A guide for first-timers
Figuring out the streets and finding the sights in the twin towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte can be daunting for some first time visitors. “The roads are very bizarre up here,” says Mt. Crested Butte town manager Joe Fitzpatrick, noting roads begin with one name and end with another.
“The mountain is confusing—no one knows where to go,” says Crested Butte Lodging guest services manager Alana Dietrich of a resort base area seems so close, yet so far away.
Well, if it’s your first time to the area, the first thing to remember is the full Crested Butte experience actually involves two separate towns.
The town of Crested Butte is the first municipality you encounter after leaving Gunnison on Hwy. 135. It’s a national historic district, and holds most of the area’s retail businesses and restaurants, as well as the movie theater, supermarket, and ice rink. The town of Crested Butte has a large, free, day parking lot next to the Visitors Center and the four-way bus stop. If you plan on staying in Crested Butte, or will be moving your car by the end of the day, this parking lot provides easy access to Crested Butte Mountain Resort. As a plus, it actually involves less walking to get from car to chair lift than any of the other main parking lots.
Highway 135 is the only open road into Crested Butte in the winter, and through town it is called Sixth Street. Once you pass the Gas Café on the north end of Crested Butte, Sixth Street becomes Gothic Road.
The town of Mt. Crested Butte is three miles past the town of Crested Butte along Gothic Road, and holds the base area of Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and most of the hotels and condo rentals in the area.
Visitors Center front desk attendant Kari Ashbeck says just getting to the ski slopes is often confusing for visitors. Some visitors may see their hotel is on Gothic Road, but Ashbeck says they often end up turning along Gothic Avenue, which dead-ends next to Coal Creek in the town of Crested Butte.
“Also, some people get confused because there is a sign that says ‘ski area,’ but it actually leads people to the Nordic Center,” Ashbeck says.
Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce director Christi Matthews says she has even had some visitors asking for directions after heading past Crested Butte, but turning around once they reach the bridge that crosses the Slate River.
Matthews says the Visitors Center recommends two different maps for visitors, published by Crested Butte Printing and VS Designs. “The best map, in my opinion, is the one in the Go To Guide for detailed street names,” Matthews says, but adds usually only delivery drivers need the detail of the map in the phone book. “The other two are just fine for basic tourists,” she says.
Once people make it to Mt. Crested Butte, there can be other issues. The streets in Mt. Crested Butte are not arranged in a traditional grid. There is limited parking and not many pedestrian connections. Mt. Crested Butte town manager Joe Fitzpatrick says there is a pedestrian bridge that connects the west side of Mt. Crested Butte to the base area, and it can be accessed by walking through a series of steps near the Snowcrest condominiums. Fitzpatrick says when the sidewalks end people must walk on the roads, but he encourages visitors to use the free bus service whenever possible.
According to Fitzpatrick, there are two free parking lots in Mt. Crested Butte. One is just south of the Axtell building along Snowmass Road. The other is past the main parking lot at the corner of Gothic and Treasury, but it involves a five-minute walk to the base. Fitzpatrick says there are some short-term parking spaces next to the Grand Lodge that are ideal for visitors who need to make a quick stop in one of the base area stores.
There is absolutely no on-street parking in Mt. Crested Butte, he warns.
For getting around, Crested Butte Lodging and Property Management provides a slew of different maps to its guests. “Otherwise, they’d have no idea where to go. Trying to explain this mountain is ridiculous,” Dietrich says.
Many of Crested Butte Lodging’s different properties have individual maps, with directions around the property site, and to the nearest bus stop, along with a map of the base area. During check-in, Crested Butte Lodging provides each guest with a specific map of their property, a general map of Mt. Crested Butte, and any one of the popular visitors maps that the Chamber of Commerce recommends, Dietrich says.
Matthews says she has had some discussions with Fitzpatrick to clarify signs, and believes a more comprehensive sign program may be needed.
Fitzpatrick says the Mt. Crested Butte town code doesn’t restrict having too many signs in town. “It just hasn’t been implemented. If we really felt it was necessary, they’d be there. After all, we don’t want to oversign ourselves,” he says.