Tag Archives: Buttermilk



Last week, I sent a heartfelt note to all of our groomers thanking them for their incredible work on the mountain.  While we had a great start to the year, it’s no secret that the jet stream  pounding the Northeast has been taking the moisture that normally hits our mountains and sending it up and around to Boston!  Despite that fact, our cat drivers have been working their magic, keeping our slopes in pristine condition with freshly groomed soft snow every day and mother nature has provided plenty of sunshine.  The patrol has done an incredible job keeping all of our steep terrain open and ensuring we could all enjoy the chalky soft, smooth snow that covered our expert trails, which would have been impossible to access without their hard work packing, shoveling and even blowing snow into the entry points.

With all of these blue skies and beautiful weather, I can barely walk down the street without someone complimenting me on the team’s fine work.  I of course give recognition where it’s due and that is the point of sharing this with all of you.  Our on-mountain crews have really shown their commitment, skill, and dedication to the skiing and riding experience through this dry spell.  My hat is off to all of you.

I wanted to make this point now, because the forecasters are seeing a major shift in the jet stream and the weather has already begun to change.  This week has been quite cold and we received 5 inches of snow on Tuesday, and up to a foot is forecast for the weekend.  Even more encouraging is the news from our friends at aspenweather.net, who say that the ridge aloft will move out to 140W, by the middle of next week.  In layman’s terms this means big snow for the second half of the winter.  I don’t know about you, but that news makes me want to stand up and scream “Bring it on!”  I’ll see you out there, or not, because I’ll be in a few of my secret spots lapping up fresh tracks…


Mike Kaplan
President & CEO | Aspen Skiing Company
P: 970-300-7102 | F: 970-300-7110
Snowmass | Aspen Mountain | Aspen Highlands | Buttermilk
Aspen Skiing Company was named one of Outside Magazine’s top 100 “Best Places to Work” for 2014

The dragon atop the gong at The Cliffhouse.
The Cliffhouse with Pyramid Peak in the background. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

The Cliffhouse, looking more Himalayan than Mongolian. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

A while back, I was chatting with Jim Butchart — the Executive Chef of Aspen Snowmass — and the topic of favorite on-mountain meals came up. The first thing that sprung to his mind, literally, were the vegetable spring rolls at The Cliffhouse atop Buttermilk. “Nobody knows about them,” he noted.

That last line — nobody knows about them — could describe a lot of things at Buttermilk, such as the powder stashes on Timber Doodle Glade, or the way the aptly-named Javelin propels you at gleeful speed when its groomed.

The Cliffhouse may seem unassuming at first glance (well, except for that view of Pyramid Peak), but once you see what’s cooking here, its pretty clear this restaurant is one Aspen Snowmass’ true hidden gems.

When I was up there a few days ago, I went for a Pho noodle bowl, which they make at the Mongolian grill station, as well as a glass of carrot-lemon-ginger from the juice bar.

It’s mostly an order-it-exactly-as-you-like kind of place. First, hit up the salad bar and load up on the veggies you want them to fold it: edamame, yellow bell pepper … whatever sounds right.

Pho noodle bowl at The Cliffhouse. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

Pho’ing it up at Cliffhouse. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

Head to the back, hand it over, let them know whether you want rice or noodles (you can choose between mongo, which has yakisoba noodles, or Pho which uses a traditional rice noodle) and then watch them cook it all up on the traditional Mongolian range top (which is a monstrous piece of equipment … instant kitchen envy).

At the end, you can add garnishes, such as basil.

The slippery noodles and layers of Asian flavor — green onions, ginger, soy beans, pepper, basil — instantly recharged me.

And since it was gorgeous, bluebird day, I ate outside on the patio with this view of Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Creek Valley.

Panorama from The Cliffhouse atop Buttermilk. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

The panorama from The Cliffhouse atop Buttermilk. Click to enlarge. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

One more element I’d recommend: It may be cliché to throw an egg on everything at this point, but seriously — do it. The extra hit of protein does a body good when skiing at Buttermilk. Zero lift lines usually equals an extra two or three runs per day.

The dragon atop the gong at The Cliffhouse. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

The dragon atop the gong at The Cliffhouse. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

locally sourced salad greens from Elk Camp
Executive Chef Jim Butchart

Executive Chef Jim Butchart.

Aspen Snowmass has long been committed to operating a four-mountain resort in the greenest way possible.

From generating carbon-negative energy at a nearby coal mine to qualifying for LEED certification in four of our buildings, our resort has always gone the extra mile to demonstrate a commitment to our environment.

That desire carries over to our acclaimed restaurants as well.

Lead by our Executive Chef Jim Butchart and our Environmental Foundation, we’ve followed through on several promises to keep the environmental impact of our restaurants — and the food they serve — to a minimum. Here’s how.

Sourcing Local Foods

Fresh greens from Elk Camp Restaurant, Snowmass, CO

Fresh greens from Elk Camp Restaurant at Snowmass

Fortunately for everyone, the most environmentally friendly practice also translates into the most flavorful food. Sourcing local ingredients — such as produce, poultry, dairy and more — not only helps the local economy and reduce our carbon footprint, but it also delivers the freshest, most flavorful food for our guests.

“We get a good deal of our product from Source Local Foods on the Front Range,” notes Jim Butchart. “And we’re searching every possible avenue to find even more local foods. But the biggest challenge is that very little is growing in our valley when we have the highest demand in winter.”

Because of this, our food and beverage team is helping local growers apply for grants that will allow them to build out infrastructure for supplying local produce in winter. Money from these grants can go toward building high tunnels for year-round growing or even increasing staff.

“We’re not going to be complacent and say ‘oh, it is what it is, we can’t source locally in winter.'” Jim adds. “We’re actively finding ways to get what we’re looking for, which is even fresher ingredients.”

Serving Locally Raised, Grass-Fed Beef

Locally raised beef on the menu at Ajax Tavern, Aspen Mountain.

Locally raised beef on the menu at Ajax Tavern, Aspen Mountain.

Along similar lines, Aspen Snowmass gets all of its beef — for 12 restaurants across all four mountains — from local ranches. Case in point, we’ve recently developed a partnership with Carbondale-based Crystal River Meats. Supporting local ranches who raise grass-fed beef not only reduces the energy needed to raise and transport beef, but it also helps the local economy.

“We want to support the local economy. That has always been our goal,” notes Jim. “One way to do that, is to support local ranchers, such as Crystal River Meats.”

In the case of Crystal River Meats, it’s an operation that has stayed family-run for generations.

“They’re real cowboys,” Jim laughs. “I tell my chefs that when I can’t get a hold of Tai to place the order, its because he’s out there on his horse ranching. It’s the kind of thing we want to support for many reasons.”

Expanding Our Composting Program

In addition to having a comprehensive recycling program, Aspen Snowmass has also enhanced its composting initiative.

“Logistically, it’s not easy to pull off composting across the mountains,” Jim admits. “We have to have special trash bags, we have to haul it down the mountain with a snowcat, and then we have to deposit it in special containers at the bottom. But it is something we’re committed to, and we’re looking to keep expanding it because its important.”

Currently, six restaurants on Snowmass compost in the kitchen, while both restaurants on Buttermilk compost in the front- and back-of-the-house.

“None of these things help the bottom line,” Jim admits. “But at the same time, we don’t want to transfer these operational costs to our guest. We do these things because they’re the right thing to do.”

Elk Camp at Snowmass

Executive Chef Jim ButchartJim Butchart is the Executive Chef of Aspen Skiing Company, a role that gives him oversight of the on-mountain restaurants at Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk.

With his training in classical French cuisine — and a background that includes stints at Joel Restaurant in Atlanta, Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, and Thomas Keller’s acclaimed restaurant The French Laundry — Jim understands that great cuisine always begins with great ingredients.

One look at the salad bar at Elk Camp, or the Mongolian barbecue at The Cliffhouse, and you’ll see his passion for ingredients firsthand. We chatted recently about how his team pulls it off … and how he plans his powder days around his appetite.

Overseeing so many restaurants on three different mountains has to be a big challenge. How do you approach this task? Do you have a common theme for all of those restaurants, or do you tailor each menu to the unique clientele on each mountain?

We have a really unique situation with our restaurants. They all have their own character and their own identity. We have a broad palate and can go all-in on what we want to serve, and yet its also very specific at each restaurant.

Sam’s Smokehouse is a good example of that. It’s a traditional smokehouse barbecue, and that’s it. We want to do it and do it very well, and not muddle it with something else.

Also, at Cliffhouse, we’re driving for an authentic Asian feel. Everything starts with the Mongolian grill concept. We still serve a burger or chicken sandwich there, but we’ll give those a teriyaki or Polynesian twist. Our chef — we’re just so fortunate — his girlfriend is Thai and he spends a ton of time there and in Vietnam and Cambodia and so he immerses himself in the culture and cuisine there, and then he brings that back to us.

Let’s talk specifically about Elk Camp. What’s the driving philosophy behind the menu there?

Elk Camp dining roomWith Elk Camp, we really threw everything out when it came to “on-mountain dining.” We didn’t want to do what had already been done. Instead, we looked to Italy and Chelsea Market in New York and even Whole Foods. Places where food is the center stage and you pick what you want to eat with your eyes rather than a menu board. So we really had that concept and started off with a message focused on local, sustainable food.

We made a conscious decision not to have burgers and French fries up there. We didn’t want a fryer or grill on the main line. Instead, we wanted three anchors: the rotisserie, the pizza oven and the salad bar. We make sure that every chicken we serve is born and raised in Colorado — some 75 miles down the road from us, in fact. We get a lot of our greens from a local producer … we’ve really opened ourselves up to having a market approach. Instead of having things dictated on a menu of have-to-haves, we have a broad concept that allows chefs to create daily specials.

rotisserie chicken from Elk CampElk Camp has been so popular, and its been very refreshing for people to have it. We have this beautiful building — I think of it as we have someone’s living room and we’re just entertaining from the kitchen. The serving area flows into the dining room and you feel like you are in one great room. We have beautiful subway, white-tile back walls, and that allows the food to pop and speak to people. The guys are prepping right on the line, working with fresh ingredients and you can see that freshness right there. The rotisserie is huge. We spent a lot of time and research on it, and we went with a Rotisol, which is like the Cadillac of rotisseries. Its such a visually appealing piece of equipment, we wanted to put it right there for everyone to see. As a result, people come up the gondola just to eat there — whether they’re skiing or not.

Where do you get produce in winter?

There are two things that we’ve been able to do. We work with Eagle Springs Organics who are located in Silt to get our chickens, and they also have four high-tunnels which allows them to grow produce year-round. In winter, they grow our salad greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs and other things.

locally sourced salad greens from Elk CampWe also use Source Local Foods — a coop that utilizes growers on the Front Range where the growing season is longer — and they ship it to us in Aspen. They also help us on the backend with our used fry oil from our restaurants. They take it and give us a credit toward buying our produce.

But it can be a challenge in the winter. The meats, the dairy, the cheese we buy — what we ask our chefs to do is be mindful when they source their ingredients. We want 15 to 20 percent of our foods to be from Colorado.

What are the main differences between the winter menu at Elk Camp, and the summer menu?

In the summer, it is much more grill-oriented. We have an outdoor grill that we are able to run. Everything pops a little more in the summer because we have this bountiful array of produce that is available to us. We have so many nearby farms we can deal with in the summer, like Rendezvouz Farm in Paonia, and some of the co-ops available in Crawford. Everyone looks forward to a season-change when you are cooking. You know, you’re tired of cooking with butternut squash and heavy creams and root vegetables (laughs), so its nice to get into more of the delicate tomatoes, basil, summer squashes. It’s just refreshing.

pizza at Elk Camp

What’s your favorite thing on the menu at Elk Camp?

I’m just a big, big fan of our slice of cheese pizza. The dough is done every single day, and the chef who helped me open Elk Camp brought the starter for the dough from Sundeck, and before that, it was from an ancient recipe from San Francisco. While we were waiting for Elk Camp to open, my chef kept the starter in his own refrigerator at home, and he kept feeding it every day. So we have a great starting point for that pizza. I think our slice of cheese pizza rivals anything in the valley … and the brussel sprouts are damn good, too. They do a sweet-soy glaze of pineapple on them.

What can a guest expect from the cuisine and food offerings at Ullr Nights and Valhalla Nights, especially if they have eaten at Elk Camp during the day?

We definitely supplement the fare with more dinner items. The first thing they would notice is that half the salad bar is converted into a raw bar, where we offer poached shrimp, mussels, ceviche, crab legs and crab claws — whatever we can get that is fresh and good. And then over on the pizza station we offer more appetizer options like flatbread. And on the rotisserie, we have prime rib or whole roasting sucking pig or leg of lamb, and additionally we’ll do a salt-crusted fish or cedar-planked whole salmon. We bring heartier dinner items to the concept.

Ullr NightsAnd then we bring out the s’mores kits which you can take out to the fire, beautiful desserts. Again, its that ala carte approach where, if you just want to grab a snack and a bottle of wine and enjoy some bluegrass in the summer, you can do that. Or, you can go for a full dinner. It’s non-commital.

So much of being a chef is knowing what goes well together. What ski runs pair well with lunch at Elk Camp?

It’s funny, because before Elk Camp was on my radar, I didn’t head to that side of the mountain much, but now … (laughs). If you are parked at Two Creeks, and you take the Two Creeks Lift up, you can then base out of Elk Camp, and get great access to Longshot, where you get a small hike in and a great long run, then reward yourself with lunch at Elk Camp. Personally, when I am out skiing, I like to get a hike in as well, so something like Headwall, when the conditions are good — then you feel like you earned that decadent lunch.

When you look at the on-mountain restaurants across all four mountains, what stands out to you as a must-taste menu item?

barbecue Sam's SmokehouseI always make the joke when I am with my kids and we’re trying to decide where we are going to ski, it is more about “where do we want to have lunch?” My go-to’s are the Cliffhouse — I love the Vietnamese Pho and fresh-vegetable spring rolls with peanut sauce in the fridge case … nobody knows about them — and if we’re going to be anywhere on Snowmass we are going to get the barbecue fries at Sam’s Smokehouse, a cookie at Up 4 Pizza, a slice of pizza or a barbecue chicken Panini at Elk Camp, a huckleberry shake or the classic double cheeseburger at the Ullrhof. I mean, if I want a burger, I’m definitely going there. It’s tough. There’s also Lynn Britt Cabin when I want a glass of wine and rustic Colorado fare.


Learn more about Elk Camp Restaurant and the special weekly winter and summer events — Ullr Nights and Valhalla Nights.


Pizza at Elk Camp, Snowmass

panini at elk campSome days, an hour-long lunch just doesn’t feel right. All morning long you’ve been skiing in choice conditions, and despite your grumbling stomach, you just want to keep going. Continue reading