Time was, ski-resort dining consisted of a bowl of hot soup and a charbroiled frozen cheeseburger at one or maybe two predictable restaurants on the mountain or at its base. But for many resorts, that cafeteria plan no longer suffices.
Now, around the same time when they announce their annual terrain expansions and lift upgrades, resorts tout their new-and-improved dining options, be they upgraded facilities, enhanced menus, or the latest trend: table service.
To wit: Arapahoe Basin spent a whopping $1 million over six months to renovate its rustic Sixth Alley Bar this summer, doubling capacity at the now-horseshoe-shaped bar and at tables, which will be tended by wait staff for the first time. The new Sixth Alley Bar and Grill menu has been augmented with a deluxe cheeseburger—mushrooms, onions, horseradish, Havarti, and bacon on a brioche bun—beer-battered wahoo fish and chips, fresh salmon and salads, and a Jackalope Brat sourced from Colorado jackrabbit and antelope. At the bar, Mug Club members who dropped $40 on bottomless pint glasses at the start of the season can toast their good fortune with twenty craft beers from around the state.
“Table service has been growing across the ski industry,” says A-Basin executive chef Chris Rybak, who will also host periodic prime-rib dinners and special events at the Sixth Alley this season. “Every mountain has at least one sit-down entity. And as far as on-mountain trends, the needle has been pushed lately. I don’t think it’s just burgers and fries and pizza anymore.”
Both Keystone and Breckenridge, for instance, are adding healthier on-mountain fare this season. All three of Keystone’s quick-serve restaurants—on North Peak, on Dercum Peak, and at the Mountain House village—will offer a variety of 500-calorie and gluten-free meals, including mahi fish tacos, a winter spinach quinoa salad, and flame-roasted ancho chile salmon tacos. (It’s not all California cuisine: the resort is also adding a waffle and donut cart at the Mountain House base.) Meanwhile, lunch at Breckenridge’s Vista Haus, on Peak 8, will be enhanced with a loaded salad bar for the first time this winter. “We’re trying to balance between quick-serve dining and offering fresh, healthy meals,” explains Breckenridge food and beverage general manager Eric Tiffany.
With the same intentions in mind, Copper Mountain is adding a made-to-order sandwich bar at the Solitude Grille (located at the base of the Excelerator Lift), with fresh artisan breads and pulled pork and brisket, as well as cold meats and veggies.
Breckenridge’s Ten Mile Station, meanwhile, enters the season with a new executive chef, Jeff Nathanson, and a new snowcat-accessed happy hour. Every Thursday from December through April, skiers who catch the 5:30 p.m. cat at the base of Peak 9 will be treated to appetizer and drink specials and entertainment at the sprawling lodge, which also will host four-course, upscale Starlight Dinners throughout the season. Expect in-the-know locals to avoid the $10 happy-hour cat ride (and to upstage out-of-towners) by ascending on skins or snowshoes.
On the east side of the Continental Divide, Loveland Ski Area debuts its first on-mountain restaurant this season, the Ptarmigan Roost Café, which is perched at 12,050 feet and delivers stunning views. The Ptarmigan Roost will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and feature seating inside the cabin as well as on an expanded deck. Fare will be affordable and traditional—soups, chili, dogs, hot chocolate, beer—with grilled items added in the spring.
At Loveland’s old-school base lodge, the Rathskeller gets a new addition that adds more than 300 seats to the second-floor cafeteria and the ground-level bar. A new food cart will add expanded après food options as well.
In other words, forget about loading the fanny pack with gorp and PB&Js this season: an upwardly mobile, movable feast awaits.