Crested Butte might be overshadowed by fellow Colorado ski resorts Vail and Aspen, but offers some of North America's best skiing and outstanding powder snow. Beginners and intermediates can hog four-fifths of the mountain, while the other fifth has some of the most challenging inbounds runs in the world. The slightly hippy edge of the historic town is a wonderful contrast to big-name resorts: no chain stores, fast-food outlets or snobby fur-clad fashionistas here.
The utterly charming town of Crested Butte (visitgcb.com) datesto the Victorian silver-mining era and is lined by colourful clapboard buildings with plenty of character. It might appear sleepy as you wander the main street, but behind the facades are buzzing restaurants and bars such as the intimate Dogwood Cocktail Cabin (thedogwoodcocktailcabin.com), a third of whose delicious cocktails are in-house inventions. Asian food, good coffee and numerous art galleries are other pleasant surprises.
Start your apres-ski at Montanya Distillers (montanyarum.com), which has shared tasting plates and terrific cocktails based on its own rum. Elk Avenue Prime (elkaveprime.com) has the town's biggest sports screen and steaks to match, plus good draft beers. On the mountain, Uley's Cabin (skicb.com) has a buzzing ice bar and terrace, while the restaurant tempts with upmarket, French-influenced Coloradan cuisine. New Umbrella Bar (skicb.com) has energy-boosting European alpine dishes such as fondue and sausages with sauerkraut.
If you're an intermediate skier who likes zipping down fast groomers, you're in a happy place: Upper Keystone and Gallowick runs are steep and fun and Treasury super long, while pick of the lot is International, a steep rollercoaster of a ride with fabulous views and always-good snow that you'll want to do all day. Beginners will enjoy green runs off Red Lady Express lift and will soon progress to the well-groomed blues.
For advanced skiers keen to test their limits, Crested Butte has 240 hectares of double-black terrain and its North Face is the most extreme, inbounds skiing this side of Chamonix. Runs like Hard Slab, Pinball and Sock It To Me seem tame compared with Rambo, North America's steepest maintained run. If you tackle the 55-degree pitch, you'll never fear anything again. Confident skiers just venturing into extreme skiing can tackle Rachel's, Honey Pie and North Face Glades.
The Grand Lodge (skicb.com) is at the base of the mountain only a short shuffle to the ski lifts; if you want to hit the early powder, you can't stay closer. A free shuttle links it to Crested Butte town in 15 minutes. Though somewhat resort-bland it has large rooms, many with kitchenettes, and is popular with families. Amenities include a spa, restaurant and indoor-outdoor pool and hot tub popular for apres-ski wallowing.
Leading Australian tour operator Travelplan Ski (travelplanski.com) is a specialist in ski holidays and has a great variety of Crested Butte ski packages that include discounted accommodation, lift tickets, equipment rental and snow-school lessons, as well as airfares to Colorado.