Epic’s sleek style greets visitors atop Okemo.Photo Credit : Courtesy of Okemo Resort
It was an odd feeling hopping onto the lift without skis. The attendant slowed the chair as my friend Mike and I climbed aboard and I clutched my backpack, heavy with a bottle of wine, two Switchback Ales, and a pair of snowshoes. We were headed up Sterling Mountain at Smugglers’ Notch for the resort’s Snowshoe Adventure Dinner—the first one of the season. At the summit, the wind kicked up clouds of snow and as we scurried through the bitter temperatures, toward the warm glow of the Top of the Notch summit cabin, I reminded myself yet again that I would never be a candidate to climb Mount Everest.
But a dinner atop a ski mountain? That’s something I’ll sign up for. After all, why should ski vacation adventures stop with the last chair? Several Vermont resorts have dialed in on unique ways to après, bringing the party back up the peak and giving folks a chance to get into the snow well after the lifts stop spinning.
Here are eight trailside eateries well worth a visit this winter. The catch? They’re only accessible by snowcat, sleigh, skis, or snowshoes. Not to worry though—each one has been designed to appeal to both the adventurous and the adventurous at heart.
Motor Room BarPerched atop Bear Mountain, the drive terminal of Killington’s now defunct 1980s era Devil’s Fiddle Quad has been christened the Motor Room Bar and serves as the venue for the resort’s retro cocktail shindig. Hop aboard a snowcat and claw up Bear’s 3,262-foot peak. The old terminal’s metal stairs lead to a horseshoe-shaped room wrapped with floor-to-ceiling windows. Inside, assorted small plate offerings—local artisan cheeses and charcuterie, a hot mug of soup, crisp oysters on the half shell—are presented atop the lift’s original bull wheel brake repurposed as a table. Grab a drink (two cocktails per person are included) and while away a couple of hours chatting with friends and other revelers while night falls over the slopes. Killington.com
Ledgewood YurtA new twist on the traditional sleigh ride delivers diners deep into the woods to Killington’s Ledgewood Yurt—a Mongolian-style canvas hut aglow with twinkle lights. Diners warm up with hot, spiked apple cider at the Snowshed Mountain base lodge before huddling beneath heavy wool blankets in a huge snowcat-drawn sleigh. A short ride under a starry sky leads to the Northbrook Trail where the yurt is nestled in among the trees. Inside, a woodstove keeps things cozy, servers take your coats, and crisp white tablecloths glow beneath candlelight. Guests sit family-style at long tables to enjoy a five-course meal prepared with ingredients sourced from local farms and producers by executive chef Greg Lang. Enjoy delicacies like American sturgeon served with truffled spoonbread and pork belly confit with roasted morels. For families, the Yurt offers a kid-friendly three-course menu several times each season that includes sugar on snow for dessert. Killington.com
Epic Snowcat Dining AdventurePerhaps the most posh of the Green Mountain’s slopeside eating experiences, Epic welcomes guests to travel to dinner in style in the heated coach of Okemo’s tank-like snowcat—one that was originally employed at the Calgary Olympics. For extra adventure, be the first to call shotgun and ride up front with the driver on the 15-minute, vertical climb up Solitude Mountain, where a mini-tour offers a taste of the slopes from a vantage point often reserved for the groomers. Your final destination is Epic, the resort’s mid-mountain lunchtime hangout, transformed into an elegant dining space and made more ambient by the big, wood-burning fireplace in the center of the room. Sixty local food producers supply the ingredients for a five-course meal created by Chef Jason Tostrup that allows people to experience the terroir of the area. Whet your appetite with specialty cocktails like the Haywired, made with Vermont-made Whistle Pig whiskey, heirloom apple cider, and local bitters. Though the menu changes often, recent goodies included truffle artichoke and garlic bisque, wild bass with clams in garlic broth, and Blackwatch Farms beef tartare. Okemo.com
Top of the Notch Snowshoe Adventure DinnerSmuggs’ guided snowshoe dinner is an adventure from start to finish. Grab a pair of snowshoes—an assortment will be lined up waiting for your arrival—and climb aboard the Sterling lift after the last chair for skiers has finished for the day. Prepare for a frosty ride—the mountain is brisk when the sun goes down.Your destination is the primitive Top of the Notch cabin, perched on the summit of Sterling Mountain, where you’ll be greeted by candlelight and a cup of cocoa doctored with a shot of minty schnapps. After warming up, don your snowshoes and head out for a snowy hike through a rabbit warren of mountain trails while the talented staff of the resort’s Hearth and Candle Restaurant prepares a four-course meal back at the cabin. Kick things off with hearty venison chili, or a rich, seafood chowder. A mixed green salad is followed by a choice of entree—the wild mushroom gnocchi is especially delicious—and warm Vermont apple crisp arrived for dessert. After dinner the adventure continues with a 45-minute hike down the mountain—portions of which involve sliding on your bottom along the Rum Runner trail should you choose to do so. Smuggs.com
Allyn’s Lodge at Lincoln PeakPerfect for families or groups of friends, Remote Fireside Dining at Allyn’s Lodge blends luxury and adventure. For a more rugged experience, opt for a strenuous pre-dinner skin or snowshoe up Gadd Peak. Not your style? The resort’s cushy Lincoln Limo cabin cat awaits to deliver diners up the mountain. Kick off the evening with a glass of bubbly and melty fondue by the fire followed by house-made pâté, local field greens, hot soup, and a selection of main courses. Dessert and coffee are served down at the base at Timbers Restaurant and guests can either ride the snowcat back or ski down with a guide under the stars. Sugarbush.com
Base Camp at Mount EllenLooking to try your luck traveling back up the mountain after dark? Make your way to Sugarbush on Saturday evenings through the end of March to partake in Base Camp at Mount Ellen. For uphill newbies, free, guided skinning and snowshoeing tours for ages 13 and up leave from the base at 6:00 p.m.—arrive early to check in—and last about an hour. If you’re comfortable forging out solo, get familiar with the uphill route, which links four trails from bottom to top. Snowshoes are available at Mount Ellen’s gear shop while alpine touring skis can be rented from several nearby off-mountain outfits. Afterwards, stone-fired pizzas, local brews, and a few rousing games of corn hole are on tap in Mount Ellen’s laid-back Green Mountain Lounge. Sugarbush.com
Slayton Pasture CabinThe only exclusively daytime adventure on this list can be found snug within Trapp’s wonderland of woods. The resort’s 60 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails make it one of the premier cross-country destinations in North America and Slayton Pasture Cabin, built in 1971 as a warming refuge, remains a popular destination for skiers and snowshoers ambitious enough to make the five-kilometer, mostly uphill, woodland trek. Cabin keeper, Mike Gora, rewards the ambitious with a roaring hearth, hearty soups and sandwiches, and home baked treats. Better yet, the trip back to the resort’s outdoor adventure center can be done in a fraction of the time. Trappfamily.com
von Trapp Bierhall and BreweryThe von Trapp Family has been brewing their fresh, crisp Austrian-style lagers since 2010—an enterprise with humble beginnings, which produced 2,000 barrels per year out of a small space within the resort’s DeliBakery. That all changed this past fall when the longtime dream of family patriarch Johannes von Trapp and his son Sam was finally realized with the opening of the von Trapp Brewing Bierhall Restaurant. The bright, airy space has quickly become the property’s après-ski epicenter, though folks looking for a midday pit stop would do well with a lager (or two) and lunch. A large, U-shaped bar invites guests to relax beneath soaring ceilings while partaking in Austrian specialties like crisp chicken schnitzel with braised red cabbage and a farm-fresh fried egg or platters of juicy wurst with sauerkraut mashed potatoes. Wash everything down with one of eight different Trapp brews and cap off your feast with a buttery Linzertorte. Growlers and bottled Trapp brews are available in the brewery store. Trappfamily.com