Butte Bash changes lessen impacts of annual college event

“We’ve tried to have better communication”

After receiving numerous complaints about the disruption caused by the 2007 Butte Bash College ski week, event promoters Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) and Lifestylez Productions have made several accommodations this year. They hope to ensure that the 2008 Butte Bash is a smoother experience for locals and college students alike.




Butte Bash started in 2005, and drew only a few hundred college students in the first few years. For Butte Bash 2007, CBMR teamed up with California-based Lifestylez Productions to help promote the event and bring in more attendees. The result was a startling success, with 3,000 college students from across the country coming to Crested Butte over two separate weeks last January.
CBMR and several local businesses reported the event was a success, with attendance up eight-fold over the previous year. Other businesses and local residents were not so happy with the loud and disruptive behavior of the student visitors, the trash and body waste that was left in town each night, and the overall nature of the event and its participants.
In response, CBMR and Lifestylez attended meetings last spring with the two local municipalities, law enforcement, and transportation officials in an attempt to prevent any problems during this year’s events. Some of the requests included arranging for more late-night bus rides on Mountain Express and chaperones for the rowdy buses. “The buses were a big issue,” according to CBMR general manager Randy Barrett.
This ski season, two college ski weeks have already taken place. The first week was December 2-7, and drew fewer than 200 participants, according to CBMR group sales manger Tyler Lucas. The second week was January 2-7, and drew 300 participants. A third is going on from January 8 to January 12, with 700 participants in town this week.
With less than half the number of participants than 2007, officials say the events are running more smoothly.
Crested Butte assistant chief marshal Ted Conner says, “One of our main goals was to make sure these folks got back to their lodging, and that seems to be going pretty well.”
CBMR and Lifestylez hired Buck Security to provide chaperone service for Mountain Express buses on nights when Butte Bash events are scheduled in town. Mt. Crested Butte police chief Hank Smith says he has not heard about any disruptive issues on the buses with the first two groups of Butte Bash participants.
Other requests included cleanup help along Elk Avenue and strict education that Colorado is a 21 and over drinking state. Conner says event organizers agreed to remind student visitors not to go to the bars in town if they were under 21. Conner says he wasn’t sure if the reminder helped last week, but believes the local bars may receive fewer misguided underage patrons during the upcoming week. “I think we’ve tried to have better communication with Lifestylez and the Butte Bash participants,” he says.
According to Barrett, Lifestylez CEO Steve Smolinski was very willing to make accommodations to appease local concerns.
Crested Butte town manager Susan Parker says Lifestylez did offer to pay for additional cleanup labor along Elk Avenue and cover the overtime wages for the marshal’s department. Parker says she did not know if the offers were fulfilled yet.
Barrett says the tremendous snowfall may also be helping to calm things down, with college students spending more time tiring themselves out on the slopes and choosing to spend their nights relaxing.
Parker says the relatively calm first week was also due to the nature of the visitors. Butte Bash participants during the first week were mostly involved in academic ski clubs, she says. “The first group didn’t have a lot of issues. They’re not the spring break type. It’s the second group … that will be the one to watch. The first group was focused on skiing, the second is here to party,” Parker says.
That turned out to be the case during Monday night’s football game between Ohio State and Louisiana State universities. Many of the students here for the second Butte Bash week are from Louisiana State University (LSU), and CBMR and Lifestylez set up a tent on the deck of Butte 66 with big-screen TVs to celebrate the game.
“LSU won, unfortunately,” Smith says with a laugh. After the game, Smith says, crowds of excited students roamed the base area in Mt. Crested Butte. “There was quite a group out in the streets up here, obstructing cars and throwing stuff,” Smith says.
According to Smith, one Butte Bash participant from LSU was standing in front of the Elevation Hotel when he jumped in front of a Mt. Crested Butte patrol car. The police car narrowly missed the young man, who then threw the beer bottle he was holding off to the side of the street. According to the police report, the student didn’t know it was a Mt. Crested Butte police car he jumped in front of because, as he told the police, “All the cops back home drive old ‘Crown Vics.’”
When police took the subject’s driver’s license, he immediately asked for the license back and told the policeman that he wasn’t supposed to see his “real” license. Smith says the student was cited for underage consumption of alcohol and obstructing traffic, the latter of which Smith says is a pretty considerable offense. The student was given a courtesy ride back to his condo.
The only other incident that occurred that night, Smith says, was a broken window at the Transit Center, but that turned out to be caused by a local.
More of the special Butte Bash events will take place at the resort’s base area this week, rather than the bars in the town of Crested Butte, which held more events last week. Smith says that should help relieve transportation problems and help get people safely back to their condos. “Sometimes officers on patrol check for footprints leading off into the snow. Over the years we’ve found a considerable number of people who wandered off and got lost,” Smith says.
CBMR, Lifestylez, and local officials are scheduled to have a Butte Bash follow-up meeting when the event is over.

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