A few months back we wrote a post on ways you could stretch your dollar in Aspen and Snowmass Village during the winter. Now that we’re in the throws of summer, we thought we’d offer up some similar budget-conscious suggestions with a decidedly summer twist.
Summer is just around the corner, and we’re eagerly getting ready to reopen the Snowmass Mountain and Aspen Mountain to mountain bikers, hikers, nature lovers, and of course, families.
So what do families have to look forward to this summer? Continue reading
So yesterday Ullr had a funny and decided winter shall return to the Aspen area. Spring-type weather has been threatening lately, but winter weather is still hanging on. With 8 new inches on the hill, I decided a change of venue was in order. I usually make my own personal hajj over to Snowmass a couple times of year and yesterday was another calling. Once the back areas of Snowmass fill in, it has some of the best expert level skiing in the valley. Yes, everyone talks about the Bowl at Highlands and the Dumps in Aspen, but for some of the best technical skiing we have, you can’t beat the chutes of AMF, Gowdy’s, Baby Ruth and of course….the Wall.
Being that it’s early April, there wasn’t a line or crowded run to be had. I underestimated the time it would take to get up on the mountain so I was not in line at my customary 9am. I was a wee late, but no matter, I didn’t have to share the mountain with too many people.
My first run was something I don’t customarily do but since the Sheer Bliss chair was running and the Big Burn chair wasn’t, that meant the Burn was devoid of anyone skiing it. I had the huge area basically to myself and I ripped off a couple of top to bottoms of untracked boot deep powder. I also forgot how long the runs are at Snomwass compared to Aspen or the Highlands. My legs were talking to me after a few of those.
The clouds were in and out all day. Everytime the sun came out for a moment, I would take a couple of photos. Here is the entrance to West Face Trees. If you stay in this drainage, you end up in Garrett’s Gulch.
The best wind loaded snow was in the Wall area and it was easily boot deep. It was not your typical spring, heavy wet snow, but rather, mid winter cold and dry snow. I couldn’t believe it was April.
This is the second pitch and one of the most popular parts of the Wall. This is Wall 1 and Wall 2. I’m standing between the two rock faces. This snow was deep and pretty fluffy considering the sun was out now and threatening to turn it into mash potatoes.
As I’m sitting here writing this blog, I had visions of skiing again today on Aspen. After a massive ski day of 5 hours yesterday, I’m just too sore to ski. I had an Aleve but that didn’t help. I even had a Red Bull. However, the day wasn’t wasted. Since it was near 50 mid valley, I took a couple of hours and de-winterized my motorcycle and went for a ride. It was so nice I ended up riding almost 70 miles.
There are two weeks of skiing left plus a couple of bonus weekends at Aspen. The snow keeps on piling up so I’m going to keep skiing it.
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?
With 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.
Elk 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.
We 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.
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.
And 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?
I 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.
Some 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
Weekend two of Spring Jam entertainment kicked off with the inaugural Banked Slalom event today. This snowboard-only event charged down the natural terrain of Sandy Park at Snowmass. The event drew 100 riders of all ages to challenge each other on banked turns. Continue reading
As daylight hours last longer, selected lifts at all four Aspen/Snowmass mountains will be open until 4 p.m. beginning this Saturday, February 15! Continue reading
It’s been ANOTHER snowy weekend at Snowmass with 6″ of snow falling. What do we do when it snows? We rally the #ContentCrew and get shots! Continue reading
Right now at Aspen/Snowmass, some 1,200 ski and snowboard instructors are getting prepped for another awesome season. But this means more than just waxing skis and watching the snow fall. Our team is full of certified Pros who are taking their career to the next level with additional training on skiing and riding technique, on-mountain safety, and good old-fashioned hospitality. Continue reading