Crested Butte, "Colorado’s last great ski town," is home to some of North America’s best extreme ski terrain, but with a burgeoning cocktail scene and restaurants that rival any winter destination in the U.S., the champagne powder and often non-existent lift lines are no longer the only reasons to visit.
Start out the day by heading away from the ski village and into the small downtown, a former coal-mining hub, to get a true feel for southwest Colorado. With only a few tables in this tiny dining room, be prepared to stand in line and get close to your neighbor if you want to get a meal at Izzy’s, but that’s the price you pay for the best brunch in town. The frenetic kitchen at this local institution dishes out innumerable stacks of homemade potato latkes piled with eggs and cheese at a breakneck pace. You can’t go wrong with the bagels and muffins made from scratch either.
The overpriced cheeseburgers and mediocre chili at cafeteria-style mountain restaurants have become the ghosts of ski lunch past. Take the lift up and ski down to the rustic wood chalet sitting mid-mountain. Uley’s Cabin has sweeping views of the slopes and a wine list that might make you consider staying off the slopes for the rest of the day in favor sipping by the fireplace. Featuring Colorado cuisine with a French influence, like elk bourguignon or duck two ways, roasted duck breast and duck leg confit with a huckleberry sauce, Uley’s takes on-mountain dining to new heights. The ice bar outside is always hopping with skiers taking a break for a local brew, but after a satisfying lunch you might be aching to get a few runs in.
After a hard day of crushing the powder, you’re going to be aching for a post-ski bite. Head back downtown to the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin to satisfy your hunger. This fiercely local spot, a tiny cabin on a virtually empty side street, might be known for their inventive cocktails like the winter squash martini (it’s way better than it sounds), but it serves up delectable small plates as well. The blue cheese fondue — served with New York strip, cauliflower, figs, and a baguette — is comforting when the snow is falling outside, but the chocolate fondue is something special, served with fruit, gummy bears, Cheddar, a baguette, and, yes, bacon brittle.
Around the corner in the National Historic District of Crested Butte, grab a pie at the Secret Stash. If this pizza joint feels like the eclectic brainchild of an intrepid world traveler, that’s because it is. After visiting more than 60 countries, the co-owner married a pizza-maker and the two came up with the funky bohemian concept that is the Secret Stash. The slanted walls, a few tables on the floor, and South Asian décor make the place feel more like a Nepali teahouse than the city’s best pizza parlor, but don’t let that fool you. With pies like The Hamptons — olive oil, mozzarella, prosciutto, lemon-pepper crust, arugula, Parmesan and lemon crown — or the local favorite, Mac Daddy (like a Big Mac on dough, with Thousand Island dressing, mozzarella, shaved rib-eye, onions, Cheddar, lettuce and pickles on a sesame-seed crust), the only thing more satisfying at the Stash than the interior is the pizza.
No day on the slopes is complete without an après ski drink. Montanya Rum brought its award-winning Oro dark and Platino light rums to town in 2011. The distiller is on-site daily, offering tours and explanations as she heats the fermented wash of water and sugar cane in the huge copper pot in the center of the room. Grab a table or a seat at the antique bar under the 40-foot ceiling, and soothe your aching joints with a signature rum cocktail, like the handcrafted Maharaja Martini, made with fresh-squeezed lime juice, homemade ginger beer, and Maharaja syrup.