Faced with membership demographics that change drastically between seasons, fitness classes at The Club at Crested Butte aim to appeal to all ages and abilities.
The fitness staff at The Club at Crested Butte faces a unique challenge. Located in a former coal-mining region about four hours west of Denver, Crested Butte is now known as “the last great Colorado ski town,” with a year-round population of about 2,000. But in July and August, reports the private club’s Fitness Director, Meagan Donohue, that count jumps to nearly 10,000, thanks to an influx of second-home owners.
In the club’s ample fitness center, that means finding ways to accommodate member groups that can have dramatically different goals when it comes to wellness.
“Our year-round clients are great athletes between their early 30s and late 50s,” Donohue explains. “They’re mountain bikers, skiers, and hikers, so they work hard and are consistently in the gym, to get better at outdoor sports.”
By the time summer rolls around, though, the club loses a lot of those clients to outdoor recreation (which, Donohue says, is the fitness center’s only real “competitor”). Starting in July, a new group of summer clientele, consisting primarily of part-time residents who are a bit older, begin to fill out the facility.
“It’s like a light switch,” Donohue says. “The majority of members during the summer are golf members who aren’t as much into outdoor sports, so they come and use the facility all day.”
Recreational memberships at The Club at Crested Butte are divided into fitness, golf and sport categories, all of which have access to the fitness center. Fitness-only members must be year-round residents, golf members have access to everything, and the sport membership is for part-time residents who want to use the fitness center.
Donohue works with the club’s Head Golf Professional, Mike Swan, PGA, to bring golfers into the facility, pushing golf fitness and assessments.
“I would say 75% of our membership uses the fitness facility,” Donohue reports. The fitness membership will soon require a wait list, she adds, as membership numbers (currently at 154) are getting close to capacity. Golf members currently total 239, and there are 53 sport members.
“We have a good handful of fitness members who joined just for the group fitness classes,” Donohue says. “We have three to four classes per day, and unlimited classes are included in the membership fee—so that’s a better value than paying individually for classes elsewhere.” Personal training requires an additional fee, and the club recently hired a wellness coach who does free lectures each month on a different wellness topic.
To create the fitness-class schedule, Donohue visits Denver or another larger city every six months or so, to see what’s popular at other health clubs. She then brings those ideas back to see what will work at Crested Butte.
“Of course, we keep a daily log of class numbers, and I hand out a survey seasonally to members to find out what they’d like to have more of, and what times will and will not work for them,” Donohue says. She also meets quarterly with the club’s fitness instructors, who are all general contractors, to brainstorm ways to keep classes fresh and exciting.
The most important element of the class-development process, she adds, is to be accessible to the members. “I have a desk out on the fitness floor, so I can kind of listen to what everyone’s saying, and they’re seeing me and giving me feedback,” she notes.
The club’s class schedules are also affected by seasonal patterns. In the summer, the most popular class times are 9 a.m. and 10:15 a.m., and typically there are more classes available because groups are larger. But when school starts in the fall, classes shift to a bit earlier, with the most popular time slot being 8:45 a.m.
“We try evening classes here and they never take off,” Donohue reports. “It’s so gorgeous here in the summer that people are outside until the sun goes down, so we don’t have any classes after 2 p.m. It’s funny, because in other places, evening classes are the fullest.”
The group fitness classes with the biggest, most consistent numbers are Pilates and its variations (Pilates mat and cardio Pilates), followed by TRX (suspension training) and yoga. Surprisingly, one of the least popular classes is spinning, which has recently received a boost nationally thanks to the SoulCycle craze. “When we’re in our ‘mud season’ we get busier, but most people would prefer to be outside on their bikes,” Donohue notes.
One class that proved popular, much to Donohue’s surprise, was Zumba. “The older women loved it and it took off,” she says. “I thought it was a little past its prime, but I guess not. But I think dance classes are great—it’s a good workout, and it’s fun.” Crested Butte’s older membership also enjoys restorative yoga, low-impact fitness, and aqua fitness classes, she reports.
When it comes to choosing which fitness trends to offer and which to avoid, Donohue relies in large part on her intuition. “I am definitely cautious about adding the latest trends, because they come and go fairly quickly,” she says. “I just get a gut instinct—and some things I’ll just let play out for a little, before changing the schedule for it.
“Coming from a functional training standpoint, when I see new stuff come out like TRX or Tabata [a form of high-intensity interval training], I can see that those programs are based on good science,” Donohue adds. “People will feel that in their bodies, and it will have better staying power.”
Crested Butte’s fitness facility includes a main area with cardio equipment; open floor space for strength and functional training; the main group fitness room with ballet barres, TRX mount and spin; and a small private room with free weights and stability balls, for more personal training.
To accommodate member demand, the club expanded its fitness offerings into a wellness center in July, adding a new group fitness room and Pilates reformers. “The demand was definitely there—the fitness floor was getting crowded,” says Donohue.
The club takes advantage of the area’s beautiful scenery by offering an outdoor boot camp during the summer, for which the instructor uses the club’s empty tennis courts. For personal training, nearby Grant Lake offers a different environment for doing functional exercises, like lunges or step-ups on rocks. One of the club’s instructors conducts paddleboard fit classes, where students focus on balance and core strength on the lake; that proved to be a “huge success,” Donohue reports.
“No matter what your age or what condition you’re in, you should exercise the same way you move in daily life,” she notes. “If you’re 70, you can still take a Tabata class, because there are adjustments for every motion. A lot of members can be intimidated by classes or functional training like squats, so we take the time to educate everyone.”