Legendary Colorado Site to Become Year Round Backcountry Destination

Legendary Colorado Site to Become Year Round Backcountry Destination


“You mention development in the Crystal Valley and immediately people are opposed to it, I’m not going to B-S people — we are doing development. But we’re also doing a major give to the environment and to the community.”– Chris Cox, Owner of Crystal Mine (Family has owned the property for over one hundred years)

The Crystal Mill mine in Colorado is one of the most incredibly scenic destinations in the state and the only way to reach it is through a long hike. Established in 1881, the town of Crystal was abandoned in 1917 following the mill’s closure. According to the Post Independent, Chris Cox and business partner Stuart Gillespie want to develop the area into a “high-end winter and summer retreat that will offer guided and unguided backcountry skiing in the winter, and hiking, biking, horseback riding, and fly-fishing in the summer. The project would also include 20 luxury cabins along with the North and South forks of the Crystal River and a farm-to-table restaurant.” Cabins will be built for lodging along the Crystal River, they will be ten to twenty feet above the ground, having a treehouse feel. A four to five thousand square foot lodge will also be built and will include a farm-to-table fine dining restaurant, and a hang-out spot for guests. Construction will begin in 2024, and the resort will open in 2028.

Environmental efforts with the plan include a conservation easement on 85% of the land they own in the area, the new buildings will be built by green construction techniques, have electric vehicles, “place a historical preservation overlay on the area from the Crystal Mill through the ghost town of Crystal City to ensure it remains the way it looks now in perpetuity and, finally, donate the increasingly popular Crystal Mill to an independent, nonprofit foundation that would manage, restore and preserve the building.”

For skiers, the highlight of this project will be backcountry skiing in Scofield Pass, which sees the second-highest snowfall totals in the state. The skiing would feature seventeen hundred vertical feet on five hundred acres of gnarly tree and bowl terrain on Crystal and Bear Mountain. Crystal Mountains peak is 10,300 feet, while Bear is 10,700 feet. If the plan is approved, five thousand additional acres could be added to backcountry access. A fifteen-person cat skiing operation, along with cross country ski trails is also planned. Here is Stuart Gillespie on the skiing potential:

“There’s gonna be tree-skiing and gladed skiing — it’s mostly for the advanced skier. We think we can give people one of the best days of skiing in their lives when they come up here…It’s pretty exceptional. We have a lot of natural features on the property (like) couloirs and old-growth trees. The (tree) spacing is just right. It’s all north-facing and it holds the snow really, really well.”

Currently, the area is open to the public and features some overnight lodging, such as cabins without electricity and wifi and camping sites,  as well. Other amenities include the iconic Crystal Mill, the town’s General Store, and hiking/walking tours. This seems to be a divisive one, but with Stuart Cox’s family having to operate the land for over a hundred years, it seems like it would be in the best interest of the property. The only issue I had was they say parking usage would only increase by 5%, which seems like an underestimate.

Do you support or oppose this project?

Image Credits: Crystal Mountain Ranch, Post Independent



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