April 2 through the 4 marked the closing weekend of Crested Butte’s 2015-2016 season. The resort, located 20 miles north of Gunnison in Colorado’s Elk Mountains, is a hub for skiers of all abilities. However, Crested Butte is especially known for its steep terrain, backcountry skiing, summer activities (like mountain biking and fishing) and all-around mountain culture. Team FREESKIER was in town to close down “CB’s” season in typical fashion: Tackling a hit list of classic closing weekend activities and throwing a raucous party that blew the roof off of BONEZ Tequila Bar & Grill. We came, we saw, we conquered. Here are eight highlights from the weekend. Keep ’em in mind for next year’s closing, because it’s never too early to pencil plans into your calendar.
1. A sunrise skin up Crested Butte Mountain Resort
The alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. I knew we had to get moving in order to observe a quality sunrise from high up on CBMR, but the pillow was enticing me to hit snooze and take the easy way out. We almost gave into the temptation but managed to roll into our ski boots and walk to the base of the Silver Queen Express. Crested Butte is one of a growing number of Colorado resorts that allow visitors to skin up the mountain to get their turns in. We wanted to take full advantage. The skin up was mellow, peaceful and helped us sweat out the drinks from the night prior. We encountered a few hardcore locals, some other closing weekend visitors and a couple rumbling snow cats laying down corduroy. The jaunt to the top of the Silver Queen lift was quick and offered us a spectacular sunrise as the alpenglow blanketed Gothic Peak first, then the rest of the valley. It’s always rewarding to earn your turns whether it’s in search of blower pow or freshly cut corduroy.
2. Hike to The Peak
After a delicious buffet breakfast at the Grand Lodge we set our sights on The Peak—hike-to terrain that serves as the highest point at CBMR. We took the High Lift to the highest lift-accessed point and began the 15-minute boot pack up the ridge. The views down to Crested Butte South and Crested Butte were stunning, to say the least. It was a bluebird day with temperatures reaching 50 degrees with little-to-no wind. The result was a very sweaty endeavor, but, it was well worth it. Once at the top, we soaked in the panoramic views and took selfies: Standard protocol. The 295-feet of vertical offered the best snow of the day: Soft, steep and high-five worthy.
3. Shred the High Lift
The High Lift opened in 1991 and provides access to the Headwall Chutes above Paradise Bowl. This zone has helped put CBMR on the map in terms of boasting some of the most challenging in-bounds terrain in North America. Steeps, trees, and plenty of rocks to launch off made for a solid way to shred the day away before the rest of the festivities commenced. We made epic hop turns down the steeps, paying homage to the master of hopping down steep slopes, the late Doug Coombs (the 10-year anniversary of his death was yesterday, April 3).
4. Participate in (or just watch) the Snowblade Extremes
This is the best event you’ve never heard of. It’s a completely unsanctioned, Shane McConkey-inspired “competition” where snowblade-shredding locals throw down on the gnarliest lines on CBMR’s Headwall. One ripper was dressed in his best Saucer Boy attire, while others flaunted retro suits, trench coats, full hockey get-ups and a Ron Burgandy costume complete with a carton of milk (it was a bad choice). We witnessed some rad trickery and epic wipeouts. Rocks were dropped, competitors were stoked, beers were chugged by spectators below, blades were busted and anyone sporting “long skis” was heckled off the slopes.
The 37 competitors left it all on the Headwall. The Jeremy Worell Sickblade award (a mounted pair of deer antlers found by the event organizer in a dumpster years ago) was given to the reigning six-time overall champion, Benny Blackwood. Despite a blown-out blade suffered after a gnarly line choice through a narrow chute with a mandatory drop, Blackwood continued on. With one blade attached, he threw himself off every possible feature until he tumbled to the bottom of the course. True heroism. The overall winner of this year’s Snowblade Extremes was last year’s Sickblade champion, Jimbo Webb, who threw down an unbeatable run with a misty flip off a rock pinnacle toward the top, followed by additional drops taken with epic speed. It was, quite simply, blading at its finest. Our collective hats are tipped to the courageous men and women for their serious dedication to the sport.
5. Enter the end-of-season rail jam
The jib madness began at 12 p.m. with a three-tiered course containing tons of creative potential. There were double kinks, drop boxes, transfer gap tubes and a hip with a barrel coping to finish out the epic course. Local ripper Parker Clarkson took the top honors. His winning run consisted of a 450 on, blind 2 out of the top down box; a nose butter 270 onto the middle down rail; and a flat 3 on the spine to close ‘er out. The competition was fierce but the judges came to a unanimous decision. Cheers to all the participants.
6. Dinner at BONEZ Tequila Bar & Grill
The FREESKIER crew descended into town for a feast of epic proportions at BONEZ, in preparation for the Season Ender Sender party. BONEZ is the go-to place for great tequila and authentic tacos in the town of Crested Butte. We enjoyed many BONEZ (house), Silver Queen (coin style) and Mesquite (orange brandy and Mezcal) margaritas. We gobbled chips and salsa, queso dip and short rib empanadas to ease the hunger while we waited on the main course. Then, like a gift from the gods, smoking and sizzling steak, chicken and shrimp fajitas arrived in front of us. We stuffed ourselves.
7. FREESKIER Season Ender Sender featuring DJ Wendy Fisher
With banners hung and the photo booth prepared, the 10:00 p.m. start time was met with rowdy partygoers and a line out the door. BONEZ quickly filled up and DJ Wendy Fisher—certified badass skier, former Matchstick Productions star, two-time World Extreme Skiing Championship winner and Crested Butte Mountain Resort ambassador, as if she needs an introduction—dropped hot beats and fueled the wild vibe. Attendees danced their faces off, posed for the cameras and mingled with locals and industry folk alike. The party went late, the tequila shots flowed like Crested Butte’s Slate River and awesome times were had by all. It was a fitting way to close out the ski season in Crested Butte.
8. Skin up Mount Emmons and rip down Red Lady Bowl
It’s a right of passage to ski Red Lady Bowl, the steep southeast face of Mt. Emmons that looms above the town of Crested Butte. If you can manage it, shoot for an early morning tour to the 12,343-foot summit before hitting the resort for the rest of the day.
Our first three alarms were very unwelcome following the rager at BONEZ, but we finally pulled ourselves out of bed and chowed down some cheesy scrambled eggs to fuel up. We headed out of town, parked at the Kebler Pass winter trailhead and suited up for a sweaty morning in the backcountry. We trucked up the Southeast Ridge while the extremely sunny day and warming temperatures made for some sticky skins. We reached the summit, took in the incredible views of the Elk Range, refueled with some Honey Stinger Organic Waffles and shared stories of the night prior. We made the decision to drop in on the east side of the summit ridge where the pitch was steeper and found glorious hot, wet pow. The 3,000 vertical feet of creamy turns helped us get over the night before and reminded us why we get up early to “suffer” in the mountains.