Dining in Denver’s nearby ski resorts
December 23, 2015
Once that last run of the day has been completed and everyone has trudged all the gear back to the house, the first thing on most minds is where and what to eat. There are a variety of options for dining both on and off the resort in Summit County, and restaurants line Main Street in both Frisco and Breckenridge. After a long day on the hill, a quick bite in town might be the first choice, but for those looking to spend a little more time making dinner more of an event rather than just a means to satiate, there are ways to take a night to stray from the norm and try something other than just a meal at a restaurant. These nighttime dining options offer something more than the typical night out.
The Moonlight Dinner Series at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is a chance to dine at Black Mountain Lodge mid-mountain after the lifts have stopped turning. Guests are given the chance to experience the mountain on snowshoes or skis after-hours, a time long after skiers and riders have gone home. Adrienne Saia Isaac, marketing and communications manager at A-Basin, said it's the way you get there that makes these dining opportunities unique.
"You can either take the Black Mountain Express chairlift up and back from dinner or you can skin, hike or snowshoe to mid-mountain," she said. "Some of our dinners are not lift-served, and they're hiking only, and that gives a really special experience to the people who choose to attend those dinners."
Executive chef Christopher Ryback highlights cuisines from different mountain regions around the world for each event.
"Chris likes to add different flavors and try different things, it's something that he really enjoys doing," Saia Isaac said. "He likes to keep it interesting so people who attend year after year can have something new to look forward to."
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"We do have live music at each of the dinners, and for certain themes chef Ryback organizes special entertainment. For example, our Polynesian luau in May, he's setting up fire dancers," she said. "He's making it a really special event. So whenever there's a chance for interesting theme-related entertainment, we definitely like to have something special for those dinners."
As of Oct. 21, the Night in France and Night in Italy were the only events sold out. Saia Issac said guests should check A-Basin's website for updated information on each event of the Moonlight Dinner Series, and guests interested in sold-out dinners should call (888) 272-7246 to be put on the waiting list. "The dinners are incredibly popular with our guests," she said. "We have some guests who have been coming to every moonlight dinner since we started them. Every year it seems like there is more and more interest in them."
DEC. 12 – A Night in France
DEC. 31 – New Year's Eve in the Mountains
JAN. 23 – A Night in Italy
FEB. 20 – Foods of the Pacific Rim
MARCH 19 – A Night in Spain
APRIL 23 – Polynesian Luau
France and the Luau dinners are both randonee, meaning there will be no lift service for the event.
For more information about Arapahoe Basin's Moonlight Dinner Series, go to arapahoebasin.com or call (888) 272-7246.
Whether it's for a romantic evening or fun family activity, there are several options for dinner sleigh rides around the county, and most also offer live musical entertainment. Two Below Zero Dinner Sleigh Rides in Frisco offers a unique dining experience in a remote area of the mountains. After meeting at the Frisco Nordic Center, two large draft mules per sleigh of 15 to 20 people pull guests out to a location on the peninsula for dinner and a show, said John Lampe, owner of Two Below.
"Basically it's a theme dinner on steroids, because we are out there in the real snow and the wind and all that, and what makes it unique is we actually take you to a remote site for dinner and a show," he said.
Once on location, guests sit down to a three-course dinner inside a large heated tent that seats about 100 people.
Live entertainment is provided by David Peel, who gets the crowd singing along to his impersonations of artists such as Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond. Now a Denver resident, Peel is from Nashville and spent some time singing in Branson, Missouri, in the early '90s, opening for acts such as The Osmond Brothers and Tony Orlando. Lampe said they save the show for after dessert, so the crowd can really get into it rather than having an artist play background music.
After the show, guests are whisk-ed back to where they started, with the whole experience coming in around two and a quarter hours.
"The sleighs are taking you to a spot for dinner and show and you're truly at a remote spot," Lampe said. "We have no running water, no power lines, everything is done through generators and things like that. … That's the ambiance that people really like."
Keystone Resort also offers a dinner sleigh ride out at its historic back ranch. Guests are offered a true Western mountain experience, said Paul Phillips, food and beverage director of mountain dining at Keystone Resort, and cut loose from the everyday norm.
"The sleigh ride has professional wranglers, so when they are taking the team on a sleigh ride, besides handling the horses, they are able to interact and give the history of Keystone and joke around and tell some stories about the area," he said.
For more information about Two Below Zero, go to dinnersleighrides.com or call (970) 453-1520. For more information about Keystone sleigh rides, go to keystoneresort.com or call (800) 354-4386.
For those less interested in looking at the tail of a horse while headed to dinner, Breckenridge Ski Resort offers a more modern take on the sleigh ride, with a chance to take a snowcat through scenic trails from the base of Peak 9 up to TenMile Station at 10,234 feet. The Starlight Dinners feature a four-course prix fixe menu on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from Dec. 3 to April 4. Call (970) 547-5740 or go to starlightdinners.com for more information.
There are two restaurants in Keystone that take a little more effort to get to, but are worth the travel. The Der Fondue Chessel and the Alpenglow Stube offer a nighttime dining experience on North Peak, only a gondola ride away. Getting to these outlets is half the fun — after checking in at the base of the resort, take the eight-passenger River Run Gondola 11,640 feet to the top of Dercum Mountain, the first of three peaks at Keystone Resort, before exiting and walking the short distance to the second Outpost Gondola, which heads to North Peak.
"There are so many things that are unique about riding the gondola at night," said Paul Phillips, food and beverage director of mountain dining at Keystone Resort.
"When you have a clear evening and you can do that star gazing, and you can see that alpenglow on the mountain — it's absolutely, truly amazing."
Blankets are handed out to make the ride more comfortable, and Phillips said it adds to the romance for couples to cuddle under the blanket while stargazing.
"You can see the village, and once you are higher up you can see Dillon and Silverthorne lit up," he said. "So it really does have that unique, unique feel — and then on a special night when it's a full moon, or the moonlight lights up the mountainside, it's pretty awesome."
For a romantic night out, Phillips said he hands down recommends the Alpenglow Stube. Every winter the restaurant sees multiple marriage proposals — a ring hidden in dessert or dropped in a champagne flute.
"It's really the go-to for a romantic evening, from getting on the gondola to the ride, the view until you get into the Stube. It's such an intimate feel — you have the fireplace going and share a wonderful meal with your loved one. Share a glass or bottle of wine and really enjoy yourselves."
The highest AAA Four-Diamond dining experience in North America, guests will be greeted with slippers at the entrance.
"Whether you are in ski boots or have your big heavy winter boots on, … you can step into those for a nice, pampering feeling," Phillips said.
There is an open fireplace on display, with a wood stove that the chef uses in full view. Their winter menu, although subject to changes, features items such as venison goulash, Belgium crispy lobster, Colorado rack of lamb chops or pan-seared Shetland salmon.
"You realize how amazing that four-star dining experience at 11,400 feet is," Phillips said. "That is something special. The servers and staff there are extremely knowledgeable about the food and especially the gorgeous 600-plus bottle wine selection that we have."
DER FONDUE CHESSEL
For families and large groups, Phillips suggests heading to the Der Fondue Chessel. The meal starts with a traditional Swiss cheese fondue, and features two options from the meat and seafood selections to cook up on tabletop Raclette grills.
Traditional Austrian music rounds out the evening as well as chocolate fondue for dessert.
"It's so much fun for the group … the families really enjoy it for the Austrian music they play," Phillips said. "The kids love it because they can watch, and everyone can do the chicken dance if they want. It has that wonderful authentic Austrian feel, with the fondue and the large timbers in the room and the real high ceilings, and a very large fireplace. … And of course everyone loves the chocolate fondue."
For more information about the Alpenglow Stube or Der Fondue Chessel, go to keystoneresort.com or call (800) 354-4386.