Crested Butte, Colorado

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Crested Butte, Colorado
Town of Crested Butte[1]
Crested Butte – the town and mountain
Crested Butte – the town and mountain
Wildflower Capital of Colorado
The last great Colorado ski town
Location of the Town of Crested Butte in Gunnison County, Colorado.
Location of the Town of Crested Butte in Gunnison County, Colorado.
Crested Butte is located in the United States
Crested Butte
Crested Butte
Location of the Town of Crested Butte in the United States.
Coordinates: 38°52′04″N 106°58′38″W / 38.867736°N 106.977266°W / 38.867736; -106.977266Coordinates: 38°52′04″N 106°58′38″W / 38.867736°N 106.977266°W / 38.867736; -106.977266[2]
Country United States
State Colorado
CountyGunnison County[1]
IncorporatedJuly 15, 1880[3]
 • TypeHome rule municipality[1]
 • Total0.836 sq mi (2.166 km2)
 • Land0.836 sq mi (2.166 km2)
 • Water0.000 sq mi (0.000 km2)
8,909 ft (2,715 m)
 • Total1,639
 • Density1,960/sq mi (760/km2)
Time zoneUTC−07:00 (MST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−06:00 (MDT)
ZIP Codes[5]
81224 & 81225 (PO Box)
Area code(s)970
FIPS code08-18310
GNIS feature ID0188848

The Town of Crested Butte is a home rule municipality located in Gunnison County, Colorado, United States.[1] The town population was 1,639 at the 2020 United States Census.[4] The former coal mining town is now called "the last great Colorado ski town".[6] Crested Butte is a destination for skiing, mountain biking, and a variety of other outdoor activities.

The Colorado General Assembly in 1990 designated Crested Butte the wildflower capital of Colorado.[6]


The East River Valley where Crested Butte is located was once used as a summer residence by the Ute people. However, they were quickly displaced when European-Americans first entered the area. The first white people to explore the valley were beaver trappers, shortly followed by surveyors. Captain John Gunnison, after whom Gunnison County is named, was one of the early explorers to enter the area.

Old City Hall, built 1883

In the 1860s and 1870s coal and silver mines began to open in the surrounding area, and many little mining towns formed. However, when silver mining began to decline, many of these towns failed. Crested Butte, however, was in a better position to survive because it served as a supply town to the surrounding area.

Another industry that served to support Crested Butte was ranching.

When the coal mines closed, the town began to shrink, and eventually the local high school was closed. Students had to travel to Gunnison to go to high school. The town did not revive until a ski area was built on Crested Butte Mountain in the 1960s. From the 1960s to 1990, the Crested Butte public school only facilitated K-5 students, while 6th grade and higher attended school in Gunnison. In 1990 Crested Butte offered middle school in the railroad depot building. In 1992 a new middle school was completed which allowed the public school to facilitate grades K through 8. Finally in 1997, a new facility for the Crested Butte Community School was completed. This included the addition of a public high school so that the school now serves students in grades K-12.

In 1993 the Crested Butte Academy opened in Crested Butte, bringing a private high school into town. However, on 9 July 2008, the academy was closed permanently due to financial difficulties that had plagued its entire existence.[7]

Surrounding mountains

Since the 1970s, several companies have attempted to mine molybdenum on Mount Emmons (called the "Red Lady") near Crested Butte. In 1977 W Mitchell was elected mayor of Crested Butte and led a campaign which stopped AMAX (now Freeport-McMoRan) from building a billion-dollar molybdenum mine on Mount Emmons. Because of his battle against the anticipated environmental impact, Mitchell is known as the man who "saved a mountain".[citation needed] The same year, 1977, saw the formation of the High Country Citizens' Alliance (HCCA), an environmental organization dedicated to protecting natural resources within the Upper Gunnison River Valley.[8]

Currently the rights for Mount Emmons molybdenum are owned by U.S. Energy Corp. On 25 April 2011, Thomson Creek Metals announced that it had terminated its option agreement with U.S. Energy Corp. to acquire an interest in the Mount Emmons molybdenum project.[9] Although US Energy continued to maintain its commitment to moving the project forward on its own behalf,[10] the withdrawal of Thomson Creek Metals was heralded as a major victory in the town of Crested Butte in its battle against the proposed molybdenum mine.[11]


Crested Butte Mountain Resort


The primary winter activity in Crested Butte is skiing or snowboarding at nearby Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Mount Crested Butte. Backcountry skiing in the surrounding mountains is some of the best in Colorado. The mountain, Crested Butte, rises to 12,162 feet (3,707 m) above sea level. The ski area base is at 9,375 feet (2,858 m). 14 lifts serve 1,058 acres (4.28 km2) of terrain. 448 acres (1.81 km2) of the terrain are double black diamond runs. The large amount of extreme skiing terrain at Crested Butte has attracted the US Extreme Skiing Championships and the X Games. The longest run on Mount Crested Butte is 2.6 miles (4.2 km).

The town of Crested Butte itself has a Nordic Center which has an ice skating rink as well as many miles of groomed cross-country skiing trails.

Crested Butte in summer


Crested Butte is one of the locations that claims to have created the sport of mountain biking. The Mountain Bike Hall of Fame used to be in Crested Butte before moving to Fairfax, California, in 2014. Other popular summer activities in Crested Butte include hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and kayaking, four wheeling, disc golf, and fishing. Crested Butte is known as the wildflower capital of Colorado.


Crested Butte hosts a number of festivals and parades throughout the year. These include Torchlight, New Years, Winter Carnival, Butte Bash College Ski Week and Mardi Gras during the winter months; Extreme Board Fest, Slushuck and Flauschink during spring; the Crested Butte Bike Week, Crested Butte Music Festival, Crested Butte International Film Festival, 4th of July,[12] the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, Alpenglow Concert Series, Festival of the Arts and Ball Bash during summer; and Fall Fest, Vinotok[13] and Paragon Peoples' Fair during fall.


Crested Butte is in north-central Gunnison County on the west side of the valley of the Slate River, along Coal Creek. Colorado State Highway 135 runs south from Crested Butte 27 miles (43 km) to Gunnison, the county seat.

At the 2020 United States Census, the town had a total area of 535 acres (2.166 km2), all of it land.[4] Crested Butte lies at an elevation of 8,885 feet (2,708 m) above sea level.[14]

Crested Butte is served by the Gunnison–Crested Butte Regional Airport in Gunnison.

The town from a chairlift at Crested Butte Mountain Resort


Climate type is dominated by the winter season, a long, bitterly cold period with short, clear days, relatively little precipitation in the form of rain, but massive amounts in the form of snow, and low humidity. The Köppen Climate Classification sub-type for this climate is Dfc (Dry-Summer Continental Subarctic Climate).[15]

Climate data for Crested Butte 1991-2020, extremes 1910-
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 54
Average high °F (°C) 25.8
Average low °F (°C) −6.5
Record low °F (°C) −43
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.72
Average snowfall inches (cm) 42.2
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 11.5 11.8 9.8 9.7 8.0 5.9 10.4 12.0 9.5 7.8 8.9 11.2 116.5
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 11.7 11.7 9.7 8.3 3.3 0.2 0 0 0.5 3.9 8.5 11.3 69.1
Source: NOAA[16][17]


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census[18] of 2000, there were 1,529 people, 692 households, and 253 families residing in the town. The population density was 2,183.1 people per square mile (843.4/km2). There were 930 housing units at an average density of 1,327.9 per square mile (513.0/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.19% White, 0.26% African American, 0.92% Native American, 0.72% Asian, 0.00% Pacific Islander, 0.46% from other races, and 0.46% from two or more races. 2.75% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 692 households, out of which 19.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 28.9% were married couples living together, 5.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 63.3% were non-families. 28.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 1.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.69.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 13.5% under the age of 18, 11.5% from 18 to 24, 55.6% from 25 to 44, 17.5% from 45 to 64, and 1.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females, there were 124.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 131.9 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $41,250, and the median income for a family was $49,118. Males had a median income of $27,386 versus $23,073 for females. The per capita income for the town was $26,789. 11.4% of the population and 2.7% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 3.5% of those under the age of 18 and 0.0% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

In popular culture[edit]

Crested Butte has been the site for several films including Snowball Express (1972), Snowbeast (1977), The Further Adventures of the Wilderness Family (1978), and Ink (2009).[19]

James Cameron's film Avatar (2009) has similarities with Crested Butte in regard to both mining issues and environmental coexistence. Both the film's protagonist and the former mayor W Mitchell, who led the fight against a proposed molybdenum mine on Mount Emmons in the late 1970s, uses a wheelchair.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Active Colorado Municipalities". Colorado Department of Local Affairs. Retrieved October 15, 2021.
  2. ^ "2014 U.S. Gazetteer Files: Places". United States Census Bureau. July 1, 2014. Retrieved January 5, 2015.
  3. ^ "Colorado Municipal Incorporations". State of Colorado, Department of Personnel & Administration, Colorado State Archives. 2004-12-01. Retrieved 2007-09-02.
  4. ^ a b c d "Decennial Census P.L. 94-171 Redistricting Data". United States Census Bureau, United States Department of Commerce. August 12, 2021. Retrieved September 4, 2021.
  5. ^ "ZIP Code Lookup". United States Postal Service. Archived from the original (JavaScript/HTML) on November 4, 2010. Retrieved September 6, 2007.
  6. ^ a b "Visitor Information". Town of Crested Butte, Colorado. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  7. ^ Academy to close its doors for good. The Crested Butte News (2008-07-09). Retrieved on 2012-01-03.
  8. ^ Stevens, Mark (February 12, 1979). "Battle on Mount Emmons". The Christian Science Monitor, cited by The Deseret News. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  9. ^ Thompson Creek Metals Company – News Releases – Thompson Creek Terminates Option Agreement with U.S. Energy Corp. – Tue Jan 3, 2012 Archived August 9, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2012-01-03.
  10. ^ Thompson Creek Metals Terminates Its Mount Emmons Option Agreement with U.S. Energy Corp. | U.S. Energy Corp Archived 2011-08-18 at the Wayback Machine. (2011-04-25). Retrieved on 2012-01-03.
  11. ^ High Country Citizens' Alliance – Home. (2010-11-18). Retrieved on 2012-01-03.
  12. ^ Harte, Julia (2014-07-02). "Fourth of July Parade Brings Scientists Dressed in Foliage—Some With Nothing Else". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2014-07-04.
  13. ^ Carla Davidson "Secret Season: Colorado before the Snow Flies," American Heritage, August–September 2006.
  14. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Crested Butte CO 7.5 minute topographic map
  15. ^ Climate Summary for Crested Butte, Colorado
  16. ^ "NOWData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  17. ^ "Summary of Monthly Normals 1991-2020". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  18. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  19. ^ "Filming Location Matching "Crested%20Butte,%20Colorado,%20USA" (Sorted by Popularity Ascending)".
  20. ^ Husted, Bill (January 24, 2010). "Husted: "Avatar" sounds like a veiled tale of Crested Butte's battle". Denver Post. Retrieved 11 June 2013.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]