11 Colorado Off Piste Dining Options for Winter
Ski towns cater to everyone when it comes to eating, but for something truly memorable head away from the lights of town and into the mountains
1. Uley's Cabin | Crested Butte
Fine dining meets mountain adventure at Uley’s Cabin in Crested Butte where a five-course prix fixe dinner is served after a scenic sleigh-ride up the mountain.
Literally a cabin in the woods, Uley’s Cabin was built in memory of Uley Sheer, a miner, moonshiner and mountain man who lived in a quaint 6’ X 8’ foot. The cabin built in his name, however, is a little more spacious. It is warmed by a log fire and decorated to evoke what it might have been like when Uley lived in the area. A portrait of Uley graces the mantle above the crackling fire.
The five-course meal, courtesy of Chef de Cuisine Charlie Brown, serves up familiar ingredients with a distinctively French accent, for example a ragout of wild mushrooms with truffle custard; braised Colorado beef, faro, roasted golden beet and a juniper gastrique; and honey chèvre ice cream with thyme walnut sable and macerated strawberry.
The cabin is also open during the day as is the literal ice bar outside the cabin.
2. Cloud Nine | Aspen Highlands
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro has a very European feel which can be seen in the dishes it is somewhat know for, namely fondue, raclette and strudel.
Remodeled for the 2015/16 season, the bistro has maintained its historic feel while at the same time making practical improvements. Open in winter and part of spring, Cloud Nine offers both lunch and dinner seatings; dinner is typically a more elegant and intimate affair (seating is limited to forty for plated meals and is not recommended for children). A single seating for dinner adds a touch of exclusivity, while a 15-minute, open-air snowcat ride to and from the restaurant adds a fun element. Enjoy a warm glass of glühwein before you board the snowcat.
Dinner is four courses including mushroom and black truffle strudel, Yarmony Ranch wagyu
strip with variations of cauliflower and chocolate hazelnut cake. A sizable wine list is available. Snowcat dinners are offered Wednesday and Thursday evenings until April 4.
3. Magic Meadows | Crested Butte
Magic Meadows Yurt is essentially a winter pop-up restaurant. Hosting just 20 dinners this winter (most Saturdays throughout the season as well as a few additional dinners over Christmas and New Year), each dinner can accommodate up to 40 guests.
Chef Tim Egelhoff is well-known in Crested Butte having worked around town at restaurants and as a private chef. Egelhoff has a tight focus on what he calls Colorado-inspired cuisine, a style that brings together classic European techniques with artisanal products and with attention to seasonality.
This winter, the Magic Meadows Yurt experience will offer several main course options — beef tenderloin, Scottish salmon, roast quail or skillet ratatouille — that will stay throughout the season with a changing selection of hors d’oeuvres, seasonal soups, salads and desserts.
Sitting on Crested Butte Land Trust property in the middle of Nordic ski trails just outside Crested Butte, Magic Meadows has been a winter mainstay for about 10 years. Only in operation in winter, getting to the yurt requires a one-mile ski or snowshoe from the trailhead. Specialty cocktails from Crested Butte’s Montanya Distillery, various wines and beer from Elevation Beer Company await inside along with live music from local musicians.
Eat, drink and be merry, but remember that you have a one-mile trek back to the trailhead!
4. Lynn Britt Cabin | Snowmass
Located high up on Snowmass Mountain, Lynn Britt Cabin has been described as having rustic elegance. Only open on Tuesdays through Thursdays during ski season, the restaurant is a relatively intimate space that can accommodate just 48 diners.
Its rustic nature makes it suitable for everyone, with the Wednesday Chuckwagon dinners (a three-course dinner with hot cider and a warm fire as well as live entertainment) especially suitable for children.
Dinners at Lynn Britt are of the snowcat variety, but with just one sitting per evening, reservations are recommended.
As for what to expect on the menu, there is salmon pastrami with apple and fennel salad, hazelnuts and rye vinaigrette; cauliflower bisque; and pan-roasted Arctic char.
5. Beano's Cabin | Beaver Creek
Beano’s Cabin is an award-winning restaurant in a meadow at the top of the slopes of Beaver Creek Resort in White River National Forest. Named for Frank “Beano” Bienkowski, the luxurious log cabin sits on land that was formerly home to Bienkowski’s lettuce patch and home.
The ride to Beano’s Cabin, a 20-minute open-air sleigh ride pulled by a snowcat, is a feast for the eyes with spectacular views of towering Grouse Mountain and Larkspur Bowl. A roaring fire welcomes and warms you before dinner. Snowcats leave every half hour which allows for flexibility in your evening.
Headed by Executive Chef Kevin Erving, the five-course dinner is made up of dishes such as ahi tuna poke; foie gras torchon; pan-seared Alamosa striped bass; and Colorado Lamb with green chile polenta, broccolini and chimichurri. The meal is almost as much for oenophiles as it is for foodies with a 19-page wine list (including almost two dozen by the glass). An open kitchen allows diners to become a little more immersed in the evening.
6. Zach's Cabin | Beaver Creek
Perched on the mountainside high above Bachelor Gulch with magnificent views of the Gore Range, Zach’s Cabin will, once again, become an homage to Rocky Mountain fare as Executive Chef Ron Jackson returns to Zach’s Cabin this winter. Jackson is normally the executive chef at the historic Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs.
A 15-minute star-lit sleigh ride takes diners to Zach’s Cabin where they will indulge in a dinner that brings the best seasonal produce from the Colorado Rockies and elsewhere to the table.
Artfully assembled, dishes you can expect to see from Jackson and his team this winter include a roasted root vegetable salad with local goat cheese, a carrot and lemon emulsion and quinoa; and cocoa nib-crusted elk loin with hen of the woods mushrooms, creamed greens and a mustard vinaigrette. Wines from the extensive Beaver Creek cellar, a cellar that has received the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence for 10 years running, will also be available.
7. Alpino Vino | Telluride
Only open during winter, Alpino Vino is North America’s highest elevation fine dining restaurant. The a la carte lunch menu and five-course dinner menu are composed of traditional dishes from the Italian Alps courtesy of Chef Nicola Peccedi’s upbringing in the Alpine ski village of Bormio, Italy. The menu is composed of handmade pasta dishes, soups, antipasti and other dishes from the region. Both lunch and dinner have a wine pairing option.
Lunches are leisurely and require diners to ski in (a short run from the See Forever trail from the top of Telluride’s Gold Hill Express), while dinner guests travel via an enclosed snow coach.
While there is an air of exclusivity about Alpino Vino, the restaurant itself has a rustic look with hand-hewn beams, furniture crafted from reclaimed wine barrels, stone floors and a wood burning fireplace that aims to capture the feel of the restaurants found throughout the Dolomites of Northern Italy. Outside, the heated deck offers great views of the Wilson Range and is a great place for a post-meal drink.
8. Game Creek Club | Vail
Located in Vail’s scenic Game Creek Bowl in the back bowls of Vail Mountain, Game Creek Club is normally for members only, but it opens its particularly luxurious doors to the public for dinner.
Only accessible by snowcat in winter, the European chalet-style restaurant offers four-course and chef’s table prix fixe menus including dishes such as agnolotti with chestnut, black truffle, mushrooms and cured egg yolk; bison tartare with Manchego; black cod with duck confit fingerlings; and wild boar shank with gnocchi, sage, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and brown butter.
With an award-winning wine list and a commitment to customer service, Game Creek Club is a good option for a meal in the mountains.
9. TenMile Station | Breckenridge
Taking place once a month during winter, TenMile Twilight Dinner Tours take diners on a moonlit adventure that culminates with a buffet meal at TenMile Station. Guests will need to uphill ski or snowshoe from Peak 9 before sitting down to their meal. The barbecue buffet consists of salad, sides (pork and beans, corn on the cob, potato salad and coleslaw) and house-smoked meats (ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket and chicken). Finish on a sweet note with an assortment of pies. After dinner, guests will have the trail to themselves on the way down.
Read our 24 Hours in Breckenridge guide here
10. Ragnar's | Steamboat Springs
The first gourmet restaurant to open on Mount Werner in Steamboat Springs, Ragner’s is named for Ragnar Omtvedt, a Norwegian who set a world record of 192.5 feet in 1916 on a new ski jump (later to be named Howelsen Hill).
Located in Rendezvous Lodge, Ragnar’s can accommodate 90 guests and offers a lunch menu with Scandinavian elements in a nod towards the Norwegian culture that played a pivotal role in making Steamboat a skiing destination in the early 1900’s. Expect pastas dishes, seafood, game and beef.
In the evenings, Ragner’s offers a variation of what would appear to be a ski town staple. A gondola takes diners to a snowcat-drawn sleigh that meanders under what are typically cloudless and starry skies to the restaurant. Dinner is made up of five courses that have the same Scandinavian influence. Dishes you can expect include a literal smorgasbord platter and storfekjott, a coffee-marinated petite filet served with a potato rosti, asparagus, smoked tomato coulis, béarnaise and chive oil.
11. Pine Creek Cookhouse | Aspen
Established in 1971 as part of Ashcroft Ski Touring, a Nordic center in the ghost town of Ashcroft 12 miles above Aspen in the upper reaches of spectacular Castle Creek Valley, Pine Creek Cookhouse serves American Alpine Cuisine with a focus on local and seasonal ingredients. Headed up by Chef Chris Keating, a longtime Aspen resident who is well known in the city thanks to time spent working at The Little Nell and as culinary director at Hotel Jerome, dishes you can expect to see on the menu include wild game, local beef, line-caught salmon and house-smoked trout, among other things.
In winter the only way to the restaurant is to ski, snowshoe or take a sleigh ride drawn by Percheron horses. Pine Creek is open for lunch and dinner daily from 11:30 am – 2:30 pm for lunch and at 6:30 pm for the single, prix fixe, four-course dinner sitting.
A trip to Pine Creek Cookhouse can be combined with an overnight hut trip. The 10th Mountain Division Hut System has huts nearby. Read more about them here.
Read more about winter in Aspen here
Read the whole winter issue of West of 105 for FREE here