Eat & Drink
Summit County's Best Bars
23 quintessentially local ski bars where you can bask in the afterglow of a perfect Summit day.
A good ski-town bar is like a sanctuary, an almost holy place where like-minded souls gather to imbibe, refuel, and relive the day’s adventures with stories that stretch deep into the evening. Not surprisingly, given Summit County’s plethora of pistes and backcountry terrain, there’s no shortage of worthy watering holes where you can settle onto a stool and warm your cold-numb toes once the lifts stop turning. From après-ski to date night to weekend football to late-night revelry, on any given evening, skiers have dozens of hot spots to choose from.
But which are the best? Creating a list of Summit’s “best” ski bars is akin to divining a roster of every resort’s must-ski runs: There are too many good choices, and for most people, there’s just not enough time to enjoy them all. The 23 bars on these pages were selected by drawing on personal experience, talking to longtime Summit tastemakers, and evaluating everything from a venue’s food and drink offerings to its vibe, its view—even its characters. What follows is not a comprehensive list but rather a curated insider’s guide, organized geographically, to help steer you in the right direction for an unforgettable night out on the ski town, wherever, and whenever it may end. Cheers!
Sixth Alley Bar & Grill
28194 US Hwy 6, 970-468-0718; arapahoebasin.com
In the early 1960s, Arapahoe Basin’s classic A-frame lodge was built by Stanley Aviation in Denver to test an escape capsule for the B-58 bomber. The engineers would be proud to know the A-frame is still an escape—as well as home to one of the country’s finest ski-area bars, a cozy base-area refuge with delicious food and 12 Colorado breweries represented on tap. Splurge for the chicken and waffles with the Basin’s famous bacon Bloody Mary.
600 S Main St, 970-453-1550; breckbrew.com
Still the go-to for many locals and tourists, this brewpub has everything a fan of good beer and hearty food could want. The creative suds menu rotates often, but you can always count on sampling—straight from the tap—the recipe that made Breck’s namesake brewery famous: the ever-reliable Avalanche Amber, now served nationwide. One could argue there’s no more satisfying way to end a Tenmile Range adventure than by swapping stories here over a pint paired with a Quandary burger with mashers and gravy.
Broken Compass Brewing
68 Continental Ct, 970-368-2772; brokencompassbrewing.com
Tucked away in an industrial park on the north side of town, this rising star doesn’t waste time with televisions or pub food. But word has gotten out how good the product is, due to well-crafted stalwarts like the coconut porter and ginger pale ale. When you strip it all down, you get Broken Compass: tasty beer, a fun crowd, no distractions. With more than a dozen house-made varieties on tap, this is a bar for beer lovers.
106 S Ridge St, 970-453-9802; fattyspizzeria.com
Pop your head in here on a Friday afternoon and you’ll think you Hollywood-warped onto the set of Cheers, except instead of Sam Malone and Woody Boyd you’ll be sharing the room—and stories—with crusty old skiers. Happy hour deals include two-topping slices for $3 and domestic pints for $2.50.
Gold Pan Saloon
103 N Main St, 970-453-5499; thegoldpansaloon.com
The Gold Pan is an institution. What other word best describes a bar that holds the longest uninterrupted liquor license west of the Mississippi? It began as a tented structure known as Long’s Saloon in 1861, serving miners who hiked in from the surrounding peaks on weekends. The current building went up in 1879, and since then “the Pan” has weathered prohibition, gunfights, and thousands of rowdy ski bums. It oozes history: You still place your drink on the original, one-piece mahogany bar and rest your feet on the original steel rail from an area gold mine. Heat still comes from a potbelly stove that arrived in the 1930s. History aside, however, the Pan hosts rousing parties most nights of the week, including live music on Thursdays and a DJ on Fridays and Saturdays. You can get happy hour sliders or tacos for $2 apiece, and pork green chili–smothered fries are just $5. If you’re looking to relive the Old West, you’ve found a home here.
103 S Main St, 970-453-2572; motherloadedtavern.com
The Motherloaded is another Main Street landmark, though the best part is in back. Before it became a close-friends-and-comfort-food staple, the bar’s JC Lounge—short for Julius Caesar, not your lord and savior—established what it means to host revelers in a quaint, cozy space. The scene gets livelier as the day grows older, so if you can find a seat at the bar, or a spot at the dart board, take it and linger. Of course, happy hour is prime time for bargains: from 3 to 6 p.m., you’ll enjoy $2 off house-infused cocktails (served in 16-ounce mason jars) and $5 food specials, like Darth Taters (mashers slathered in truck stop chili) and cheeseburger sliders. Live music every Friday and Saturday starts at 10 p.m.
Myla Rose Saloon
4192 Hwy 9, 970-453-94941; mylarosesaloon.com
As the only bar between Breckenridge and Alma, the Myla Rose—which sits at the base of McCullough Gulch on Highway 9, inside Lodge by the Blue—has built a loyal following since it opened two years ago. Part of that is due to the intimate setting: a stone fireplace and vintage ski-lodge feel that’s a welcome world away from the hectic pace of Peak 8. And part is due to the superlative view: a serrated ridgeline between Fletcher Mountain and Atlantic Peak with massive Quandary in the foreground, a stunning composition that invites contemplation through the broad saloon window as you sip your cherry blonde ale or hot toddy.
Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub
110 Lincoln Ave, 970-453-4949
As a happy hour stalwart, well-equipped sports bar, and late-night tradition, “Nappers” has long been one of downtown Breck’s most popular choices to let loose. Its open layout features a sprawling bar, plenty of high-tops, and booths around the perimeter to take in the sights, whether that means ogling a crowded dance floor (you can count on live music, like the 6 Million Dollar Band, or a DJ on weekends) or a game on one of the bar’s 13 TVs, including two big-screen projectors. Ladies Night on Friday means the fairer-sex drinks for free from 9 to 11 p.m., but everybody enjoys half-priced apps from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday (don’t miss the house-smoked ribs, one of the benefits of sharing an owner with Salt Creek Steakhouse downstairs). The bar also serves $4 baskets of smoked wings and $4 Bud and Bud Light pitchers Tuesdays and Thursdays. In the spring, Nappers’ highly underrated west-facing deck is a splendid spot to soak in some post-ski rays.
114 S Main St, 970-771-2121; rmuoutdoors.com
Among a handful of tight-quartered bars that keep Breck’s historic district humming—in the company of Northside Pizza and Angel’s Hollow—RMU has emerged as a surprise category leader. The gear manufacturer-turned-Main Street watering hole opened the town’s first ski shop/bar combo in 2016, and it’s a rare night when the place isn’t full. Twelve rotating craft taps, and a venue that’s about as ski-town real as you can possibly get, have a lot to do with that.
Mulligan’s Irish Pub
231 Tenmile Rd, 970-968-2084
Copper has its share of tourist-friendly base-area bars—think Jack’s, where you can watch Olympians practice half-pipe runs, or Double Diamond, where the ribs alone are worth a visit—but none offers the local flavor of Mulligan’s. Tucked away near West Lake in Center Village, prime time here is from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Guinness, Smithwick’s, Harp, and PBR are always on tap, along with two rotating microbrews. Bring your appetite and order the Mully Burger: two patties, two slices of cheese, one fried egg, and three pieces of bacon ($14). “The food is hot, fast, and greasy,” says Manager John Morain. “It’s a laid-back locals’ dive bar.”
Dillon Dam Brewery
100 Little Dam St, 970-262-7777; dambrewery.com
The Dam has anchored the Highway 6 corridor for nearly 22 years and has been rated one of the best breweries in the state, long before craft beer became an official thing in Colorado. It’s a great place to people-watch, rehash powder days, glue your face to a football game, and foremost, to eat and drink. Happy hour in the bar area from 3 to 6 includes $3.25 pints daily and half-price apps from Monday to Thursday. That means you can get the Main Street Tacos—three flour tortillas stuffed with shredded chicken or seasoned beef, green chilies, honey sriracha slaw, cheese, and sour cream—for $3.75. The huge horseshoe bar is ringed by taps, including the always-fun-to-ask-for Here’s Your Dam IPA and Sweet George’s Brown Ale. This winter, watch for the return of the Art of Science Schwarzbier, a dark lager that’s popular in Germany, and soon will be here.
Pug Ryan’s Brewery
104 Village Pl, 970-468-2145; pugryans.com
Pug’s was a steak house for 22 years before it started brewing beer in 1997, and ever since then it’s served as the unofficial social hub of Dillon. A crackling wood stove in the bar augments solid brews and satisfying food, with ample deals to choose from. Half-price pints are served for four hours every weekday (2–6 p.m.), and six-packs of classics like Morningwood Wheat and Peacepipe Pilsner cost just $7 and make appreciated souvenirs. Stop in for $10 fish-and-chips until 8 p.m. on Fridays.
Pub Down Under
626 Lake Dillon Ave, 970-468-0873; arapahoecafe.com/the-pub
For years, Arapahoe Café chef/owner Doug Pierce struggled to get people into the bar downstairs. So he started offering nightly pub specials at a fraction of the price that it would cost upstairs, and the local throngs followed. The special is still the A-Café’s biggest draw—and frequently leads to a line out the door. Depending on the night, you get a burger, barbecue sandwich, or three tacos and your choice of a side for $7.50. Other nights, the special features ruby red trout or the barbecue combo (the café is famous for its smoked meat) for $14. The kitchen closes at 10 p.m., but the bar stays open as long as people are thirsty, which around here is forever.
320 E Main St, 970-668-0601; bagalisfrisco.com
Decidedly more upscale than most bars on this list, Bagalis, an Italian bistro with high ceilings and big windows, offers arguably the best happy hour in the county. From 4 to 6 p.m., you can order half-price drafts from Broken Compass and Outer Range as well as huge imported bottles of German and Czech beers for $4 instead of the usual $8. That’s in addition to half-price apps and 10-inch artisan pizzas, like the best-selling Classic Bagali (homemade tomato sauce, mozzarella, fennel sausage, ham, and soppressata, for $7.50) or Funghi (mozzarella, forest mushrooms, caramelized onions, kale, and truffle oil, for $6.50). The restaurant also picks one red and one white from its list of 130 wines to dole out in $5 pours until 6 o’clock. Sit at the 20-
person community table and strike up a conversation with a stranger as a crackling fire in the copper fireplace has your back.
208 Main St, 970-668-3931; moosejawfrisco.com
A lot has changed since the Moose Jaw opened in 1973, when you could get all the spaghetti, salad bar, and garlic bread you could eat for $2.50. But the Jaw is still the most charming bar in Frisco—and the only place where Miller Lite and PBR drafts cost $2 every day (except happy hour, when they’re $1.50). Bartenders stay for decades, in part because original owner Lynda Colety, a.k.a. Mama Moose, covers their health insurance and looks after her crew like family. With low ceilings and a stuck-in-time décor highlighted by rec-sports trophies, you know what you’re getting when you walk through the door. Patrons, many of whom have been frequenting the Jaw since before Summit had lift lines, appreciate the continuity. “There’s no shtick,” says longtime bartender Steve Mase. “We don’t do anything extra to draw people in because we’re always busy.” The juicy Jaw Burger—a bacon cheeseburger served with fries—still costs $8.75, while a homemade bowl of chili—winter’s “the chilly season”—sets you back $6.
Outer Range Brewing Co
182 Lusher Ct, 970-455-8709; outerrange.com
Another in Summit’s growing stable of quality, no-frills local breweries, Outer Range only crafts IPAs and Belgians. (When I was there in the fall, bartenders were pouring eight of the former—including the best-selling In the Steep IPA—and six of the latter.) A welcoming buzz fills the room, but the beer is why you come here: In 2017, Outer Range was named the second-best new brewery in the United States by USA Today. Seating can be a challenge on a busy winter night, especially when a bluegrass band is steaming up the windows, but it also adds to the vibe. Last winter, Outer Range added a 25-person yurt in the beer garden to accommodate overflow.
313 Main St, 970-668-3688; einprositfrisco.com
It’s hard to find a cozier place to while away a frigid winter night than this intimate German beer hall. With long wooden picnic tables and benches and just enough standing room to cram in the rest of the crowd, you might feel like you’ve entered an eternal Oktoberfest. Eight beers on tap, including brews from Austria, Germany, and Belgium, as well as 18 different house-made sausages, make menu surfing an adventure. I’m partial to the Hofbrau Marzen and curried yak bratwurst, but local favorites also include the elk jalapeño cheddar brat, as well as antelope and wild boar. Each sausage (ranging in price from $8 to $10) comes with a side of Bavarian cucumber salad or German potato salad, and a self-serve station to heap on hot sauerkraut and various mustards. Tuesday is open mic night, with $2 Warsteiner cans and Beam shots, while Wednesday features an acoustic bluegrass pickers circle.
Goat Soup & Whiskey Tavern
22954 US Hwy 6, 970-513-9344; soupandwhiskey.com
For more than two decades, the Goat has set the standard as Summit’s premier dive-bar music venue. Visiting bands have included John Lee Hooker Jr., Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Greensky Bluegrass, the Motet, and Widespread Panic. The bar is named after a now-deceased neighborhood dog that was half sheepdog, half dalmatian. “He looked and acted like a goat,” recalls longtime bartender John Maginity. Character abounds everywhere you look, from the leopard-print carpet to the free popcorn machine to the 30 or so note cards above the bar listing patrons who have been “86’d for life.” Double wells are $5 during happy hour (3–6 p.m.), and the basic but solid menu includes three homemade soups every day, two of which rotate (chicken green chile soup is the constant and costs $5.95 a bowl). “We try to do a good job servicing the local crowd,” Maginity says. “The tourists are a bonus.”
Snake River Saloon & Steakhouse
23074 US Hwy 6, 970-468-2788; snakeriversaloon.com
When swinging saloon doors guard the entry next to menus signed by astronauts and NBA champions, you know you’re in an authentic establishment. The Snake, a Keystone icon since the early ’70s, was named one of the world’s best après-ski spots in 2011 by Skiing magazine. With vintage powder photos on the wall, a brick fireplace in the corner, and an old stand-up piano wedged below a mounted longhorn steer nicknamed King Alphonse, the bar’s culture is classic. Though the saloon menu is a fraction of what is served in the main dining room, it still includes crave-inducing standouts like baked artichoke hearts and bacon, with pub sandwiches and fries for $11. Live music often rocks the joint till the wee hours in ski season. “It’s always been a good, rowdy place on weekends,” says bartender/assistant manager Carole Peoples, who’s been earning her keep here since 1975.
Angry James Brewery
421 Adams Ave, 970-455-8800; angryjamesbrewing.com
Years from now, when Silverthorne’s nascent town center is built out and buzzing, you can bet one of the social gravity wells will be “AJ’s”—a fresh new brewery in the heart of a rapidly evolving and expanding Fourth Street Crossing nucleus. The brewery already is a hit with locals, who regularly visit for everything from the blonde to the brown to the Norwegian farmhouse to the double IPA to the pilsner. (My favorite is the velvety Two Tone Footer Stout.) What’s more, Cultivate Off Beet Local Eats, a micro café started by a couple who used to own a farm-to-table restaurant in Florida, now shares the space with AJ’s. Try the Cultivate Sliders: roasted beets, pickled red onion, arugula, and goat cheese spread on warm ciabatta ($9 for three).
The Bakers’ Brewery
531 Silverthorne Ln, 970-468-0170; thebakersbrewery.com
Cofounded by Cory Forster, the unofficial dean of Summit County brewing, Bakers’ always has a few unique concoctions on tap. As the moniker suggests, this brewery also is a bakery, and its menu is impressively diverse for Summit brewpubs. Try the sausage and mash trio, which combines three types of sausage with mashers and homemade beer cheese soup. The massive view of Buffalo Mountain is a bonus.
Murphy’s Irish Pub
501 Blue River Pkwy, 970-468-2457; murphysfoodandspirits.com
You can tell a lot from a bar’s parking lot. At Murphy’s, a landmark watering hole on Highway 9 across from Silverthorne’s sparkling new performing arts center, the lot is dirt. A 4,000-pound concrete pig named Murph lords over the entrance. Staff wear shirts bearing the slogan “Drink until you’re Irish.” Locals come to watch sports and keep up with current events (a.k.a. gossip). Try a $5 Murpharita pint during happy hour (weekdays from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.), then get the best corned beef and cabbage “west of Boston.” Friday features a popular fish fry of Guinness-battered haddock, which plays well as a setup to the homemade Irish bread pudding.
Sauce on the Blue
358 Blue River Pkwy, 970-468-7488; sauceontheblue.com
A more upwardly mobile yet unpretentious option in Silverthorne, the social scene at this riverside trattoria revolves around one of the most beautiful and well-equipped bars in the county. There’s ample space to mingle, and happy-hour deals (3–6 p.m.) rival the best anywhere: half-price personal artisan pizzas, $6 small plates (like shrimp scampi and gorgonzola filet tips), and $4 glasses of respectable wine.