10 dream towns in the West

Go for the perfect vacation. Or the perfect rest of your life.

CRESTED BUTTE, CO:  Outdoor lovers' paradise

Crested Butte, a resurrected mining village turned adventure-sports destination (population 1,600), sits in a wide, sunny, dead-end valley at the edge of Colorado's West Elk Mountains, about 25 miles as the crow flies southwest of Aspen.

Unpretentious and personable, CB is a locals' town, buzzing with young families, powder hounds drawn to Crested Butte Ski Resort, elite athletes, and big-city refugees.

Everybody rides bikes here. This, arguably, is the place where mountain biking was born 30 years ago, and two-wheelers are everywhere: vintage cruisers, circa 1970, adorned with glittery handlebar streamers and bells, left unlocked in tidy, trusting rows outside Camp 4 Coffee; rusty Schwinns propped up on kickstands in front of Izzy's deli; mud-splattered, full-suspension steeds rolling up Elk Avenue after a blissful beating on the infamous 401 single-track.

A recent proposal to begin mining molybdenum (a key element in steelmaking) just outside town on Mt. Emmons has drawn the ire of many residents, who came here for the scenery and wilderness access, if not the jobs.

There's plenty to do besides free-wheeling. Cast for brown trout on the fast-flowing Taylor River, explore nearby Strand Hill on horseback, or scope out downtown's cheerfully redone Victorians and sweet local boutiques like Beyond and Casa Bella (CB prides itself on having only two chain stores and zero stoplights). But the ultimate souvenir is your own refurbished cruiser bike, complete with a miniature Colorado vanity plate that reads eat my dust. –Katie Arnold

MAKE A VISIT

Crested Butte is 28 miles north of Gunnison, on State 135.

United Express flies daily from Denver to Gunnison airport, and Alpine Express will shuttle you north (800/822-4844). A good choice for an overnight stay is The Ruby of Crested Butte B&B (from $169; ( 800/390-1338). The Visitor Center (Sixth St./State 135 at Elk Ave; 800/545-4505) is a great one-stop source for maps and info.

MAKE A MOVE

The median home price in 2007 was $815,000, but local agents say prices are rising. Along with real estate and tourism, telecommuting is big here. Go to skicb.com to check out live CB webcams. Best local scuttlebutt: The Crested Butte News.

Next: 7 more dream towns

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