Nothing against a hot toddy nor mulled wine, or even hot cider for that matter, but it can’t be a coincidence that skier and beer rhyme (it may help if you have a Southern drawl). As craft beer lovers, we are drawn by the lure of the great outdoors no matter the season and mountain towns seem to attract great breweries―just keep in mind the high altitudes. So whether a pint of a light-bodied beer after a day of tackling black diamond runs or a glass of something strong and warming after (or between) wedging your way down the bunny slopes is your MO, here are some great resort areas where the skiing or boarding is as top notch as the local brews. Best of all, these mountains offer multiple resorts to fit both the ritzy and more budget-minded travelers.
Park City, Utah
Salt Lake City may have been the main focus when the 2002 Olympic Winter Games came to Utah, but many of the events, including the ski jump and the luge, were held in Park City. At the Utah Olympic Park (3419 Olympic Parkway), which remains open, we can’t in good faith recommend trying the long jump, but if you’ve wondered what it’s like to ride a bobsled, even at a comparatively tame 70-plus mph, for $200 you can try the actual track for the wildest one-minute joy ride of your life. At least it makes the cost of a lift ticket at Deer Valley seem reasonable.
Deer Valley is, by many accounts, the swankiest resort in the country. Whether its larger appeal to skiers is the “champagne powder” or the fact that it doesn’t allow snowboarders is up for debate. They even offer a covered chairlift with seat warmers taking riders to the summit elevation of over 9,500 feet. The other two options include the centrally located Park City Mountain Resort and, only five miles from Deer Valley, The Canyons. Both of these are equally popular, just a tad more wallet-centric.
As for the beer scene, some might be under the false impression that the area’s strong religious persuasion would keep quality adult beverages from finding a foothold, but the Utah Brewers Cooperative―a joint venture between Wasatch and Squatters Breweries―just earned Mid-Size Brewery of the Year honors at the Great American Beer Festival. There are 13 breweries in-state, which collectively earned seven medals. Three of those brewers have pubs in Park City. Blogger Mike Riedel, who blogs at UtahBeer.blogspot.com, offers up some of the top choices to hit during your visit.
“As far as the local craft beer goes, you start with the Wasatch Brewpub,” says Riedel. Wasatch (250 Main St.)―named for the mountain range that comprises central Utah’s span of the Rocky Mountains―is located at the top of Main Street and is Utah’s first modern brewery. The brewpub has been in operation since 1989 and is semi-infamous for its Polygamy Porter with the catchy taglines, “Bring some home for the wives” and “Why have just one?” During ski season, look for their winter warmers, Bobsled Brown and Winterfest.
Its sister-brewery, Squatters Roadhouse Grill (1900 Park Ave.), is situated on the opposite end of town. Popular during all three meals and of course when the lifts close, the quality of the food is proof that people come for the brew (look for winter selections like Holiday Nut Brown Ale and Outer Darkness Russian Imperial Stout) as well as the grub. This is a Park City satellite location, as the original brewery was created in Salt Lake City, as was Red Rock Brewing (1640 W Redstone Center Drive, Suite 105), which opened a location a few miles away from Historic Park City just below the Utah Olympic Park in the family-entertainment area of Kimball Junction. In other words, they likely sell as much of their craft soft drinks as they do their beer.
Riedel also noted that there’s a new brewery about to open called Shades of Pale Brewing. The result of a dedicated homebrewer and the age-old mission of doing what you love in the place you love, their first beer, Parley’s Pale White Ale, a Belgian Wit, is already available to try at The Canyons and pairs well with powdery white moguls.
After finagling your ski boots off, Riedel suggests going to Lindzee O’Michael’s (825 Main St.) “the best beer selection in PC.” Being Utah, the draft and bottle selections are divided into “three-two” beers brewed specially for the market and “full-strength” beers, and both lists are heavy on those brewed in-state, including Uinta and Moab.
Skiing, like drinking beer, works up a mean, mountainous hunger and Park City has no shortage of world-class restaurants (at world-class prices). One reasonable treasure is Chez Betty (1637 Short Line Road), a fusion of French and American cuisine. It’s conveniently located inside the Copperbottom Inn (same address) offering affordable rates and a shuttle service for amenities beyond walking distance on cold nights.
In the morning, to fuel up for the slopes, the Eating Establishment (317 Main St.), better known to locals as the Double E, claims, “We’re not good because we’re old, we’re old because we’re good.” Traditional breakfast fare and substantial house specialties have been the order of the day since 1972.
Lastly, keep in mind that January is also Sundance Film Festival time. This year’s rendition is supposed to screen well over one hundred films from roughly 40 countries. Expect to do some stargazing. And some reservation-making if you want to assure lodging and dining options.
If you make your last run off the Town Lift, wind up on Quittin’ Time which will lead you to the High West Distillery. Riedel points to this spot even though “it isn’t quite beer related, but it’s a pretty unique concept―a ski-in/ski-out gastro distillery.” Any of the three small-batch whiskeys certainly provide the warming touch sought after a day on the mountain.
Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
The lake is a gorgeous draw year-round and certainly makes for spectacular waterskiing during warmer months. But the sight in winter, when your skis or snowboard are pointing downhill toward the sapphire water―as the second deepest alpine lake in the country, it never freezes―is majestic. Set in the Sierra Nevadas and straddling the California-Nevada border, Tahoe is home to a full dozen resorts including four major ones, plus nine small breweries that are mostly pubs.
As one of the most family-oriented resort towns, Tahoe offers plenty of non-skiing activities that are fun for kids and perhaps a parent who never learned to ski. Try sledding, snow tubing, snow shoeing and ice-skating―there are two rinks, including one at Squaw’s High Camp, scene of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games.
Darren Kramer is the general manager of the Tahoe Yacht Club, as well as Obexer’s Country Market (5300 W Lake Blvd., Homewood, CA), which possibly boasts the largest bottle selection in Tahoe. He contends that Tahoe in general and Squaw Valley Resort in particular offer the “greatest conditions in the lower 48.”
It’s important to know the different areas, beginning with North Shore and South Shore, but also keeping in mind what lies on the western shore in California and on the eastern half in Nevada, which has far less skiing but way more gambling, with about an equal number of breweries in each.
In South Lake Tahoe, Heavenly is the largest of all area resorts and the tallest, with a peak elevation of over 10,000 feet compared to just over 9,000 for the other larger mountains. It’s also right near the Tahoe airport if you’re flying in. Neighboring resorts include Kirkwood, where discount tickets can often be found, and Sierra-at-Tahoe.
After a day on these slopes, or three days visiting all three mountains, pop into Mt. Tallac Brewing (2060 Eloise Ave.), but note that this draft-only brewery is only open to the public Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m. Keep your layers on since they don’t heat the space, but that never stops locals from piling in. There’s also the Brewery at Lake Tahoe (3542 Lake Tahoe Blvd.), with Bad Ass Ale, a local favorite, boasting copious amounts of malts, hops and alcohol. Then, spitting distance from Nevada is Stateline Brewery (4118 Lake Tahoe Blvd.). Both brewpubs offer pizzas, sandwiches and an array of grilled entrees.
Up north, Squaw Valley is the area’s second largest resort, with Alpine Meadows and Homewood Mountain nearby. This end of the lake is more developed and you’ll find everything you need in Tahoe City. When the lifts close, Kramer swears by The Auld Dubliner (1850 Village South Road, #41) in the Olympic Village, by virtue of having the best bartenders. This small chain finds footholds in similar ski resort towns and while the beer selection leans toward the usual U.K. imports, a hearty beef stew or corned beef is hard to argue with at the end of a ski day. For fine dining, Kramer notes that Wolfdale’s (640 North Lake Blvd., Tahoe City) is incredibly popular due to their East-meets-West style surf and turf menu, and happy hour.
Getting your day started comes down to two main options according to Kramer. If you’re willing to take your time and fill up in town, the hands down best bet is the Fire Sign Café (1785 W Lake Blvd.), where the varieties of eggs bennies could probably keep you full past lunch until you’re done for the day. Otherwise, right at the base of the KT-22 lift is the Blue Onion, serving up savory egg dishes, Mexican favorites such as chilaquiles, and sweet treats from the griddle.
A little farther north in Truckee is Northstar-at-Tahoe, which Kramer indicates is the most family-friendly of the resorts. Sugar Bowl and Donner Ranch, known as the choice for the thrifty skier, are nearby along with Boreal, a boarder’s paradise since the installation of the Vans Snowboard Park.
For the beer lover, Truckee’s main attraction is Fifty/Fifty Brewing (11197 Brockway Road), where brewmaster Todd Ashman migrated after leaving Chicagoland’s Flossmoor Station. In addition to après ski favorites like Foggy Goggle Belgian White and Donner Party Porter, ask if they have anything from the Eclipse series of barrel-aged imperial stouts, since the recipe is a holdover from Ashman’s Flossmoor Station days. Incidentally, Kramer says the pizzas here are killer.
Lastly, over the state line in Nevada, two great resorts are Diamond Peak and Mt. Rose. Of course the real allure is that, being Nevada, you don’t have to stop partying until the bars close, which is usually never. Tucked inside El Dorado Hotel and Casino is Brews Brothers (345 North Virginia St.) with live music. Silver Peak Brewery (124 Wonder St.) has six year-round styles and as many seasonals as well. Originating in Sparks just up the road, Great Basin Brewing (5525 S Virginia St.) recently opened its second location. The fact that Great Basin consistently medals at GABF is a good indicator of the quality of their beers as well as the variety. Try the Cerveza Chilebeso if you can handle a spicy beer. And look for Buckbean (1155 S. Rock Blvd., Suite 490) tallboy cans of Black Noddy Schwarzbier and Orange Blossom, both widely available around the Tahoe area.
Accommodations are plentiful throughout Lake Tahoe. For the opulent beer traveler, there’s the Ritz-Carlton (13031 Ritz-Carlton Highlands Court) mid-mountain on Northstar, providing for the ultimate in ski-in/ski-out lodging, with the expected $400 per night starting price. On the flipside, Kramer recommends the Tahoma Meadows B&B (6821 West Lake Blvd., Tahoma, CA). These cottages are close to Squaw Valley but far south enough to provide good access to Tahoe City and South Lake Tahoe. Not to mention all rooms are under $200 a night and include a home-cooked breakfast.
Squaw’s KT-22 Express, dubbed the best chairlift in America by several notable skiers, services advanced and expert runs. It also picks up from the base village where, after you take off those tight boots, you can relax at Le Chamois. If the sun happens to be shining, enjoy “The Chammy’s” spacious deck, otherwise the inside Loft will be packed. Either way, Kramer advises getting a Snowshoe―coffee with Irish cream and whiskey.
Stowe’s rustic New England charm keeps tourism high throughout the seasons and, come winter, it is considered the East Coast ski capitol. Here, the word “mountain” means something different than out West. Situated between the Green Mountains and the Hogbacks, Stowe is comprised of two mountains―Mt. Mansfield for intermediate and advanced skiers that peaks at almost 4,400 feet (the tallest in Vermont) and Spruce Peak for more beginning-level skiing.
Stowe is 45 minutes from Burlington with some of the state’s better-known breweries such as Magic Hat and the Vermont Pub and Brewery (birthplace of the Black IPA, see “Congratulations … It’s a Beer”). This beer scene motivated Chad Brodsky to launch Burlington Brew Tours, which takes visitors to the four area brewpubs and one of the local-centric taverns for lunch. Seeing an opportunity over in the mountain towns, Brodsky recently added Stowe Brew Tours, which operates year-round and can pick up in either Stowe or Burlington, and offers up some of the best places to stop.
The Shed Restaurant and Brewery (1859 Mountain Road)is the town’s main brewpub where, if you want to sample the six to eight beers on tap, the flight comes on a mini ski or Burton snowboard. Because of its small brewing system, unique beers are the order of the day, but one constant remains Mountain Ale, a strong, 7 percent ale that is the most popular for a reason and is perfect for the winter.
No visit to Stowe could be complete without checking out the Trapp Family Lodge (700 Trapp Hill Road), developed on the site where the actual von Trapp family―of Sound of Music fame―settled after moving from Austria. The Lodge is an all-in-one destination with ski-in/ski-out lodging, dining, spectacular vistas and, brand new, its own brewery. Naturally, the first two beers are Golden Helles and Vienna Amber, which, Brodsky claims, “are some of the finest German and Austrian lagers on the East Coast.”
If your preferences lean toward the British end of the spectrum, in the heart of the village resides Ye Old English Inn and Mr. Pickwick’s Pub (433 Mountain Road), perhaps higher rated than the Trapp Lodge. Instead of a brewery, this inn and restaurant offers a pub with a wide array of lagers and ales, some on cask, hailing from the British Isles to Vermont, including breweries such as Harpoon and Magic Hat. Brodsky notes that in Pickwick’s world-renowned cellars, “rest several thousand bottles of wine, vintage ports, rare cognacs, single malts and small batch bourbons.”
Should you overdo it at any of the above, hit The Dutch Pancake (990 Mountain Road) in the morning before stepping into your skis. They offer plenty of sweet or savory crepe-style, foot-wide pancakes customizable to your liking.
If you are the type to take a day off from skiing to explore the area, Brodsky has plenty of suggestions in Waterbury, about 15 minutes down state route 100. “Here you’ll find the Ben and Jerry’s factory (1281 Waterbury-Stowe Road). After you have had your fill of ice cream, its time for a tall, cold glass of ‘Shut the Hell Up,’ the Alchemist Pub and Brewery’s (23 S. Main St.) American mild ale brewed with Horizon hops. Alchemist’s owners, John and Jen Kimmich, really know how to treat their clientele right, with local artists splattered across the walls and some of the most delectable brews I have ever tried. An absolute must if you’re in vicinity.”
Additionally, located in the town of Warren a wee bit south of Waterbury is Lawson’s Finest Liquids, which is not open to the public. Most area stores carry Sean Lawson’s beers, seven of which are brewed with local maple syrup including Maple Tripple and Maple Nipple. Due to the small supply, if you can cart a few bottles home, they are a trader’s dream.
For dinner, Brodsky raves about Hen of the Woods (92 Stowe St.). “Reservations are a must, due to its popularity. The ambiance, food and service are top notch, creating an overall solid dinning experience.” The locavore menu boasts locally raised game and farmstead cheeses.
The main thing to keep track of during a day in Waterbury is that the ice cream tours are offered from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the winter, which works well considering the Alchemist opens at 4 p.m., but you’ll kick yourself if you don’t make it to the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, just outside of town back toward Stowe, before it closes at 6 p.m. Not only do they press their own apple cider, which you can watch, but they bake up apple cider doughnuts!
For those who survive the “Front Four,” Stowe’s quartet of double-diamond runs, a reward at the Matterhorn Bar and Grill (4969 Mountain Road) is in order. There are a slew of spiked coffee drinks and cocktails, and the draft selection features plenty of Vermont beers including Wolaver’s, Switchback and more from small but close-by breweries such as Rock Art Brewing in Morrisville (Ridge Runner American Barley Wine is Brodsky’s favorite).
Brian Yaeger is the author of Red, White, and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey. He recently moved to Portland where he homebrews and is exploring the beers of the Pacific Northwest with his wife Half Pint and his dog Dunkel. He can't wait to have a beer (nothing light) with Fred Eckhardt.