In the festively decorated Black Mountain Lodge, which shone its bright lights onto the dim slopes surrounding it, guests of Arapahoe Basin's first moonlight dinner mingled.
It was the series' only dinner without lift access, requiring guests to hike, snowshoe or skin to the lodge's perch at the crest of the Black Mountain Express lift.
The theme: A Night in the Alps. The food: delicious and varied. The company: spectacularly entertaining. All the while, old friends found each other as new friends were made.
Dressed in an attempt to be stylish in on-mountain apparel, guests picked at the spread of Swiss cheeses and cured meats, sipped on wine or beer and awaited the main course, prepared by executive chef Chris Rybak.
The Swiss theme originated last year from guests' desire to go without lift service, and the meal caters to that market: Those who enjoy a completely natural way up and down the mountain. This year, it drew younger adults who weren't present the year before. One Breckenridge group bought tickets to celebrate a friend's birthday.
"I think it was a little younger crowd because of the physical requirement to skin or snowshoe up to mid-way since it was a non-lift served event," Arapahoe Basin spokeswoman Leigh Hierholzer said. "But overall I was impressed with the mix of ages of people who attended the dinner."
The randonee dinner filters out the crowds that arrive via lift at later dinners, Keystone resident Dan Munyon said, adding that he was attracted to a dinner for which he had to work. An experienced telemark skier, Munyon and his wife, Barb, have lived in Keystone for
"This is a different clientele with a less-filled room," Dan Munyon said. "This is just about perfect."
The Munyons found themselves next to Jo and Mike Quinn, who lived in a hike-to Montezuma cabin in the 1970s for $30 a month split among three people. Back then, the couples had common friends, but were only just meeting at the moonlight dinner.
Which is an example of how the randonee event brings together folks who don't just become family for a night - often, connections are only strengthened and memories made by the night against the moonlit Black Mountain backdrop.
Jo Quinn recalled her own previous moonlight experiences, such as piling into the cab and rear end of a snow cat, and tying a line onto the back to tow upwards of 20 people to the Keystone summit.
"You can't do that anymore with insurance," she said.
Today, the Quinns split their time between Keystone and Loveland, on the Front Range. They opted to attend the dinner because a good ski friend invited them along. But instead of finding themselves mingling with the old friends, they were forming a new connection to the Munyons - over slippers.
"I've been here since 1980 and you don't go to A-Basin without your Ralph Lauren slippers," Barb Munyon said, displaying her ballet-style fuzzies. Jo Quinn had slipped on her own knit version upon arrival.
With plates of salad and bread, bowls of tripe soup, and dinner plates piled with lamb, rabbit, pork, fish and their associated fixings, the unlikely group came together to enjoy a moonlight meal - akin to a night in the Swiss Alps.