As a local, I rarely find myself eating on the mountain.
My typical M.O. — especially on the few but incredible powder days we’ve had this year — is to call in an order to Big Wrap while on the gondola, board to the bottom, pick it up, then demolish the wrap on the 17-minute ride back up to powder heaven. It’s efficient and it’s cheap — the best combination for any good ski day.
But my mind was changed earlier this week while skiing at Snowmass Ski Area. I don’t often find myself on Snowmass, and perhaps it was for this reason that I broke my normal routine and decided to head in to an on-mountain restaurant. And boy did I pick a good one.
Elk Camp Restaurant, located at the top of the Elk Camp Gondola, replaced the decidedly old-school Café Suzanne. The $15 million dollar project fits 250 indoors, and also serves as a venue for evening and summer events. The LEED-certified building implements advanced heating systems with other green materials to beat local energy codes by an estimated 30 percent. It offers generous terrace for outdoor dining, wonderful sun exposure and beautiful views of Elk Camp and the Hanging Valley.
But the real draw of the sleek space truly is the food. Elk Camp takes cafeteria-style dining to a whole new level. Skiers and boarders can grab a quick, hearty bowl of soup, or have their pick of organic, market-fresh items (locally sourced when available), like roasted chicken or pork served on their own, or on a French baguette; wild mushroom pizza with fontina cheese and white truffle oil; sautéed veggies and comfort food side staples like mac ‘n’ cheese; and a massive salad bar (that appears to take up most of the serving space) that rivals restaurants at the base both in terms of freshness and sheer variety.
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that Elk Camp, which was packed from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. earlier this week, is a hit. SkiCo has been slowly upgrading all of its on-mountain restaurants. The past few years alone have seen a new restaurant, Sam’s Smokehouse, built at the top of Sam’s Knob in Snowmass; a renovation of the Merry-Go-Round restaurant mid-mountain at Aspen Highlands; and now the newly minted Elk Camp Restaurant.
What’s better is that each of the restaurants on the four area mountains have their own identity; the only standard is that there really is no standard. There’s delicious lamb curry at the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain; hearty lasagna and pho at Merry-Go-Round; barbecue at Sam’s Smokehouse; and thick and juicy sandwiches at Elk Camp. With these great new on-mountain dining options, it’s great that SkiCo focused as much on the culinary as they did on the aesthetic.
Just don’t mess with the $4 pancakes and mulled wine at Bonnie’s, or there’ll be hell to pay.
With spectacular views of Garret’s Peak, Mount Daly and the surrounding backcountry, the new Sam’s restaurant features a barbecue-style smokehouse menu with a variety of culinary delights.