Will Vail Preserve The ‘Last Great Ski Town,’ or Is Crested Butte’s Paradise Lost?
Much of Crested Butte’s history comes from mining. Coal was discovered and in 1894 the Big Mine opened but when it closed down in 1952, the town’s fate looked pretty bleak – destined to become just another mountain ghost town. In the mid 50’s molybdenum was discovered and Crested Butte was faced with a decision to make – become a resort town or continue on as a mining town. Their gamble to become a resort town has paid off over the years and just this last June Vail Resorts announced their intention to buy the resort. This news has provoked mixed emotions from locals and sparks the question: Will Vail Preserve The ‘Last Great Ski Town,’ or Is Crested Butte’s Paradise Lost?
Crested Butte has always had this quirky, funky vibe to it. Events such as the Pearl Pass Clunker Tour, the Al Johnson Uphill Race, Chainless Downhill Race and Vinotok, to name a few, are what gives Crested Butte its small town charm, earning it the title “The Last Great Ski Town”. Elk Avenue has maintained it’s historic value by not allowing the high end chain stores to take over its storefronts. Rather you will find small boutique shops and locally owned businesses.
As locals get used to the idea that Vail will soon be running the resort, they are trying to look on the brighter side of the pending change. Everyone is hoping that Vail will come in and make some much needed improvements to the aging resort. The good news is that Vail has indicated it has no intention of destroying what makes Crested Butte so great. “Honoring the history of Crested Butte and the surrounding community is crucial to us, and we know it’s important to our guests,” said a company spokesperson. It will be interesting to see what the next couple of years have in store for this great, historic little town.

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Photo Credit: Erin Croke-Renfro