Contributing editor Felicity Long attended the grand opening of
the Club Med Crested Butte in Colorado. Her report follows:
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. -- During the height of Club Med Crested
Butte's grand opening festivities on Jan. 20, Club Med chairman and
chief executive officer Philippe Bourguignon and Mount Crested
Butte Mayor Gwen Pettit broke into an impromptu mock-guitar jam
session on stage after cutting the ceremonial ribbon with scissors
fashioned from skis.
Although seemingly unlikely bedfellows, the sophisticated French
company and the self-described "Wild West cowboy town" show every
sign of making a good match.
"We are very pleased with the international exposure Club Med
has brought to our area," said a spokeswoman for Crested Butte
"One of Crested Butte's main attractions, especially among
international travelers, is our Western heritage," the spokeswoman
said. "Club Med has introduced us to a whole new travel segment --
primarily Europeans and Brazilians -- that we, as a family-owned
ski company, would otherwise not have the resources to reach."
Having visited the mountain before the Crested Butte Marriott Ski
Resort was transformed into a Club Med village, I immediately
noticed the change in the clientele -- most of whom were
The property, Club Med's second ski village in the U.S. and the
only one geared to families, was renovated in time for this year's
Improvements include in-house ski rental facilities, two
restaurants, two bars, a boutique, a children's Mini Club and --
especially convenient -- ski and boot storage facilities.
Still in the works is a theater, set to open in time for the
2001-02 ski season, if not before.
For the grand opening weekend, we arrived at Gunnison County
Airport, located about 40 minutes or so from the village. Club Med
visitors are met at the airport, handed their identification
bracelets on the spot, divested of their luggage and put on vans to
Upon arrival, guests are greeted by a gauntlet of gentil
organisateurs (GOs) rattling skis in the entryway of the property,
handed tropical drinks in the lobby and whisked to their rooms.
Our accommodations turned out to be good-sized adjoining rooms,
each containing two double beds, combination bath and dressing
rooms and views of the slopes.
Amenities in the 256-room property include minirefrigerators,
safes, hair dryers, televisions and telephones along with
humidifiers, which are especially helpful at galtitude.
Most meals are served in the main dining room, called the
Meribel, and as befits a Club Med, the buffets were lavish and
included an eclectic mix of food, such as guacamole, sushi, game
stew, pizza, pasta, hamburgers and chicken, not to mention tables
with trays of desserts.
A second eatery, the Wilderness Restaurant, offers a la carte,
upscale dining for no additional charge, but reservations are
To ease the cumbersome ski- and snowboard-rental process,
arriving guests can rent equipment in the downstairs lobby for an
additional fee and sign up for ski instruction or the Mini Club all
in one location.
The ski storage facility is located next to the ski rental shop,
which offers a separate exit to the slopes.
Guests should get acquainted with the shop's hours, as it is
closed at designated periods during the day.
The children's Mini Club, located on the resort's lower level,
is a series of decorated function rooms where kids can meet in the
mornings before ski lessons and retreat to at the end of the day.
They can be picked up at 3 p.m. or stay and play until 5 p.m. if
parents are still out on the slopes.
The program, available at no additional charge for children ages
4 to 12, includes ski lessons for kids ages 4 and up and
snowboarding for those ages 6 and up.
Children who opt for the full-day program are taken to a midday
lunch at the Meribel restaurant.
Mini Club activities also are scheduled at night, allowing
parents to dine on their own or participate in activities.
The lack of a theater during our stay did not stop the GOs from
performing nightly in the lobby, which was decorated elaborately
each day then dismantled for the next day's endeavor.
We saw a lip-synch contest one night, featuring GOs in drag
emulating famous "girl-groups"; a Parisian review with dancers in
full headdress, and a Wild West night with a mechanical bull.
Entertainment and fun activities notwithstanding, probably the
best prognosticator of the village's success is the high quality of
the 1,424-acre ski mountain itself.
Known primarily for its extreme terrain -- there are 15 double
black-diamond runs -- Crested Butte also offers plenty of novice
and intermediate trails for skiers and snowboarders along with
breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
Because the mountain is high -- between 9,375 and 12,162 feet --
we took routine precautions against altitude sickness, such as
drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol. Oxygen is available
in the event that someone does experience problems.
Guests who want to see the sights away from the village can
visit the town of Crested Butte via complimentary shuttle.
The town, which dates from the 1880s, is a National Historic
District full of shops and restaurants in picturesque Victorian
Excursions also are available for an additional charge that
include such activities as horse-drawn sleigh rides and dogsled and
historical walking tours.
Rates at the new village, where conditions are typically
excellent into the spring, begin at $1,060 per person, double, for
seven nights including air fare.
For additional information, call (800) 258-2633 or visit the Web
site at www.clubmed.com.