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The terrain, jobs, renting and nightlife at Crested Butte

Crested Butte - Guide to Working a Season

Crested ButtePhoto: Crested Butte bowls, Robb Pennie

 

Crested Butte is still relatively unknown but is a mecca of riding in Colorado for those in the know due to its awesome selection of expert terrain and incredible bowl riding.

As such, it attracts decent riders to work at the resort without attracting the huge tourist crowds of other more well-known Colorado resorts such as Vail and Aspen. This is one town you are likely to find the ski bums. 

 

Location and Getting Around

Crested Butte Mountain Resort is located in Colorado, USA. It is around 228 miles (367 km) southwest of Denver.

The nearest towns are Crested Butte, which is 2.5 miles (4 km) down the valley, and Gunnison, a larger university town around 31 miles (50 km) south of the resort, which is a college town.

The town of Crested Butte is connected to the resort by a free shuttle, (www.mtnexp.org) which runs every 15 minutes during winter months, as well as by a bus system that passes through both Gunnison and Crested Butte on its way to the Resort.

The Rural Transportation Authority also provides a bus system between Gunnison, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte www.gunnisonvalleyrta.org.

 

Town and Resort Vibe

Crested Butte townPhoto: Alex Fenlon, Crested Butte town

Crested Butte is an historic coal mining town turned ski town.

The town has resisted the advances of the developers in other ski towns around Colorado and, as such, is one of the few remaining ski towns in Colorado to fully preserve its heritage and let you feel as if you are stepping back into the mining days. The many colorful old buildings around town attest to this heritage and contrast beautifully with the surrounding alpine landscape.

Crested Butte itself is a stunning, craggy mountain which rises sharply from the surrounding tablelands and acts as an alluring centerpiece to the landscape.

Crested Butte aims to 'keep it real' in the very opposite sense to the nearby glitzier resorts of Vail and Aspen. You won't find the big designer labels or overpriced cocktail bars in Crested Butte. Instead, you will find laid-back locals and seasonal workers more concerned with their riding style than fashion sense.

One bonus is that this means the prices are quite good compared to the more well-known resorts.

Nearby Gunnison is a larger town with a big student population thanks to Western State College. This adds to the large number of young people in the area and means the bars in Gunnison can get packed on the right night.

The nightlife in Crested Butte is, by comparison, quite tame so many seasonal workers will head out to Gunnison for a bigger night.

 

The Terrain at Crested Butte

Crested Butte has 1165 acres of skiable terrain, divided into 121 runs. The vertical drop is 2,775 feet (846 meters) or another 100 meters or so (300 ft) more if you include the hike-to terrain.

Crested Butte has some of the best selection of in-bounds expert riding in the United States and is as serious and technical as you could hope to find in the country. For that reason, a lot of awesome riders come to Crested Butte to work a season and Crested Butte is a bit of a hidden mecca in Colorado.

Along with Telluride and Silverton, the technical in-bounds terrain is the best in Colorado.

The bowls up the back are rocky and steep and a ton of fun to tackle on a powder day. The Headwall, in particular, is some of the gnarliest terrain in the country with chutes, drop-offs, cliffs and plenty of obstacles. The Extreme Limits is another area with terrain not for the uninitiated. Terrain around this area requires a hike to get to the best bits.

There is enough demanding terrain at Crested Butte to challenge you for several seasons. To demonstrate the caliber of the terrain, Crested Butte hosts a Big Mountain free skiing competition each year up the back on the bowls – the MSI Freeworld Competition - which is one of the better Big Mountain competitions going around.

Crested Butte has less in the way of intermediate terrain, although there is some glade riding lower down on the mountain. International, just off the Silver Queen lift, is the best and fastest on-piste run. Crested Butte is much more suited for seasonal workers looking to challenge themselves throughout the season in epic bowls and technical lines.

Slackcountry is not allowed at Crested Butte as the land outside the resort is privately owned. There are, however, a number of backcountry options in the "five fingers" area if you get a guide or local to show you. Remember your avalanche gear if you backcountry riding.

Terrain Parks

There are four terrain parks put in place each season from beginner to the expert Superpipe. The features in the advanced park are good enough for all but the pros out there.

Snowfall

Snowfall is around 300 inches (762 cm) a year. This is about standard for Colorado resorts. The snow quality tends to be pretty good compared to other Colorado resorts due to its high elevation and the fact that much of the mountain is north-facing.

However, the best terrain at Crested Butte is steep and technical which generally requires decent snow cover to make it ski-able compared to on-piste areas. Unfortunately, this means that in poor snow years the best terrain won't open up until mid to late season, if at all.

 

How to Get a Job

The season usually opens in late November and closes early April. The best time to apply is late summer to early fall. Crested Butte starts interviewing in August/September but often has positions available in December.

Jobs with the resort are found at www.skicb.com/jobs.

Interviews can be done on the phone or through Skype.

All types of jobs are available, including lift operators, servers, cooks, bartenders, adventure park and zipline guides, front desk agents, and maintenance technicians. See Jobs Available at Ski Resorts for a description of ski resort jobs.

Pay

The minimum wage in Colorado is $8.31 per hour and most entry-level positions will pay around this. Supervisor positions start at $11 an hour.

Ski and Snowboard Instructors

Reimbursement is available for ski instructors who complete PSIA level one training. You are therefore able to apply for an instruction job without yet having obtained your certificate.

Staff Perks

Staff perks include a lift pass, free rentals, free lessons and discounts on retail and restaurant outlets.

Crested Butte also has reciprocal deals with 15 other Colorado ski resorts as part of the Real Deal Pass, including Copper Mountain, Steamboat and Winter Park, among others, meaning you can visit them for free as well as get discounts on other resorts. See Work a Season in the USA for the full list.

 

Crested Butte at nightPhoto: Kurt Reise, Crested Butte at night

International Applicants

International applicants have to have a valid J-1 visa but are otherwise able to apply at Crested Butte. Crested Butte will not sponsor applicants directly for an H2B visa.

See Work a Snow Season in the USA for information on getting a J-1 visa to work in the US.

Additionally, people from Peru and Argentina are able to apply to work at Crested Butte through the Summer Work Travel Program with the agency Universal Student Exchange.

Jobs Outside of the Resort

There is also plenty of seasonal work in areas such as in retail and hospitality nearby in the town of Crested Butte and Gunnison. Visit www.cbchamber.com for a list of business suggestions.

 

Finding a Place to Rent for the Season

Staff accommodation is not offered by Crested Butte. However, the resort has a roommate form to fill out on the website. Cost of rent in the area can vary anywhere from $300 - $800 per room per month. The best places to look for housing are:

Bars and Nightlife

The bars at Crested Butte are all located off the main drag - Elk Avenue. The nightlife in Crested Butte is concentrated to a small number of bars and restaurants so many seasonal workers head to Gunnison for a bigger night out.

The three main bars in town are the Eldo, which has live music, Kochevar’s Saloon, which has a wild-west theme with darts, pool and shuffleboard, and the Talk of the Town, known for its big Jenga and dance parties on the second floor.

Many of the restaurants have awesome happy hour prices on drinks and food and vary throughout the week for seasonal workers looking to save a buck. The drinks aren’t too expensive and you definitely get good value.

There is also a fancier bar known as the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin; they have delicious mixed drinks and small plates. In addition, the Brick Oven Pizzeria is home to 30 beers on tap and offers team Trivia on Tuesday nights.

The Secret Stash does incredible pizza. Plus, they offer a poor boy’s special for $6 which includes a slice of any pizza, a shot and PBR.

Events

Some of the bigger events throughout the season include Big Air on Elk, the Al Johnson Uphill Downhill Race and the end of the Season Slush Huck.

There are also snowmobile events similar to x-games snowmobile events, country songs writer's weekend and an ice festival in early December.

Activities

There is a movie theater in town, the Crested Butte Film Festival hosts a monthly film series throughout the winter, and the Center for the Arts brings great concerts every week or so for an affordable price.

There are book readings and scrabble every Tuesday at the library, activities hosted by other non-profits in town.

Staff parties include an end of season Luau the day after the resort closes, as well as peak performer parties for top performers each month.

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