There are lots of good reasons to pay for luxury accommodations on a ski or snowboard vacation, but for many travelers, fancy food is not one of them. A ski-in/ski-out slopeside location adds tons of value, as do special services such as ski concierges with heated boot drying rooms, lavish pool and hot tub complexes, first-class massages for sore muscles, and large swanky rooms or suites. But you can get haute French cuisine in any major city, and for many winter sports enthusiasts, ski food means a taste of the mountains, from après draft beers and chicken wings, pizza or chili to a hearty steak or thick burger. But this doesn’t mean settling — even though it’s “comfort” food, more and more top ski resort hotels are taking things up a notch.
Perhaps the best example is The Handle Bar at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole. For years, the property had a staid, traditional hotel bar that never really caught fire with guests. So last year it brought in celebrity chef Michael Mina, of Bourbon Steak and his eponymously named Four-Star restaurant, who converted the slopeside space into the playfully named The Handle Bar. At the Jackson Hole spot, beer is served in cowboy-boot-shaped glasses, and there are wacky happy hours such as Mustache Mondays — where mustachioed patrons get free PBRs — a Whiskey Playlist (a list of the whiskeys the bar is loving) and upscale comfort foods such as Southwestern pork green chili nachos, elk chili, lobster corn dogs and a $20 three-course tasting menu at lunch. Signature cocktails here have names like the Yodelayheehoo (whiskey, orange-jasmine tea, maple and scotch-infused whipped cream), too. Also in Jackson Hole, The Wort Hotel’s Silver Dollar Bar steps up pub food with elk gyros, buffalo brats and burgers, and a popular corn chowder with potatoes, bacon, croutons and a thick cheese crust. The bar, which is covered with 1921 Morgan silver dollars, serves cocktails like the Cowboy-Hatten (Wyoming Whisky, Angostura bitters and cherry juice on the rocks).
There are plenty of other examples of top hotels having fun with ski cuisine and libations. The Four-Star Solaris Residences in Vail, Colorado, is home to a gourmet and cocktail-driven movie theater, CinéBistro, which replaces popcorn with popcorn shrimp and delivers martinis to your movie theater seat. But that’s not all — Solaris is also home to bōl, a bowling alley, cocktail lounge and restaurant that offers a full menu delivery to its 10 lanes, from pizza to salmon poached in olive oil, with bar service including 21 wines by the glass and more than 100 bottle selections, craft Colorado beers on tap (Odell Brewing Co.’s 90 Shilling, Great Divide’s Titan IPA) and plenty of signature cocktails, such as the Hielo Flora (Maestro Dobel tequila, ginger and hibiscus). Elsewhere in Colorado, the Four-Star Hotel Madeline Telluride built such a following with its signature drink at the indoor/outdoor SMAK Bar that it had to expand for this season. The drink in question at the Telluride eatery is a Bloody Mary with a full complement of peperoncini, celery and olives — plus a cheeseburger slider on a skewer. The menu plays with classic bar food, such as beef short rib tacos, Colorado lamb sliders and Southern-style mac and cheese in which you can even add candied bacon.
In Park City, Utah, the Five-Star Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley offers an après-ski menu in its casual Troll Hallen Lounge that includes a San Francisco favorite, garlic cheese fries, and a Southern staple, pimento cheese sandwiches, plus the best burger in town, while dinner serves up “grandma’s recipe” of Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes, as well as the famous Twenty Dollar mac and cheese with housemade pancetta and white cheddar. Despite its name, which refers to its worth, this entrée costs only $15. Not to be outdone, the Four-Star Montage Deer Valley added a new eatery, Burgers & Bourbon, for its 2013-14 ski season, featuring diner-style classics such as tall hand-scooped milkshakes (in flavors such as roasted s’mores or banana Nutella), steel cones full of fries, and gourmet burgers using locally farmed natural beef, artisan cheeses and house-baked potato rolls. Of course, there’s bourbon, too, and plenty of it, with more than 100 American whiskeys, and whiskey-based classic cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, and Manhattan. Montage has another great casual spot, Daly’s Pub & Rec, which combines a full-service sports bar, complete with a wood-fired artisanal pizza oven, with bowling, video games, pool tables, vintage arcade games and even a Wii Lounge.
Photos Courtesy of Four Seasons, Isaac Stewart and Hotel Madeline Telluride