On a warm sunny January day, my family and I were skiing at Aspen Highlands. As we got off of the Cloud Nine chair, we skied past the Cloud Nine Bistro. Tucked into the ski hill just below the apex of the lift, Cloud Nine has incredible views of the surrounding mountains. Outdoor tables are draped with cheery red and white checked cloths. Waiters serve contented couples and groups of friends. It was 2:00 in the afternoon. Clearly these folks were out for a long, leisurely ski lunch. With no kids in sight, I realized that Cloud Nine is where adults eat.
The Alpine Lunch
When I think of the quintessential ski lunch, I think not of chili and fries, but of long, leisurely mid-day meals in Europe where the emphasis is on quality and not speed. For most families, this is unrealistic. First of all, we generally don’t want to take that much time out of a fun ski day. Secondly, we can barely afford the chili and fries. Still, this winter I had the chance to eat at two outstanding on-mountain restaurants. One was a date with my husband at the Lynn Britt Cabin at Snowmass. The other, a leisurely meal with friends at Telluride’s new Bon Vivant. I still haven’t made it to Cloud Nine. But it’s on my list.
The Lynn Britt Cabin, Snowmass Mountain
If your kids are old enough to ski on their own, or are in ski school, skip date night in favor of a delicious, relaxing meal at the on-mountain Lynn Britt Cabin. Kids are more than welcome, and the Cabin offers a much better than average children’s menu. But if you can get away, do. Sometimes its more fun to escape on your own, even if just for an hour.
My husband and I visited the Lynn Britt Cabin on a cold, cloudy Sunday in February. A strong wind blew us in, but the Cabin was cozy, warm and abuzz with the low hum of contented diners. Inspired by the ranching cabins which once dotted the mountains around Snowmass, the Lynn Britt Cabin is both rustic and elegant, and definitely Western.
Lunch at the Lynn Britt Cabin is prix fixe for two courses: soup or salad and an entrée. The menu is Colorado-inspired, with classics such as Steak Au Poivre and Colorado Trout. Daily specials include Elk Stroganoff, Bison Meatloaf and Colorado Lamb. My husband and I visited on a Sunday and the special was Cassoulet with white beans, pork sausage and duck confit. It was unbelievably delicious and warming. For my first course, I had roasted tomato soup with just enough spicy-zing to make it unique. My husband had a Caesar salad, with plenty of anchovies, and the Bison Stew. After two courses, he still had room for the chocolate-infused bread pudding. Beverages and dessert are not included, but are worth the splurge. The old-time ranchers never had it so good.
The Lynn Britt Cabin serves dinner on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Snowcats depart the base village and take guests up to the Cabin for dinner. A family friendly event, these are five course dinners, with specific options for kids, and include live music. To make reservations for lunch or dinner, call 970.923.8715.
Bon Vivant, Telluride
Located at the top of the Polar Queen lift (Chair 5), Telluride’s newest restaurant, Bon Vivant, is completely open air. As unlikely as it sounds to dine outdoors at over 10,000 feet in the dead of winter, Bon Vivant is delightful. Jake Linzinmeir, Executive Director of Culinary Services, has combined a traditional French bistro menu with locally sourced products, including lamb, beef, and cheeses. A perfectly baked, flaky crust covers not only traditional French onion soup, but also a tender short rib, turning a traditional starter into a main course. A fresh, crisp frise and baby beet salad is dressed up with Colorado goat cheese brulee – portions of cheese sprinkled with raw sugar and flamed. Sheepherding has a long and distinguished history in these mountains, so any locally based menu must include lamb. The Lamb and Chimay Ale Stew was traditional, warm and hearty.
Bon Vivant seats 70 and does not accept reservations. On sunny days, the restaurant is completely open to the mountain views with seating on a large deck rimmed with heaters. When it is cloudy or cold, a 39-foot heated umbrella is opened, which gives Bon Vivant a more intimate feel.
Children are welcome at Bon Vivant and the nutella and berry crepes could easily become an apres-ski family favorite. For a hearty family meal, however, Jake recommends the Tomboy Tavern in Mountain Village. And for a memorable date-night dinner? Make reservations for the five-course dinner at Alpino Vino, Telluride’s on-mountain Italian restaurant and wine bar. Nighttime travel to and from Alpino Vino is via an enclosed Snow Coach and guests must be 21 or older. 970.728.7474.
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