Eight Great Apres-Ski Suppers in Colorado

Sure, the prospect of schussing down the dramatically beautiful Colorado ski slopes is reason enough to book a winter vacation. But lifelong winter-sports hobbyists know that real alpine pleasures also inhabit the exhilarating exhaustion of the après-ski hours, when the guiltless food tastes better and the soul-soothing wine tingles all the way to your toes. These eight high-country kitchens provide some of the best after-ski meals in the state.
La Marmott and Kelly Liken

The rustic exterior of La Marmotte (left); the packed dining room at Kelly Liken (right).


1. Frisco: Samplings

Summit County—with four major ski areas including Keystone and Breckenridge—has the busiest ski scene in the state. Smack in the middle of it all is Samplings, a sophisticated-but-cuddly wine bar/tapas spot in the centrally located town of Frisco. Offerings change by the month, but if the duck confit ravioli are available, grab them. A brawny wine list includes creative flights that take the pressure off après-ski challenges like thinking. 320 Main St., Frisco, CO (970-668-8466; samplingswine.com)

2. Aspen: J-Bar

Aspen is lousy with world-class restaurants (Montagna, Piñons, Matsuhisa), but sometimes the best after-ski supper is a cold draft beer and a perfect burger. Wedged into the ground floor of the historic Hotel Jerome (which celebrates its 120th year this year), this rustic, wood-paneled saloon serves the valley’s very best burger, a no-twists textbook construction of carefully assembled local beef, lettuce, onion, and tomato. Wash it down with a bourbon milkshake and brag about the moguls you conquered. 330 E. Main St., Aspen, CO (970-920-1000; hoteljerome.rockresorts.com)

3. Carbondale: Phat Thai

Veterans of the Aspen scene and locals tired of the downtown hubbub are happy to head 20 minutes up the Roaring Fork Valley to the alt-Aspen food scene in Carbondale, where Phat Thai (helmed by Six89 alum Mark Fischer) serves family-style plates of spicy, rib-sticking Thai favorites. Perhaps surprisingly, they make for excellent post-slope fare: Think slow-roasted pork leg with crispy shallots and red chili sauce; duck in red curry; and tamarind-glazed beef. 343 Main St., Carbondale, CO (970-963-7001; phatthai.com)

4. Telluride: La Marmotte

This iconic Alpine-French restaurant, located in a rustic farmhouse, opens and closes the book on the ultimate après-ski dish, a rich, robust coq au vin luxuriously paired with bacon-studded mashed potatoes and soft, braised red cabbage. Mark Reggiannini, who cut his teeth under Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Todd English, took over the kitchen in 2002, steering the restaurant onto a contemporary course while still maintaining its traditional ski-town feel. Understated service and an unpretentious wine list seal the deal. 150 San Juan Ave., Telluride, CO (970-728-6232; lamarmotte.com)

5. Vail: Kelly Liken

Rising star Kelly Liken has made a name for herself in the cutthroat Vail Valley dining scene by serving seasonal American dishes built with fresh, local ingredients in a cheerful, unpretentious setting. Though she is (deservedly) known for her potato-crusted trout fillets, the pot-roasted poussin with grits perhaps best showcases her clean, sophisticated approach. Make a reservation well in advance—the place fills up every night. 12 Vail Rd. (in the Gateway Building), Vail, CO (970-479-0175; kellyliken.com)

6. Edwards: Juniper

Just ten minutes up Interstate 70 from Vail, straight-shooting Juniper Restaurant has a clientele split between outta-staters and foodie locals, which makes for an excellent après-ski experience; the food is on a par with Vail’s best, but the relaxed atmosphere means you don’t have to behave like you’re in a jacket-and-tie dining room. Choose the Colorado lamb chops with crispy polenta, paired with a glass (or, hell, a bottle) of a soft French burgundy, and you’re set for the evening. 97 Main St., Edwards, CO (970-926-7001; juniperrestaurant.com)

7. Steamboat Springs: Bistro C.V.

The town of Steamboat Springs has, at least so far, maintained a small, real-rustic feel, thanks to a diversified economy that relies as much on ranching as it does on skiing. Substance trumps glitz in this no-bull dining scene, which spawned Bistro C.V., brainchild of chef duo Kevin Caparelli and Brian Vaughn. The tiny, seamless seasonal menu of locally sourced ingredients includes a chicken thigh confit with polenta; gnocchi with mushrooms; and a pristine burger with piquillo-pepper ketchup. 345 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs, CO (303-879-4197; bistrocv.com)

8. Steamboat Springs: Double Z Bar and Bar-B-Q

Who wants to finish off a muscle-busting day on the slopes in a pair of fancy shoes? Instead, throw on your sneakers or snow boots and head downtown to the divey Double-Z for a no-frills barbecued-beef sandwich on a soft sesame roll, and a basket of hot, salty onion rings. You might have to squeeze into a seat during peak hours, but chances are you’ll be squeezing in between groups of friendly, hail-fellow locals who’ll offer their advice on the array of microbrews. 1124 Yampa St., Steamboat Springs, CO (970-879-0849)

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