Published: May 24th 2012May 24th 2012
For a state primarily known for its production of gold and silver, Colorado also was a coal producer. Crested Butte was the site. On January 24, 1884, a tremendous blast shook the town as if an earthquake of monumental proportions had happened. The residents, of course, knew exactly what had occurred. Rescuers brought to the surface 59 bodies after thirty-six hours of grueling effort. The town also had another problem. Avalanches. Located at the 9,000 foot level and on the side of the mountain, avalanches were a constant fear. In February of 1891, an avalanche wiped out almost the entire camp complex at the coal mine with the loss of a number of people including women and children. Crested Butte survived as a coal-mining town until train locomotives started using diesel fuel. The end of Crested Butte was in sight although a revival has occured.
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.
The town of Crested Butte, as viewed from the Silver Queen chairlift at 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 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. To the left, you can make out the resort's base area village.
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, Crested Butte Music Festival, Crested Butte International Film 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 and Paragon Peoples' Fair during fall.
There are more photos below