The culinary scene at mountain resorts has undergone something of a revolution in recent years, and some say the change is coming not a moment too soon.
Waiting in line for overpriced chili at the base lodge, long a staple of the ski industry experience, has been giving way to more appetizing choices that can range from organic, locally sourced dishes to downright high-end menus with wine pairings at some of the more high-end on-mountain resorts.
The good news is that this culinary transformation is extending well past ski season into the warm-weather months.
Colorado, which boasts 25 ski areas and resorts as well as wineries and breweries throughout the state, has been at the forefront of this movement and is a case in point.
At Vail Mountain Resort, for example, the tony Game Creek Restaurant may only be accessible via gondola, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it after the snow melts. The seasonal recipes morph from winter to summer with such items as a chef’s tasting menu, complete with fois gras and elk, and a Sunday brunch with summer produce.
Aspen Mountain’s posh, five-star Little Nell hotel lures foodies with customized adventures like fly fishing and horseback riding that include, depending on the clients’ wishes, anything from gourmet dining with premium wines to rustic picnics.
Local tour operators are also adding good food to their menu of offerings. Beer and Bike Tours, for example, offers excursions that, as the name implies, combine a day of cycling with an evening visit to a local craft brewery. Available in Boulder, Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park and Fort Collins as well as destinations in New England and Europe, the tours can be customized into multiday itineraries.
In Boulder, Awestruck Outdoors takes individuals or groups via bike through Boulder to one of several local farms for a dinner of local fare or, during Tour des Farms festivals on June 16, July 14, Aug. 11, Sept. 15 and Oct. 13, stops at multiple farms for lunch and live music.
Nosebleed-high Telluride warms up in summer with a Telluride Mushroom Festival, set for Aug. 16 to 19, that includes a Chef Cook-off street party for visitors who want to sample local mushrooms. Foodies can also learn from experts the concepts of mushroom hunting and how to distinguish which of the fungi are edible.
Of course, these culinary inroads will never completely replace the standard base lodge fast-food experience, and they probably shouldn’t. Sometimes hot chocolate and a slice of pizza is what you want if your goal is to quickly get back on the slopes or on your bike. But those for whom cuisine is more than fuel will certainly enjoy having the choice.