Crested Butte, Colorado

Crested Butte, Colorado
Town of Crested Butte, Colorado
—  Town  —
Old City Hall, built 1883. Photo: Historic American Buildings Survey
Nickname(s): Wildflower Capital of Colorado
Location in Gunnison County and the State of Colorado
Coordinates: 38°52′11″N 106°59′16″W / 38.86972°N 106.98778°W / 38.86972; -106.98778Coordinates: 38°52′11″N 106°59′16″W / 38.86972°N 106.98778°W / 38.86972; -106.98778
Country  United States
State  State of Colorado
County Gunnison County[1]
Incorporated July 15, 1880[2]
 - Type Home Rule Municipality[1]
 - Total 0.7 sq mi (1.8 km2)
 - Land 0.7 sq mi (1.8 km2)
 - Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)
Elevation 8,909 ft (2,715 m)
Population (2010)
 - Total 1,487
 - Density 2,139.6/sq mi (826.1/km2)
Time zone MST (UTC-7)
 - Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6)
ZIP Codes[3] 81224 & 81225 (PO Box)
Area code(s) 970
FIPS code 08-18310
GNIS feature ID 0188848
Website Town of Crested Butte

Crested Butte is a Home Rule Municipality in Gunnison County, Colorado, United States. A former coal mining town now called "the last great Colorado ski town," Crested Butte is a destination for skiing, mountain biking, and a variety of other outdoor activities. The population was 1,487 at the 2010 census.[4]

The Colorado General Assembly has designated Crested Butte the wildflower capital of Colorado.



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

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 hit on hard times, many of these towns failed. Crested Butte was in a better position to survive because it served as a supply town to the surrounding area.

The other industry that supported 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.

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.[5]

U.S. Energy Corp. owns rights to mine molybdenum on Mount Emmons ("Red Lady") near Crested Butte, and as molybdenum prices rise, the town is fighting to prevent a molybdenum mine from being opened.

In 1977 W Mitchell was elected mayor of Crested Butte, Colorado, where he 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."

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.[6] Although US Energy continued to maintain its commitment to moving the project forward on its own behalf,[7] the withdrawal of Thomson Creek Metals was heralded as a major victory in the township of Crested Butte in its battle against the proposed molybdenum mine.[8]



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 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) long.

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 is one of the locations where mountain biking is claimed to have started. The Mountain Bike Hall of Fame is located in Crested Butte. Other popular summer activities in Crested Butte include hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and kayaking, 4 wheeling, disc golfing and fishing. The best bike trail for moderate to expert mountain biking is 401, just outside of town.


Mt. Crested Butte behind town of Crested Butte

Crested Butte hosts a number of unique 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 Flaushink during spring; the Crested Butte Bike Week, Music Festival, 4th of July, the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival, Alpenglow Concert Series, Festival of the Arts and Ball Bash during summer; and Fall Fest, Vinitok[9] and Paragon Peoples' Fair during fall.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2), all of it land. Crested Butte lies at an elevation of 8,885 feet (2,708 m) above sea level.[10]

Crested Butte is served by the Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport in nearby Gunnison, Colorado.


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1880 300
1890 857 185.7%
1900 988 15.3%
1910 904 −8.5%
1920 1,213 34.2%
1930 1,251 3.1%
1940 1,145 −8.5%
1950 730 −36.2%
1960 259 −64.5%
1970 372 43.6%
1980 959 157.8%
1990 878 −8.4%
2000 1,529 74.1%
2010 1,487 −2.7%

As of the census[12] 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

Crested Butte was the setting and main filming location for the Walt Disney ski movie Snowball Express starring Dean Jones and Harry Morgan. 1970's musicians Brewer & Shipley wrote and performed a song called "Crested Butte" dedicated to the town. Crested Butte is the birthplace and hometown of Heidi Montag of MTV's The Hills.

James Cameron's movie Avatar has very tangible parallels to Crested Butte with regard to both mining issues and environmental coexistence. The individual responsible for leading the fight against the proposed molybdenum mine on Mount Emmons in the late 1970s, former mayor W Mitchell[13] is wheelchair-bound, just like the protagonist in Cameron's film. James Cameron has spent a lot of time at his wife Suzy Amis's cabin in Crested Butte.[14]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Active Colorado Municipalities". State of Colorado, Department of Local Affairs. Retrieved 2007-09-01. 
  2. ^ "Colorado Municipal Incorporations". State of Colorado, Department of Personnel & Administration, Colorado State Archives. 2004-12-01. Retrieved 2007-09-02. 
  3. ^ "ZIP Code Lookup" (JavaScript/HTML). United States Postal Service. Retrieved September 6, 2007. 
  4. ^ a b "Race, Hispanic or Latino, Age, and Housing Occupancy: 2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File (QT-PL), Crested Butte town, Colorado". U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder 2. Retrieved August 16, 2011. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Carla Davidson "Secret Season: Colorado before the Snow Flies," American Heritage, Aug./Sept. 2006.
  10. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Crested Butte CO 7.5 minute topographic map
  11. ^ Moffatt, Riley. Population History of Western U.S. Cities & Towns, 1850-1990. Lanham: Scarecrow, 1996, 69.
  12. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  13. ^
  14. ^

External links

Crested Butte Mountain Resort

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