Ski resorts dish up culinary feast |

Ski resorts dish up culinary feast

Susan Wood

As it turns out, Lake Tahoe skiers and boarders may salivate over more than ideal conditions this winter at their favorite resorts.

This year, diners will see culinary delights that take ski area food out of the realm of the burger-and-fries or pizza kick – though few would discount their importance to that escape from the nip in the air.

“There is still the standard. I’d say when skiers come off the hill, that’s what 50 percent of them are looking for. But as ski resorts get on-the-hill lodging, they’re also looking for a variety for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have to be distinct,” Kirkwood Mountain Resort Executive Chef Pete Baker said.

Baker ordered elk from a New Zealand company to serve customers at its Off the Wall bar. Caples Crab Cakes and Portobello Mushroom Paninni round out a meal list at that base lodge.

Special occasions like New Year’s Eve will bring out the carving stations for prime rib enthusiasts. And two wine-pairing dinners are on tap this year.

Across the street at Bub’s Bar & Grill, sports-bar goers may enjoy a trendy temptation on cold days with jambalaya now dished up this year.

“I can’t think of anything better to hit the spot than a hot bowl of rice, chicken and sausage,” Baker said.

The chef said he’s seen progress from the ski areas in what they offer guests.

“I don’t look at it as a ski resort, I look at it as a club atmosphere,” he said. Baker worked at a country club before coming to work at Kirkwood.

Steve Turner, Heavenly Mountain Resort’s executive chef, has an 11-year background cooking at the ski areas. He’s seen many changes in the last handful of years.

“We’re definitely pushing the envelope to give people a much better experience. They’re looking for fresher food and better variety,” he said.

Turner’s challenge over the last few years with Heavenly revolves around the venues, which Vail has tried to catch up on in terms of investment since it took over the South Shore resort three years ago.

“And speed is a big concern. We want to get them out to do what they came here to do,” he said.

That’s why the East Peak Lodge at the base of the Comet and Dipper Express chairlifts has no fountain drinks, only bottled. A barbecue grilling station there will serve up tri-tip, burgers, chicken, sausage and hot dogs. Inside, vegetarians may rejoice over a ziti casserole that’s heavy on cheese.

On the California side of Heavenly, the Lakeview Lodge has a new feel and name. The Monument Peak restaurant has been renamed the Gunbarrel Bar and Grill, where lobster quesadillas should please the more discriminating palate.

For the more casual diner, Sierra-at-Tahoe has expanded its range of culinary offerings, too.

“We’re not really catering to the fine dining crowd, but the food we offer fits the palate of the Sacramento and San Francisco day tripper. And we promise they’ll be full when they’re finished,” said Debbie Brown, Sierra’s food and beverage director.

This applies to the drinker as well. Sierra pours an ever-extending variety of exotic drinks at its Tiki Bar called the Cheeseburger in Paradise. The party scene serves up drinks as colorful as they are lethal in potency.

The Taqueria near the Aspen Cafe has come out with its version of lobster tacos as a step up from the standard.

On top, the Grandview day lodge continues to lengthen its Asian cuisine meals.

The Sierra Pub hosts the tri-tip sandwiches, still a favorite at the South Shore ski resort. New this year is an extensive french fry collection of five types – with some tasting like pizza and others like nachos.

With its snow beach party scene on Sierra’s outer reaches, the West Bowl area will receive a lot of attention this year with its offerings.

“That’s been my big goal … to develop it,” Brown said.

This means inside and out.

More adirondack chairs have been added. Inside the big tent, the bar has been expanded to wash down that brisket, smoked chicken and spicy ribs. While vegetarian chili has stayed on the menu, a Waldorf-style salad complete with Granny Smith apples has made the list.

– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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