Gunnison County is a land of contrasts at both ends of the Valley, but it all meshes together as a destination that is getting nods for its stunning beauty and unique charm.
Not so long ago, Gunnison County was nearly off the radar screen as a meetings and events destination. Much has changed over the past three years, as Crested Butte, Mt. Crested Butte and Gunnison have blossomed into a "new" place to bring groups.
Photo: The Magic Meadows Yurt.
To the north, Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte (a birthplace of mountain biking) are known for their laid-back and free-spirited ways, and for having more extreme skiing than anywhere else in North America.
On the south end of the valley, Gunnison has a Western aura and college town feel along with an enviable location next to Curecanti National Recreation Area, gateway to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and home to Blue Mesa Lake, Colorado's largest body of water.
In between, Almont is a village that bustles in fair-weather months as the location of three resorts as well as premier fishing, rafting, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding and rock climbing.
The Butte Inspires
Mt. Crested Butte has become the center of recent meeting and event activity with a new conference center and lodge at Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) ski area and a $25 million remodel of the former Club Med, now the ski-in, ski-out Elevation Hotel & Spa. Not only did the 262-room Elevation return 21,000 square feet of event space back into action, there's now an 11,000-square-foot spa and the upscale 9380 Prime restaurant and bar.
CBMR has invested $315 million in improvements since 2004 and manages a combined total of 32,000 square feet of meeting and event space at the Lodgeat Mountaineer Square (home of the Mountaineer Square Conference Center), Elevation and Grand Lodge. Groups of up to 500 can be served.
For executive retreats and board meetings, Crested Butte Retreat in Mt. Crested Butte has 3,000 square feet of meeting and dining facilities, high-end technological and wellness amenities, a private chef and nine guestrooms. The slopeside West Wall Lodge also is well-suited for these types of gatherings.
In Crested Butte choose from a historic miner's lodge, bed and breakfast district, hostel and three inns, all locally owned.
Gunnison has the unique distinction of hosting Colorado's oldest rodeo (celebrating 110 years in 2010) and having Colorado's largest research quality public telescope at the new Gunnison Valley Observatory.It's also the location of the airport and Western State College (WSC), which serves 2,200 students.
In the summer months, the college campus is available to groups.
WSC's new 17,000-square-foot student union will open in December 2010 and feature a ballroom as well as two conference rooms, a boardroom, movie theater, dining and office space. WSC's Aspinall-Wilson Center, with two conference rooms and a boardroom, is available year-round for groups.
Conveniently located next to the campus is the 100-room Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, which has two meeting rooms. Several other lodging properties are sprinkled throughout town, and the Gunnison Arts Center, observatory and restaurants and nightspots such as Garlic Mike's, The Brick Cellar and Ol' Miner Steakhouse can host groups.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort
New for the 2009/2010 ski season are the CBMR Subaru Ice Driving School, Prinoth Snow Cat Driving Experience, a lift-served tubing hill and an adventure park. skicb.com
Crested Butte Nordic Center
Offers 50k groomed Nordic skiing and snowshoeing trails, instruction, guided tours, a lighted outdoor ice rink, sledding and equipment rentals. cbnordic.org
Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum and the Pioneer Museum in Gunnison chronicle the history of the area. 970.349.1880, 970.641.0155
Gunnison Arts Center and Crested Butte Center for the Arts both have auditoriums and reception and exhibit spaces available. gunnisonartscenter.org, crestedbuttearts.org
Lazy F Bar Ranch can do outdoor events, trail rides, sleigh ride dinners and big game hunts. Two guest ranches, Harmel's Ranch Resort and Waunita Hot Springs Ranch offer lodging and many activities. lazyfbarranch.com, harmels.com, waunita.com
Stunning views are the norm on the 18-holes at The Club at Crested Butte and Dos Rios Golf in Gunnison. clubatcrestedbutte.com, dosriosgolf.net
Population: About 15,000
Nearest airport: Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport
Convention centers/large event spaces:
Crested Butte Retreat in Mt. Crested Butte (3,000 square feet of meeting and dining facilities); Western State College's new 17,000-square-foot student union.
For more information:
Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association // 970.349.7744 / www.gunnisoncrestedbutte.com
This article has been re-edited for the Web. Original article by Beth Buehler appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine.