Long the domain of Native Americans who followed elk, deer and other game to this area in the warmer months and who harvested trout from its cool streams, the region saw its first European settlers in the early 1800s. Crested Butte flourished for a time as a mining town, declining in the early to mid-20th century. It began a new era in 1961 with the opening of its first ski runs. Twenty-five years later, it started hosting the Wildflower Festival, and the town is now known as the Wildflower Capital of Colorado.
Crested Butte has only about 1,500 year-round residents and none of the flash and dash associated with places like Vail and Telluride . The main drag, Elk Avenue, is lined with modest “Old West Victorian” buildings. Most have wood façades that make the place feel like a movie set, because Crested Butte was not a rich town and never had the means or inclination to build the sorts of brick structures one finds in, say, Aspen, which is only 11 miles or so to the northeast as the crow flies. There are no brand-name retail outlets either, or stoplights, and everyone seems to own a dog.