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Traveler's Ski Report: Crested Butte, Colorado

This low-key Colorado resort has fresh powder and affordable ski deals, such as a Parents Ski Free package for families.

Nuts and Bolts: In Crested Butte, there are times when you have to pinch yourself. Like when you're riding the Silver Queen Express at Crested Butte Mountain Resort (tel. 800/810-7669; www.skicb.com), hypnotized by Mt. Crested Butte's jagged summit. Or when you're strolling around town, which has equal parts historic charm and colorful quirk. Crested Butte is also refreshingly free of the high-dollar gloss shellacked on some of its peers.

All things considered, this storybook resort has some of the best skiing and riding in Colorado, with lift lines that are few and far between. It's known as an extreme mountain, but in reality there is plenty of terrain for every skill level -- although experts will not be disappointed. Paradise Bowl is a superlative, wide-open blue; the International, a steep and long black-diamond cruiser, is a classic; and the double-black terrain is some of the West's best -- not to mention the fact that the resort has already seen over 200 inches of snow this season.

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Then there's the town, full of storefronts dating back to the late 1800s and brimming with eccentric personality. You won't find a single chain restaurant (not even a Starbucks), but you will find places like the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin (www.thedogwoodcocktailcabin.com), Crested Butte's contribution to the cocktail renaissance. At the Secret Stash (www.thesecretstash.com), a miner's cabin has been turned into a pizzeria, where the bestselling pie is topped with figs.

What's New: The resort's terrain parks and 400-foot Superpipe have been consolidated near the Gold Link lift, freeing up more intermediate terrain in Paradise Bowl.
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Now in a second season are on-mountain eatery Uley's Cabin (home of the famed Ice Bar) and Adventure Park, a kid-centric attraction featuring a tubing hill, bungee trampolines, climbing wall, and skating rink ($25 per day).

Launching this season, CS Irwin (www.csirwin.com) offers snowcat skiing 12 miles west of Crested Butte, where the annual average snowfall is 600 inches. With a capacity of just 10 skiers a day, you're all but guaranteed untouched powder. The experience runs $450 per person per day, but there is a "late rate" of $200 for unsold seats the night before the trip.
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What's Happening: Big upcoming events include the zany Alley Loop Nordic Marathon (Feb. 5), Extreme Freeskiing Championships (Feb. 16-20), Full Moon Yurt Dinner Tour and Moonlight Snowshoe Tour (Feb. 18); Extreme Freeskiing Telemark Championships (March 17-19); and Matthew Shepard Foundation Gay Ski Week (March 19-26).

Big Deal: Through March 10, the resort is offering a "4th Night & 4th Day Free" package starting at $112 per person per night. Families can save with the "Parents Ski Free" deal: For every multi-day child's ticket, you get one free full-day adult lift ticket, with a maximum of two free tickets per day. The offer ends Feb. 17.
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Another option is staying in Gunnison -- I recommend the Water Wheel Inn (ski-and-stay packages start at $70 per person) -- and splitting your time between Crested Butte and Monarch Mountain, a small resort that's one of the best values in the state. Gunnison is 28 miles south of Crested Butte and 42 miles west of Monarch. The Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association (www.gunnisoncrestedbutte.com) is a good source of information.

Quotable: "I've been here for seven years -- there's no way I can go back now!" -- local snowboarder on East River lift
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Eric Peterson covers travel, skiing, and business. His credits include Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Utah, and Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks, as well as the Ramble series of guidebooks published by Fulcrum Books. He lives in Denver, Colorado, and is in the midst of a quest to ski at every resort in Colorado this season.


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