On my first visit to Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado some years ago, I was struck by the world-class terrain that clearly overshadowed the resort's accommodations and services.
"Somebody ought to buy this place," I said to myself, looking around at so much untapped potential.
Tim and Diane Mueller, owners of Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, stepped in to purchase Crested Butte in 2004, and the resort has been in transition mode ever since.
So far, more than $315 million has gone into upgrades both on and off the mountain, spearheaded by the Muellers and now under the ownership of CNL Lifestyle Properties.
Among the improvements on tap at Crested Butte for the 2009-10 season is a new base area Adventure Park, featuring year-round ice skating on a synthetic rink; bungee trampolines that launch riders 30 feet into the air; and the Climbing Pinnacle, a 28-foot tower with six climbing routes.
Also new is a lift-assisted tubing area with multiple lanes for non-skiers or families looking to cap their day on the slopes.
Renovations to the Outpost Building Day Lodge, a warming hut at the base area, will also be ready for the upcoming season, as will a new novice area designed for adults and children taking lessons through the Ski and Ride School.
On-mountain dining has been slim pickings at Crested Butte, but the remodel of the Ice Bar restaurant at the base of the Twister Lift should help remedy that.
The facility, which is almost twice its former size, can now serve 63 in the dining room, 12 to 15 in the lounge and 20 at the outside bar. The expansion, set to be completed this month, will also include a revamped deck space.
As its name implies, the bar is made of ice, and the menu is upscale. In addition to lunch, the Ice Bar serves Sleighride Dinners as well as Last Tracks dinners for those who want to ski or snowboard into the evening.
The improvements come on the heels of other upgrades launched by the Muellers in the last five years, including the new Mountaineer Square base village, new hotels at Elevation Hotel & Spa and the Lodge at Mountaineer Square, an expanded terrain park and a children's camp.
Winter sports enthusiasts looking to experience the new and improved resort can take advantage of a slew of packages on tap for the coming season.
A Stay & Ski Free package, good from Nov. 25 to Dec. 16, includes a one-day lift ticket per person per night and one lesson per adult when staying at a Crested Butte property.
The package is priced from $84 per night per person, double, at the Grand Lodge Hotel.
A Friends & Family Fly Free package includes a third airline ticket free for bookings into Gunnison/Crested Butte Airport on American, United or Delta. The special is good from Dec. 17 to April 4. The travel credit is good for up to $450, and other restrictions apply.
From Feb. 22 to March 11, one child age 12 or younger skis and snowboards free with every adult lift ticket. Kids also receive a trail map to their own Kids' Terrain Park and other trails dedicated to small fry.
An all-season Stay & Ski package combines accommodations and lift tickets from $96 per person per night, a savings of up to 15% on lodging rates and 25% on lift ticket rates. The discount is available from Jan. 4 to Feb. 29, based on availability.
For more, visit www.skicb.com