Tag Archives: Snowmass

The Sled food truck restaurant

Just a few weeks ago, our crafty food-and-beverage team realized a dream of theirs: to bring the foodie-culture phenomenon of the food truck to the slopes of Snowmass.

The Sled at Aspen Snowmass, mobile food truck

Yep. There it is. We called it The Sled.

The Sled food truck restaurant

Our food truck handles great in the powder.

Now, technically its not a truck. It’s a trailer behind a snowcat (which is five times cooler anyway). To go along with the Oasis on Aspen Mountain (our mobile, snowcat-towed champagne bar) Fridays at Aspen Snowmass just continue to get better for lovers of food and drink.

The so-to-speak engine behind the food truck is once again Jim Butchart, our Executive Chef. “The concept is street food on the mountain,” he told me. “A once a week expression of our philosophy on mountain dining. Fun, fresh, unique and deliciously unexpected.”

The Sled will be showing up at Snowmass every Friday through the end of the season, in conjunction with the Bud Light Big Rail Fridays. Just follow our culinary team on Instagram for details on their location.

Every week promises something new.

“We’re not going to limit ourselves,” Jim continued. “The offerings are based around a specific ingredient, region, dish, season, idea, whim, inspiration. Pretty much, we will cook whatever we fancy that day, that moment.”

The Sled mobile kitchen at Snowmass

Look for this sign on Fridays, although you might smell what’s cooking first.

A couple of weeks back, that included a choice of ramen in a miso broth with pork belly for $8, or a báhn mì with chicken pate, pork belly and pickled vegetables for just $5. Recent weeks have also seen an exploration of Mexico and its flavors: veal-cheek tacos with salsa verde (which was $5), or green chile posole with cotija cheese (only $3).

And this Friday? French cuisine? BBQ? Another round of miso broth and ramen? Jim and his team probably won’t know until that morning. You’ll just have to swing by and find out.



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

Lynn Britt Cabin Chuck Wagon Dinner Snowcat, Snowmass Mountain
Lynn Britt Cabin Chuck Wagon Dinner Snowcat, Snowmass Mountain

Loading up for our trip to the Lynn Britt Cabin at the base of Snowmass Mountain.

If you are a parent who is planning a ski trip for your family, odds are you’ve wrestled with what to do after the slopes close, especially if your kids are under 10 and if (how should we say this?) sitting still in a restaurant is not their forte.

I was thinking about this conundrum last Wednesday as I approached the Lynn Britt Cabin at sunset, riding shotgun in one of Aspen Snowmass’ snowcats. I had been invited to join eight families for the cabin’s weekly Chuck Wagon Dinner, a family-oriented evening of good food, sing-alongs and playful fun halfway up Snowmass Mountain.

While my four-year-old daughter couldn’t come along with me this go around, I couldn’t help but see the whole event through her eyes.

Stepping out onto the snow, our group was greeted by the sweet smell of a campfire. Above, pastel-pink clouds were making way for the purple darkness of night, and before us, the cozy cabin was lit-up in holiday lights, exuding a warm glow from the inside.

Lynn Britt Cabin Chuck Wagon Dinner Snowcat, Snowmass Mountain

Arriving at Lynn Britt Cabin via snowcat.

As I watched a few kids make snowballs (only to toss them into the campfire), I thought back to how I spent my evenings on ski trips from my teen years: This sure beats ordering a pizza and a pay-per-view movie, I thought. The ride in the snowcats, the Western cabin, the quiet ski slopes under a rising moon … These kids will probably remember this night for a long time to come.

Lynn Britt Cabin Chuck Wagon Dinner Snowcat, Snowmass Mountain

Kids walking into Lynn Britt Cabin for a night of sing-alongs and good food.

As we were seated inside the cozy restaurant, we were introduced to the Harmony Sisters, Susan Anderson and Barbara Cyr. They have been performing for chuck wagon dinners on Snowmass for 16 years, dating back to the Burlingame Cabin days, and each Wednesday they serve as MCs for the Lynn Britt Cabin family dinners.

Roasted Chicken and Pan-Fried Trout, Lynn Britt Cabin Chuck Wagon Dinner Snowcat, Snowmass Mountain

Roasted Chicken with Pan-Fried Trout, Whipped Potatoes, Green Beans

They immediately had kids singing along to a handful of campfire classics as well as a few requests from the parents, like Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl,” which a father dedicated to his daughter. A box of musical instruments was set out, and soon the room was filled with the kind of joyful noise that only a band of kiddos can create. Parents beamed and passed around a few bottles of wine while the first and second course were served.

Speaking of the food, it was a delicious yet rustic take on Western classics. After warming up with an apple cider, we were served tomato soup with corn bread muffins, and a family-style salad comprised of local organic greens, candied pecans and dried cranberries. Roasted chicken was complemented by pan-seared trout (which was substituted by mac-and-cheese on the kids’ servings). Then came the decadent, apple-raisin bread pudding which seemed perfect for this cold winter’s night. When no one was looking, I went back for seconds.

After a little storytelling and a chance for the kids to enjoy the outdoor campfire a little more, the team fired up the snowcats for the return trip down the mountain. I asked our snowcat driver, Peter, if it takes a long time to round up the kids at the end of the night.

“No, not at all,” he said. Then he smiled. “It’s the parents we have a hard time wrangling.”

The Lynn Britt Cabin Family Chuck Wagon Dinner is served every Wednesday night through the ski season. $65/adult (excluding alcohol) and $35/child includes the 10-minute snowcat ride and free entertainment. Call 970-923-8715 or 1-800-525-6200 ext. 4715 to learn more information and to make a reservation.


New Years Eve fireworks at Aspen Snowmass

For Aspen-Snowmass, 2014 was a year bookended by huge snow storms (such as more than two feet in the last two weeks), with some incredible stashes and a gorgeous summer in between.

You’d think we might have a hard time saying goodbye to a year that was so good to us, but that’s not our style. We’re as optimistic as ever for 2015, and — as if to show it — the whole community is upping its game for New Year’s Eve celebrations. Whether you’re in town already, or looking to make last-minute plans, here are seven area events to enjoy an indelible New Year’s Eve in Aspen and Snowmass.

1. Bottomless Cristal at the Little Nell

You read that right: not bottomless Bud Light, or bottomless margaritas … bottomless Cristal. That’s just how they roll over at the Little Nell, where this year’s Winter Wonderland New Year’s Eve party includes two stages of live music (jazz musician Steve Peer on one, electronica-violinist virtuoso Katerina Visnevska) and all the fine Champagne you could ever want beneath the Aspen Mountain fireworks.

2. Dinner at the Lynn Britt Cabin

Already one of the most memorable vacation experiences you can have at Aspen-Snowmass, the snowcat dinner on New Year’s Eve at Lynn Britt Cabin will be even more magical than usual. Ring in the New Year with extraordinary gourmet cuisine at this cozy restaurant midway up the mountain.

3. Party and View Fireworks at the Limelight Lounge

Consistently one of Aspen’s best apres ski spots, the Limelight Lounge at the Limelight Hotel will be hosting a New Year’s Eve party complete with a DJ, gala buffet and a Veuve Clicquot Champagne toast at midnight. An added bonus: the excellent views of the Aspen Mountain fireworks display.

4. Huey Lewis & the News at Belly Up

Aspen’s acclaimed live music club will be hosting Huey Lewis & the News to its stage on New Year’s Eve. Now in their 36th year together, the rock legends are best known for “I Want a New Drug,” “The Power of Love” and “Workin’ For a Livin’.” Will they play their Back to the Future hit “Back in Time” at some point, given the occasion? We’ll find out.

5. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band at the Wheeler Opera House

Get down to the sounds of New Orleans with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at the Wheeler Opera House. Tickets include the performance, an open bar and delicious noshes. You’ll be grooving to the band’s infectious rhythms long after the show ends.

6. Multi-Course Tasting Menus Around Town

Aspen’s nationally acclaimed restaurants have plenty of opportunity to flaunt their culinary creativity (see also the Food & Wine Classic in June) but New Year’s Eve is tailor-made for multi-course tasting menus. Some reservations can still be snagged, but they’re going fast.

7. Plenty of Parties Around Town

Aspen’s nightlife cranks it up every night, but particularly on New Year’s Eve. From the Vintage Hollywood Soiree at The Sky Hotel to the swanky to-the-nines party at the St. Regis Aspen, options abound. The Aspen Resort Chamber has a complete roundup.

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.”

Gondola ride, Aspen Snowmass, Colorado

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.

Continue reading

Valhalla Nights
Enjoying the climbing wall at Snowmass.

Enjoying the climbing wall at Snowmass.

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.

DSCN0360A shot from the Sheer Bliss chair as I was riding up for the third time.  Still some great snow in there.

DSCN0368The 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.

DSCN0381More trees in the Garrett’s drainage.  Not the lack of tracks in here.  That’s the way it was all day.  Find a line and no matter where you went, it was pretty much untracked.

DSCN0384Standing at the bottom of the first pitch in the Wall.  To the right(not in photo) is the Roberto’s entrance and to the left is the Headwall.  I took the middle, the West Chutes.  West 1 and West 2.

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.

DSCN0388A little tree stash at the bottom of the first pitch of Headwall.

DSCN0389This 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.

I’m out.

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