Crested Butte, Colorado: A Non-Skier’s Perspective

So, I survived five days without my children and they and my husband survived without me.  Apart from surviving, I had a really great time.  I was able to switch off mom mode and eat meals, have conversations, and leave the house with no gear except some cash and a credit card shoved into my pocket.  Spending time with my dad, sister and cousin was a priceless experience.  There were lots of laughs to be had and many memories to be made in five unscheduled days.  For me, this was a rare opportunity to spend time with people I love without children underfoot, meals to be made or laundry to be folded.  As hard as it was to leave my kids, it was amazing how quickly I started to remember myself.  Simply sipping hot chocolate uninterrupted and reading a book on the flight to Colorado was an amazing experience.

Arriving in Gunnison though, I must admit, was a bit of a shock.  My sister had talked up this town she loves for several months, describing the beautiful scenery we would take in on the drive from Gunnison to her new home in Crested Butte.  The weather on the day we arrived was cold and snowy and if there were beautiful scenery beyond the mass of gray that surrounded us on every side, you could not have proven it to me.  Despite the cold, Crested Butte’s charms did not take long to reveal themselves.   The first delightful discovery was a free bus that picked us up right outside my sister’s house and deposited us at the ski resort at the top of a mountain.

We took refuge from the wind and snow in a small bar whose interior design consisted of wood and concrete and a miniature gondola hanging from a wire overhead.  Dogs roamed as freely as humans here and we ordered a round of beer and found a place to stand against the wall.  Behind me I noticed a stack of cups and a water cooler.  My sister explained the practice of bars in Crested Butte to provide water to patrons in the hopes they combat the dehydration that comes with altitude.  Being the worrier I am, I immediately made use of the water cooler and promised myself that I would drink a water for every beer I downed.  I was able to keep this promise because of what proved to be another charm of this town.  Water was provided nearly everywhere we went.  It came in individual glasses, in pitchers and in brightly colored glass bottles.  I loved the opportunity to hydrate before and after I enjoyed a cocktail.

That first night in Colorado was so cold that I did not get to utilize another charming feature of this town.  Every bar has hooks along some part of its walls.  Some are around the outside wall of the bar, some are under the bar, some run the length of a wall opposite the bar.  The first night in Colorado, I could not imagine the need for these hooks as I was so chilled, I never took off my winter coat.  However, as I adjusted to the cooler temperatures over the next few days and was able to remove a few layers, I made good use of these hooks.  I remember during college in Pennsylvania, we avoided taking jackets to bars at all costs because there was no where to hang them and no guarantee one would be able to find them on the way out.  In Colorado, where it is imperative to layer, the hooks were a welcome and necessary feature of the bar scene.

Nature abounds in Colorado.  Once the snow and clouds of the first night cleared, the mountains surrounding us were striking against the blue sky.  We took a scenic drive on winding, snow covered roads.  We drove for two hours through woods along a creek.  There was nothing for miles and then a cluster of log cabins would appear and leave us fantasizing about what it would be like to spend some time in one, away from the world and convenience and obligation.

We also took a hike along a trail surrounded by lake and mountain. The amount of open space here was inspiring.  There is a rejuvenation that comes with seeing land untouched and there was much to be seen here.

Crested Butte has excellent places to eat and drink, many of which seem to consider environmental impact.  Compostable take out containers were commonplace which immediately endeared me to this town.  I had one of the best tacos I have ever eaten accompanied by a  pretty sweet margarita at Teocalli Tamale, pizza (pictured below), made with such care that the menu actually instructed patrons to order an appetizer if they were hungry because pizza this good was going to take a while, at the Secret Stash and a warm rum drink at Montanya Rum Distillery that I crave every time the cold wind blows.

The laid back vibe of this town reminded me of beach towns I love.  Leaving a bar in Crested Butte, I expected to feel the sun on my face and to see the ocean in the distance, but was greeted with only cold and mountains.  Still, I almost expected to hear reggae spilling out of the colorful store fronts along the main street in town.

One of the highlights of the trip was an open mic night at Kochevar’s, a comfortable bar with attentive bartenders and a friendly crowd.  Even as out of towners, we were allowed to perform multiple times to the receptive and encouraging audience. Singing and playing guitar feeds my soul in a way nothing else does.  Doing it with my dad and sister is even better.

Despite its cold first impression, Crested Butte warmed my heart.  In this cozy nook surrounded by mountains, I laughed, ate, drank, hiked, sang, watched tv for hours in my pjs, made memories that will last a lifetime and found a little bit of myself that I had not seen in way too long.

It must be said that I never would have taken this trip if not for the coaxing and encouragement of my husband and sister (along with various other family members).  I am thankful I took this trip and thankful to have people who push me (kicking and screaming) out of my comfort zone and toward the fantastic experiences I am meant to be having in this life.

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