It's a win-win situation. Not only do you get to work off some calories and interact with group members along the way, gastronomic delights and memorable experiences await on these fun skiing and snowshoe adventures. Dipping into delicious cheese or chocolate fondue, catching a sneak peek of local shrines and savoring gourmet dinners in yurts are just a sampling of Mountain West winter excursions that are suitable for most ability levels.
Fondue and mountain towns just seem to go together. There is something about wrapping up a winter day by dipping goodies into warm, gooey cheese and smooth, delicious chocolate. It tastes even better during Saturday Guided Snowshoe Tour and Fondue Dinners, offered from December through March at Crystal Mountain Resort in Washington. The 2.5-hour tour begins with a ride up the Quicksilver chairlift and a forested walk to Lower and Upper Henskin Lakes, ending back at the base area lodge for a traditional cheese fondue dinner served with salad and dessert. This outing is available on other nights for private groups of eight or more, says Director of Sales and Marketing Tiana Anderson.
Snowshoe by the light of headlamps and the moon through forests and glades to Hollyburn Lodge at Cypress Mountain, located outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, for a nice selection of options. Chocolate Fondue Tours and Cheese & Chocolate Fondue Tours are offered on Friday and Sunday evenings, and Girls Night Out Snowshoe & Chocolate Fondue excursions happen once a month from January through March. Care to add some live music? Music Night Snowshoe Tours take place on Saturday evenings from mid-January to mid-March and include appetizers, chocolate fondue, music and dancing.
A Taste of History
On the journey to Pine Creek Cookhouse, located 11 miles outside Aspen, Colorado, guests begin the adventure at the ghost town of Ashcroft and travel by cross-country skis, snowshoes or a horse-drawn sleigh for alpine cuisine made primarily from natural, organic and locally sourced ingredients. Operated by Ashcroft Ski Touring and surrounded by 35 kilometers of Nordic skiing trails, Pine Creek Cookhouse is a cozy log cabin where wild game Sherpa stew and smoked Rocky Mountain trout are lunch favorites and dinner might include Western treats such as elk, buffalo and rainbow trout. Groups of up to 60 can be hosted in Pine Creek Cookhouse’s private dining room, available in summer, as well.
“Most of our groups take advantage of the sleigh ride aspect of Pine Creek Cookhouse. Not many mountain towns have a venue that is as accessible by sleigh, so that is what makes it really unique and special,” says Debbie Todd, operations manager for Aspen-based RMC, a destination management company.
Many people have heard of them, but don’t know how to find them. Problem solved. Viceroy Snowmass Executive Chef Will Nolan takes guests out for a downhill skiing or snowboarding tour of Snowmass Resort’s famous shrines, located throughout the mountain. After shrine hopping, Nolan brings the group back to the Viceroy, located slopeside at this well-known Colorado ski area, for an après ski cooking and cocktail lesson.
Gourmet Yurt Dinners
Yurts are not just for hard-core backcountry adventurers. There are several unique yurt dinner options ranging in cost from $75 to $125. At Solitude Resort in Utah, groups snowshoe along a forest trail at sunset for less than a mile to a Mongolian yurt that holds up to 24. A team of rotatmeet prepares multicourse meals in front of guests and explains each course. Headlamps light the way back, along with lanterns and the glow of the moon.
In Crested Butte, Colorado, it’s a mile on easy groomed trails to Crested Butte Nordic’s Magic Meadows Yurt for a five-course dining experience made for the memory books. Typically scheduled for around the holidays and every Saturday in February and March, appetizers are served and live music begins at 6 p.m., followed by salad, soup, entrée (with delectable choices like paradise chicken, steak au poivre, encrusted filet of salmon or wild mushroom risotto) and dessert. Tiki torches illuminate the path back, and groups can rent the yurt on other evenings and during the day. On Sundays, the yurt turns into a small bistro serving fresh pastries and coffee.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) ski area has entertained a group of tour operators and journalists by snowshoeing and dining at the yurt. “Bringing a group to Crested Butte is magical to begin with, but then tie in a yurt dinner under a brilliant, starry sky and you realize what makes the mountains such a special place. The beauty, the intimacy, the food and the nighttime views at yurt dinners are all perfect for a small group looking for a unique opportunity,” says Erica Mueller, director of innovations and relations for CBMR.
It’s also a mile of skiing to Tennessee Pass Cookhouse, part of the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center located at the base of Ski Cooper, 9 miles from Leadville, Colorado. A four-course dinner includes entrée selections such as Colorado rack of lamb, wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, grilled elk tenderloin, oven-roasted chicken and roasted bell pepper stuffed with quinoa. The gourmet meal ends with homemade fruit pie. Lunch also is available.
Ethnic foods make the dining experience at Blue Moon Yurt, located in Ponderosa State Park only 2 miles from downtown McCall, Idaho, especially unique. Like most yurts, this one is off the grid and food is brought in daily to prepare four-course Thai, Southwest, Cajun, Caribbean and Pacific Northwest meals. The yurt, suitable for up to 26 guests, is situated under the pines and on the shores of Payette Lake, accessed by a 1-mile trek on cross-country skis or snowshoes. Hot spiced wine is provided, but guests may bring their own beer, wine or spirits.
Take advantage of unique options like these in the mountains and participants will not only rave about the cuisine, they will talk for days about the beauty and experience of getting to dinner!