Crested Butte, The Last Great Ski Town, est 1880

Photo Circa 1910, Town of Crested Butte
Photo Circa 1910, Town of Crested Butte

The historic town of Crested Butte, Colorado was founded in 1880 and is a present day national historic district. Crested Butte was originally founded as a silver and coal mining community.

The name, Crested Butte, came from Ferdinand V. Hayden. He looked out at the views from Teocalli and called present day Crested Butte and Gothic ‘The Crested Buttes’. Crested Butte is considered a laccolith geological formation.

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Photo circa 1880, Ute Indians

The Ute were early long-time indigenous settlers in the valley surrounding Crested Butte. Early in the 1600s the Spanish came to the Gunnison Valley and signed the first peace treaty with the Native-Americans later in 1670.

Captain John Gunnison was one of the early explorers of Crested Butte for which Gunnison County was named. Many of the first explorers were beaver trappers.

After the mining came to an end, people began leaving town and they even closed the school. Kids had to travel to Gunnison for schooling. It wasn’t until 1960 that Crested Butte received a dedicated K-5 elementary school. In 1997 Crested Butte Community School was completed offering a comprehensive k-12 program.

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Dick Elfin, The driver behind Crested Butte Mountain Resort

The ski area was established in 1960 by Fred Rice and Dick Elfin through a local ranch purchase at the base of the mountain. They received an operating permit from the United States Forest Service for permission to develop the resort and by the winter of 1962-63, the ski area opened with Colorado’s first Gondola.

The gondola, in the location of the Silver Queen lift, was known for having frequent collisions and cramped space and therefore removed. Today, we have 15 chair lifts servicing 2700 lift vertical feet of skiing and snowboarding.

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Seth Morrison cliff-jumping in the backcountry around Crested Butte

Crested Butte Mountain Resort became known as the birthplace of free skiing in the 1990’s. The growth of free skiing was due to the large amount of accessible inbounds extreme skiing terrain. Olympic skier Wendy Fisher and pro skier Seth Morrison both grew up in Crested Butte. Morrison was known for doing back flips off 100-foot cliffs.

Crested Butte revolutionized skiing through free skiing competitions through the Winter X Games and FIS Skiing events.

Crested Butte isn’t just known for our ski area and the birthplace of free skiing. The Colorado General Assembly affectionately designated CB as, The Wildflower Capital of Colorado” in 1990.

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Wildflowers of Crested Butte

In 2020, the census reported population of 1,639 in the town of Crested Butte. Present day, one of the primary appeals of the area is that 85% of Gunnison County is designated as public lands. If you would like to learn more about the history of Crested Butte, then click here to visit the CB Museum. You can see one of the old silver queen gondolas still preserved there and sit in it! We highly recommend the experience and its conveniently located right in the hub of town on Elk Ave.