but smooth.    

The manager at the Alamo Car Rental handled our transaction swiftly and deftly and we headed to the lot and loaded up the SUV we reserved.

Tip: Spouses can usually be added as a driver but if you have an AAA or AARP membership additional drivers can be added without charge.

Mike brought his GPS and once synced we were off for Crested Butte. The GPS indicated a little less than 100 miles to Crested Butte. Looking at the instrument panel the outside thermometer read 57 degrees.  Interesting.

Leaving Montrose Colorado at 57 degrees

Heading east on Route 50 from Montrose the landscape quickly changed.  Being from the Northeast the lack of trees and vegetation replaced by the mesas, buttes and rock formations was a little surreal. The road wound up and down through the canyons.  Traffic was sparse and there were few houses.

As we headed up in elevation the temperature dropped to 28 degrees and the snow was more prevalent.  I could tell that his had snowed but had melted too.

There was more snow as we began to climb

We turned north in Gunnison and made a quick stop at the City Market for some provisions. The store was very well stocked and everyone was very helpful. 

Tip: Before shopping go to the service desk and ask for a City Market Value Card.  It takes about two minutes to complete and bring savings on food and gas.

As we continued to climb toward Crested Butte it was apparent that the population density was increasing. There were more houses and more traffic on the road.

Our check in at The Plaza at Crested Butte was smooth.  We brought our bags to the condo which was nicely appointed with three bedrooms, three baths and a full kitchen.  This was going to work out just fine.

We each grabbed a ski boot and headed off for the rental shop.

Rental technicians are an interesting lot.  They seem to come from all over.  Mark who helped use with the paperwork was from Australia.  His distinct accent as he elicited our information was a joy to listen to.

Jennifer, our Crested Butte ski technician, was very knowledgeable and helpful.  She comes south from Skagway, Alaska for three months of the year to work in the  Crested Butte Rental and Demo Center took care in inquiring about our abilities and where would like to be skiing.  She was also knowledgeable of the weather forecast.

Getting our ski equipment at the Crested Butte Rental and Demo Center

We opted for wider skis as snow was predicted and we would not be battling the ice and hard pack we are used to.

Skis procured, we checked them at the complimentary ski valet by the lift for overnight; one less thing to carry in the morning.

We stopped in the Butte 66 Roadhouse & Grille at the base.  The lifts had closed and the Après Ski was in full swing.  Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers were playing and they were super!

Kellogg and crew finished and headed back to the condo. It began to snow hard and the forecast was for 6-12 inches overnight.  First day was going to be great!!

For dinner we headed down the hill.  It was then that I was glad we got the SUV as the roads were getting slick.  After walking the snow covered streets of Crested Butte we ended up in the Wooden Nickel.

The Bar at the Wooden Nickel

It was not too crowded.  Seating was roomy. Word has it that the bar was manufactured and handcrafted in Philadelphia and made the overland rail and wagon trip over many months to ultimately grace the oldest saloon in Crested Butte.

The food and service were good. 

Dinner done it was time to clean off the SUV and head up the hill to the condo.

It had been a long eventful but yet uneventful day. The snow was dumping now. Time to rest for tomorrow. It was going to be a powder day for sure.

Time to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.


Skiing in Southern Colorado Part 2 Skiing the Powder at Crested Butte




Whiteface Logo


Catamount Logo

Ski Vermont

Mt. Snow Logo

Gore Logo

Windham Mountain