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Ski town food in the United States has come a long way over the years. It used to range from notoriously bad cafeteria fare on the mountain to, at best, pale imitations of alpine cuisine at what would’ve been considered the fancy place in town. Well, times they have a changed. These days, ski towns from the Rockies to the Green Mountains are serving dishes that are just as good — and in many cases better — than what you’d find at home. Whether you’re refueling from a hard day killing it on the slopes or partaking in apres-ski post-spa, here are eight great ski town restaurants to check out while the powder is falling.
1. The Bavarian Lodge & Restaurants, Taos, New Mexico
Set in a log cabin adorned with the Bavarian Coat of Arms looming over the balcony, this German restaurant looks like it’s been extracted straight from the Alps. The aesthetic is much the same inside the wood-clad interior, which boasts Bavarian antiques, an imported fireplace and taxidermied mountain lions perched atop the exposed wood beams. With that kind of themed decor, the food doesn’t even have to be good to attract a crowd. But its hearty Deutsch classics (think sauerbraten, jagerschnitzel, spaetzle) are just as impressive as any big city renditions.
2. Firewood, Park City, Utah
Hot tub aside, nothing is more comforting than warming up next to a fire after a day of shredding. This Main Street spot by acclaimed chef John Murcko offers prime views of the roaring wood-fired grill from the dining room. Murcko uses those flames in multiple forms, from coal to smoke, to cook and flavor locally-sourced New American dishes like coal-roasted beets to cherrywood-smoked brisket with goat cheese smashed potatoes and horseradish chimichurri.
3. Hooked, Beaver Creek, Colorado
Fresh seafood in the middle of the Rocky Mountains may sound like a stretch, but this fish-focused restaurant gets deliveries flown into Denver, then driven across Vail Pass daily. Hooked serves dishes ranging from pan-fried salmon coated with macadamia crust and vanilla beurre-blanc to Kampachi Nigiri. Whole fish, however, is the way to go. Staff walk guests through the daily box of fresh whole fish, helping to pick a size and flavor profile that suits, then the chefs slice it apart, serving the creature in multiple courses of hot and cold preparations.
4. Game Creek, Vail, Colorado
A meal at this five-star restaurant requires quite the trek. Game Creek, cradled just below Eagle’s Nest, is only accessible via chairlift and snowcat during the winter month. It’s worth the effort; locals consider it one of the best dining experiences in town. American dishes such as mint- and herb-crusted Colorado lamb rack and trout with hazelnut brown butter are paired with an award-winning wine list in an elegant European-style chalet.
5. The Motherloaded Tavern, Breckenridge, Colorado
This from-scratch tavern draws its inspiration from the type of home-cooked fare mom used to make. But it really lays claim to the best stoner food in the state. The buttermilk fried chicken fingers taste the way you always hope those pre-made frozen renditions would. Not Your Mama’s Meatloaf can satiate even the most ravenous munchies. And Spam fries — yes, fried strips of Spam with chipotle ketchup — must’ve been created under the influence of something good. Don’t worry: Sober folks will appreciate it, too.
6. Manzanita, Northstar Lake Tahoe, California
Just because this stunning restaurant is housed in the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, doesn’t mean it’s stuffy or overwrought. Barring the high price point, it’s the kind of food you want to eat after a day spent smashing runs. Meat and produce from local ranches and farms is transformed into creative riffs on traditional dishes, like black truffle-scented chicken pot pie, elk meatballs and Dungeness crab-covered duck fat tater tots.
7. Teton Thai, Teton Village, Wyoming
Warm up from the inside out at this mouth-searing spot, located just minutes from the base of the Tetons. Teton Thai dishes out all the usual suspects like pad Thai, papaya salad and cashew stir fry, as well as rarer selections (including a killer barbecue pork with sticky rice) on a spice scale that ranges from one to five. Believe the menu where it says three is spicy — four has even your boldest hot sauce enthusiast breaking into a sweat. But hey, you’ll be warm by the time you leave.
8. General Stark’s Pub, Mad River Glen, Vermont
The menu at this daytime pub-come-apres ski hangout doesn’t look like much — turkey melts, chili bowls, hot dogs — but its burger is insanely good. Ask the cook about the beef and he’ll point toward the valley and say, “It comes from over there.” A limited supply of grass-fed patties are simply grilled to-order, topped with lettuce, onion and tomato, then cradled in a challah roll with choice of cheese. Word to the wise: Arrive early and wash it down with one of the many rotating local craft brews on draft.
Photo courtesy of Game Creek
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