In the Butte

Remote and charming, Crested Butte, Colo., spreads warmth even in the winter months

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FLY THAT FLAG | Quaint Crested Butte went all out to welcome the gays for Shoot the Butte gay ski week in March, with many local businesses proudly displaying gay-friendly banners and residents abuzz about the event. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

You can imagine that when locals in small towns hear that “the gays” are on their way — for a Pride parade, or a dance party or a protest — some will react with a disdainful shiver. But when Crested Butte, Colo., hosted its first-ever gay ski week earlier this year, the news didn’t even warrant a shrug. Indeed, the entire town seemed to get its Pride on.

The local gays there — and there are a few, a very few — were of course happy to be with family, as were the resorts glad to host a late-season influx; so were the businesses in the very walkable downtown area. But the people were just as excited — stores proudly flew rainbow flags for the first time, and diners at restaurants chirped with delight that the gays were coming. Good for business, of course, but also good for the Butte. (Unfortunately, there are no current plans to hold another gay ski week there.)

Crested Butte, after all, isn’t located along I-70 and the string of famed ski resorts; don’t like Vail? Drive another hour and settle in Beaver Creek. Wanna resort hop? Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Keystone are in the same county 90 minutes from Denver. No, if you wanna go to Crested Butte, you gotta really wanna go.

There are two different kinds of ski-resort towns in Colorado: The rich man’s playgrounds and those with a roughing-it, low-stress country ruggedness, where the Doobie Brothers are still considered pop music. Crested Butte is the latter — unfussy and without the pretensions of a Vail or Aspen, but with just the right amount of sophistication to make it a savvy destination for those who like to stumble off the beaten path but still appreciate a few creature comforts.

That’s certainly the case at the Elevation Hotel and Spa, a large, comfortable resort standing at nearly 9,400 feet above sea-level. (The friendly café at the lift base, 9480 Prime, is named for the elevation.) Clean, warm and well-appointed, with an excellent spa and salon, the hotel provides super-convenient access to the slopes and its 16 lifts. (The summit is at an ear-popping 12,162 feet.)

For skiers or snowboarders, the snow provides a great powder, though even diners can appreciate the mountain: The ski-in, ski-out restaurant Uley’s Cabin is accessible by lift and short slalom to mid-mountain, or if available, a “ski taxi” can take you here like a passenger on the Iditerod. It’s worth a visit, too, with excellent haute cuisine and a cozy, rustic atmosphere.

Indeed, the dining in Crested Butte is remarkably diverse and satisfying. It may seem counter-intuitive, but some of the best seafood dishes I ate this year were in Colorado. (The landlocked types know how to cook a scallop.) But the range of choices for Crested Butte is as good as any 10-block stretch of a major city.

Stay on the mountain to indulge your tastebuds at Django’s. This high-end, intimate resto, draped in sheer curtains and with a wide, open kitchen, serves gourmet tapas just steps from the slopes. “Date with a pig” isn’t as dirty as it sounds — Medjool dates wrapped in Serrano ham — but it is  decadently enjoyable, as are the crispy Brussels sprouts and braised spiced boar belly.

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CUISINE ART | Dining in the Butte, including mountainside dining at Uley’s Cabin, is diverse and delicious. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Off the mountain, in downtown Crested Butte, the not-to-miss steakhouse is Maxwell’s. Warmed by a beautiful fireplace and welcoming décor, it serves some unmatched dishes. Of course, you have to try the rack of (Colorado) lamb, crusted in pistachios and drizzled with a blueberry demi that makes it both sweet and savory, as well as the smoky wagyu tartare. The wine list offers some bold, interesting choices as well.

Over at the West End Pub, enjoy high-end bar food with a sense of humor. The “ubiquitous fish and chips” may sound tired, but it’s well prepared, as are the oysters on the hall shell and clam chowder. (I told you about the seafood.)

For something even more casual but also extraordinary, The Secret Stash is a must-do. It’s no accident that the name sounds like a head shop — the place, opened in 2002, has the hippie-dippie vibe of a stoner hangout. It also serves some of the most inventive pizzas you’ll ever encounter, like the Mac Daddy, their lettuce-covered take on the Big Mac that will wow you. (Just a slice is huge.)
You can grab a brew at Dogwood, a hole-in-the-wall bar with pool tables and sports on the TVs that’s cool, friendly and hip, and LoBar, which serves sushi. (Fish! Again!)

For an exquisite brunch, East Side Bistro is a sure-bet. Looking out on the mountain, it has the feel of an Old West saloon but the cuisine of a sly master, including the deconstructed doughnuts and coffee, and the chilaquiles, a tortilla-chip-and-egg dish with poblano molé that will spoil you for all Mexican-themed brunches for all time.

Crested Butte may not be the first resort to occur to you when you think of ski destinations, but as most everyone from Colorado will confess to you, it’s one of the best.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

F-ing Kobe

The Mavs schooled the Lakers this week, but there’s one lesson L.A.’s star player still needs to learn

DAN WOOG  | Contributing Sports Writer
outfield@qsyndicate.com

OF050911
ANOTHER REASON TO ROOT FOR THE MAVS Bryant needs to behave like the role model he is.

I’m pretty sure Bennie Adams is straight. So what’s the big deal with Kobe Bryant calling him a “fucking faggot” during a nationally televised game? After all, that’s common parlance in locker rooms and on basketball courts around the country — not to mention countless school hallways, playgrounds and everywhere else.

Precisely.

Bryant’s outburst (for those of you who somehow missed it) came last month, after receiving a technical foul. Bryant (for those of you who somehow don’t know that his team, the Lakers, got schooled by the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs) is one of the NBA’s true superstars, making about $25 million a year. In other words, he’s not some kid playing “horse” in an empty gym. He’s not a boy who doesn’t know any better, or a closeted kid trying to fit in by hurling anti-slurs.

Kobe is one of the most recognized athletes in the world. His purple  No. 24 jersey is worn by admiring fans around the globe. Millions of people look up to Kobe, admire everything he does.

And listen to every word he says.

When it became clear that his F-bomb detonated loudly, Bryant went into damage control. Through the Lakers, he issued one of those non-apology apologies: “What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do not reflect my feelings toward the gay and lesbian communities and were not meant to offend anyone.”

So what are Bryant’s “feelings toward the gay and lesbian communities?” He didn’t say. If he did not mean to offend anyone, why did he call Adams a “fucking faggot?” Why not “a horrible official?” Or simply “you asshole?”

The NBA acted swiftly, with Commissioner David Stern calling Bryant’s outburst “offensive and inexcusable … such a distasteful term should never be tolerated … and [has] no place in our game.” He then fined Bryant $100,000.

Seem like a lot? Not when compared with some NBA fines: In 2007, the league fined Vladimir Radmanovic (also a Laker — and another reason to root for the Mavs) $500,000 for violating his contract by snowboarding.

Despite his “apology,” Bryant said he would fight the fine, a step he called “standard protocol,” whatever that means.

Come to think of it, “standard protocol” could mean standing up, admitting to a mistake, recognizing the power of role models and issuing a strong statement explaining exactly why words like “faggot” hurt. Describing how they hurt straight kids as well as gay ones, by reinforcing stereotypes. Then Bryant could lead a campaign to eliminate, once and for all, the use of anti-gay words in basketball.

In other words, he could do something like what NBA players Grant Hill and Jared Dudley are already doing. The Phoenix Suns teammates recently filmed a public service announcement for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and the Ad Council’s “Think Before You Speak Campaign” that airs during the NBA playoffs! The ads are striking; they reach an important audience during a high-powered event, and the NBA’s commitment to the campaign underscores Stern’s statement about language.

Ironically, Hall and Dudley taped their PSA just hours before Bryant demonstrated his own inability to think before he spoke.

Words aren’t the only weapons; images hurt, too. For years, the Washington Wizards have shown a “Kiss Cam” where two people appear on the JumboTron and are urged to kiss. The crowd goes crazy (hey, it’s better than watching the Wizards play). Then the camera cuts to two players from the visiting team. Now the fans really howl. The players make faces, hide under towels or pretend to ignore each other.

But what would happen if the “Kiss Cam” showed two male fans and they did kiss, because they had gone to the game as a couple? Maybe it could happen when the Wizards play the Lakers. Maybe after the game, Kobe Bryant could head into the stands, high-five the couple and pose for a picture.

That would speak far louder than his “fucking faggot” words. Or the half-hearted “heat of the moment” apology that followed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas