Committed to Crested Butte

Veteran ski patroller Eric “H” Baumm isn’t leaving town any time soon

Committed to Crested Butte

Veteran ski patroller Eric “H” Baumm isn’t leaving town any time soon


In 1989, Eric “H” Baumm was living in Vermont and wanted to take the semester off from college to be a ski bum. Traveling solo across the country and following the advice of a friend, Baumm landed in Crested Butte, Colorado, nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains and the Gunnison National Forest. After experiencing a lifestyle dictated by the mountains, Baumm never returned to college after that winter season. Now, he’s one of Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s (CBMR) longest-standing and most respected ski patrollers.

“It was the year-round lifestyle that kept me here,” says Baumm. “Crested Butte is a lifestyle. It’s living in the outdoors. That’s why I’m here, for the outdoors.”

Getting to Crested Butte certainly weeds out the uncommitted. With only one road in and out of town in the winter months, locals and visitors are uniquely tucked away from the outside world, fostering a genuine and ever-changing community of ski bums, local families, retirees, resort employees and others. For those willing to make the journey—roughly, a four-hour drive from Denver—the rewards are plentiful: a downtown charming enough to be the setting of a Hollywood romance, a community that welcomes visitors with open arms and unrivaled proximity to resort-based and backcountry skiing that should entice even the most well-traveled skiers.

The area is renowned for its gritty nature, from the near-vertical terrain found on the ski area’s upper mountain to the cowboy culture that characterizes its local population. At the resort, it takes a hard-nosed effort from a determined bunch of employees, including patrollers, groomers and lifties, to get this burly peak into skiable condition throughout the winter.

Eric “H” Baumm has been patrolling at Crested Butte for 28 years, and few people know the mountain as well has him. PHOTO: Kurt Schmidt/CBMR

“We’re faced with new challenges every day coming to work,” says Baumm. “We never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at us. Just getting terrain open, we work with different departments. In early season, snowmakers are making the snow, groomers are coming right behind them pushing the piles and then [ski patrol] is out there running ropes and signs. Everyone comes together to make it a ski resort.”

Heading into the 2018-19 winter season, this team mentality will evolve as new owners, Vail Resorts, step into the role of operating Crested Butte. For some, the sale of CBMR in June 2018 caused murmurs about a perceived corporate influence over an otherwise Wild West skiing experience; however, Baumm and others are encouraged by the situation. “I look forward to [Vail] coming in and providing its resources to take Crested Butte into its next chapter.

I think it’s going to be really good for the resort, and I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be.” Baumm is optimistic that Vail Resorts will provide management know-how and an influx of capital to help the mid-sized ski area prosper for many years down the road.

Providing a playground that both nurtures and challenges its guests has earned Crested Butte its designation as one of North America’s must-visit ski resorts, a title it will certainly hold moving forward. The notoriety comes predominantly from the upper mountain’s demanding terrain that can be seen as you drive into town. According to Baumm, “Terrain off the High lift is really good; the Headwall and Teocalli Bowls tend to hold snow better because they don’t see as much traffic.”

Aside from the puckering lines of the upper mountain, Crested Butte also provides its guests access to avalanche-controlled chutes, gullies, natural halfpipes and gladed runs, all mitigated by Baumm and his fellow patrollers. At a small resort like CBMR, everyone involved behind the scenes plays a direct role in ensuring the lifts are spinning, the resort’s terrain is being maximized and the best on-mountain experience possible is being provided to guests.

PHOTO: Dave Kozlowski/CBMR | LOCATION: Crested Butte, CO

Inbounds, Crested Butte is recognized for having some of the most challenging terrain in North America. Offering 3,062 vertical feet, 1,547 acres of skiable terrain and 300 inches of average annual snow, the Colorado resort is a mecca for hard-charging athletes who crave steep skiing and deep snow.

For Baumm, a 12-year veteran of CBMR’s ski patrol, mitigating avalanche hazards with military-grade explosives, guiding and hosting professional athletes during film shoots and spending dawn to dusk clicked into skis are just side effects of the job. The real treat is spending all winter exploring CBMR’s terrain and enjoying the area’s unprecedented access into Colorado’s sprawling wilderness.

“When I think of our resort, I put it in the same bracket as Snowbird, Alta, Jackson, Squaw—some of the biggest resorts [in North America],” explains Baumm. “Even though we’re smaller, we’ve got some gnarly terrain. Crested Butte caters to all types of skiers, but the upper-level skier definitely flocks here like swallows to San Capistrano.”

Nearly 30 years ago, Baumm made his way into the West Elk Mountains and hasn’t looked back. “I was going to take a Wall Street job in Manhattan, and that’s what I wanted to do: make tons of money. I sacrificed that for a lifestyle,” he explains, without a hint of regret.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort by the Numbers

Average Annual Snowfall: 300 inches
Total Skiable Acreage: 1,547 acres
Number of lifts: 15 lifts
Vertical Drop (Lift Served): 2,775 feet
Vertical Drop (Overall): 3,062 feet
Total Trails: 121
Regional Airport: Gunnison Crested Butte Regional Airport (GUC)

Trail Breakdown

Beginner: 26%
Intermediate: 57%
Advanced: 14%
Expert: 3%

More From Crested Butte

Crested Butte Trail Map

Take a closer look at the terrain at Crested Butte Mountain Resort