Spring is a coveted time for locals in Summit County, because come April the fuss of ski season quiets down, the weather warms up and apres moves outdoors.
But this year, with an abnormally warm March, spring has dawned early, extending the much-anticipated deck season.
Enjoying apres outside, right off the slopes without feeling the need to curl into a ball by a fireplace or sink into a hot tub to defrost is liberating, so weekend afternoons on Summit County's best decks tend to have live music, a good mix of people and an unmistakable party atmosphere.
The Kickapoo Tavern at Keystone Resort leverages that atmosphere to the hilt in the spring. The big, open patio offers European-style seating at picnic tables overlooking Dercum Mountain from the edge of the River Run Village.
"It's just a great location to sit back and drink beer after a long day on the mountain," manager Billy Wheat said. "Or a short day. They don't even have to ski, we'll let them come in."
Happy hour includes beer specials and $1 off wells and wine. The tavern specializes in American pub food with Southwestern influences. Kickapoo is known for its nachos, getting rave reviews from nearby customers who heard us discussing them.
On Sundays, local rock and soul musician Arnie J. Green plays the Kickapoo deck and today the tavern's Kickafools patio party will pair mustache, best retro ski outfit and nacho eating contests with the live music. The parties will continue next weekend, when both Keystone and Kickapoo will wrap up the winter season.
In Frisco, a central Main Street deck at the Boatyard Grill opened earlier this season than it ever has thanks to the warm weather. The backyard deck is tucked away from Main Street, making for one of the quieter and more peaceful outdoor dining environments. Boatyard's deck offers great views of Mount Royal, which towers right above Frisco and, in the later spring and summer is ringed in flowers and greenery.
"It's beautiful," owner Cindy Spaulding said of the deck. "Frisco's a beautiful place and ... it takes advantage of all the views Frisco has to offer. Plus it comes with our great menu."
The grill's huge and diverse menu is a refreshing departure from the heavier slope-side pub fare, with a great selection of unique salads and a smattering of Asian and Mediterranean options.
During happy hour from 4-6 p.m. the Boatyard has specials on all drinks, including beer, wine, mixed drinks, margaritas, martinis and bloody marys. During the week, happy hour also includes two for one appetizers.
In Breckenridge, one of the most enticing decks can be found two stories above Main Street at Burke and Riley's Irish Pub. The deck's square footage rivals the interior of the small pub and offers the same menu and friendly service, but with sweeping views of Breckenridge's Victorian Main Street and the latter half of the Tenmile Range. Burke and Riley's deck is equipped with covered seating for sunny afternoons and a gas fireplace that can extend an evening outside after the temperature starts to drop.
The food isn't earth shattering; expect the traditional pub fare alongside a few dishes imported from the old country, but a fun cocktail menu is the real draw anyway. Burke and Riley's becomes a party bar after dark, but in the afternoons the atmosphere is relaxed and unpretentious. Happy hour from 3-6 p.m. includes drink specials as well as two for one appetizers Monday through Wednesday.