A family Affair

I was truly relived when we finally arrived at my cousin’s house in Crested Butte, Co. Nathan (pronounced Natan) was always one of my favorite relatives. He is a professional photographer who discovered CB in the late 70’s and soon thereafter made it his home. His invitation to visit was an option I never took advantage of. Nathan is someone I really admire. He is an adventurer who has traveled the world, working as a professional photographer for as long as I can remember. He created a great life for himself by treating his photography as a serious business. Rather than simply travel, take photos and exhibit his images in galleries, Nathan used his talent to create a versatile photography business which resulted in reliable income streams. He is considered by many Crested Butte locals to be the official town photographer. No job is too big or too small.

Nathan Bilow during a photo shoot on Crested Butte Mountain; photo by Richard Bilow

Nathan has documented important milestones in the lives of many locals, photographed extreme skiers and Olympic champions, (like Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin), helped promote local business, built a huge stock photo library and exhibited his work in galleries. If you buy any postcards in town, the chances are he created them. My admiration for Nathan’s work ethic and professionalism went to another level after we arrived at his family’s stunning 5,000 square foot home (with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains), a property he built to raise his family far away from the chaos of any big city. His vision and foresight allowed him to identify and acquire a building lot several miles away from the substantial development that has now turned Crested Butte into an increasingly popular tourist destination. Find out more about Nathan Bilow on his website – http://mountainimpressions.com/

Due to its location, CB remains a hidden gem of sorts. The character of the town center is quite charming with most of the action revolving around Elk Avenue. Many locals still own and operate the businesses. CLICK HERE to read Kathy’s article about the galleries of CB. CLICK HERE to read Kathy’s article about the boutiques of CB. 

Much of the new development is focused near Crested Butte Mountain in the town of “Mount Crested Butte.” This is where the luxury condos are. If you are not staying there, don’t even consider driving up. To get to the mountain, simply take one of the free shuttle busses that come every 15 minutes to the area around Elk Ave. As long as you are not there on a crowded holiday weekend, your chances of getting on the first shuttle to arrive are really good. Plus, there is ample free parking close to the shuttle stops.

One of many gorgeous views surrounding Nathan and Monica’s home; photo by Richard Bilow

The Adventure of Riding at a Different Mountain

While I did not get a lot of sleep that first night due to all the coffee I drank during the drive, I was determined to get some runs in the next day. There was about 6” of fresh powder, and I was anxious to start making turns. As promised, Nathan went with me to the mountain and showed me how to navigate the vast terrain. Despite having injured his ankle pretty badly a few days prior to our arrival, he toured me around and made sure I did not end up on any part of the mountain I was not ready to cope with. Watching him ski, you would never have known he had injured his ankle. His effortless style was impressive for sure.

The unmistakable peak of Crested Butte Mountain; photo by Richard Bilow

Crested Butte Mountain has runs for every level of skier and snowboarder. However, many of the runs are double black diamonds. The trees are tight. There are cliffs and steep ungroomed mogul runs that challenge even the most experienced riders. These areas are not hard to avoid, but it is important to learn a bit about the mountain, before cutting loose. If you get on the Silver Queen Express lift first thing, you will be headed to an area which is too challenging for beginner and intermediate levels. If you take the surface lifts to “The Extremes,” you very well may end up in a situation you wish you could avoid. I consider myself to be a very capable snowboarder, but I chose not to hit the extremes the first day. This turned out to be a missed opportunity, because there was untracked powder up there. 

By the time I had Nathan take me up the following day, the runs were more challenging than I wanted to deal with. On Crested Butte Mountain, the double black diamonds are not to be taken lightly. There are warning signs which make it very clear that “The Extremes” are for experts. Common sense dictates that you proceed with caution and awareness, before you cut loose on those runs. Take a few runs to inform yourself of what to expect first. That way you can avoid the sections which exceed your ability level. 

Remember, while the vast majority of skiers and snowboarders visiting Colorado go to the more popular resorts like Veil and Aspen, the hard-cores get away from the crowds and end up in Crested Butte. Your whole family can easily enjoy the beauty and small crowds at CB, as long as they select the appropriate parts of the mountain to match their ability level. If you have experts in your group, they will love this mountain. Beginners and intermediates simply need to select the lifts that match their skills.  

CLICK HERE to read Epic Road Trip to the Rockies, Part 3

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