Reporting Jay Lloyd
A rip-roaring morning spent on the mountain shredding snow and hitting the bumps doesn’t have to give way to slopeside slops at lunchtime. Nearby ski resorts are putting a lot of culinary skill into making a break for sustenance a major part of the day and the whole experience. Here’s a sampling of some of the more tempting pit stops. – Jay Lloyd
The summit lodge at Blue Mountain has long been known for quality food, a warming fireplace and large airy room with views of slopes. Whether it’s chili, stews or soups from the cafeteria or pub grub at the Vista Bistro, this family-run resort keeps a close eye on homemade favorites. In the Last Run Lounge, sliders and riders find a friendly bar and riveting mountain videos on the telly screen. A more recent addition for those sunny days has been the Slopeside Pub, located in the courtyard with a warming fire pit. A calorie-blasting morning on the mountain can be rewarded with more than a juicy burger. For skiers and riders who can’t stand to spend a moment off the hill–even for a chow break–look for Ray’s Grill on Skis. It’s a movable feast that can be found on the slopes, at the summit or wherever there’s racing and riding action.
BEAR CREEK MOUNTAIN RESORT
It isn’t often that a ski area eatery draws a faithful following among local diners. But the eye-filling vistas from “The Grille” at Bear Creek Mountain Resort is not just another boots-and-parkas warming hut. The menu matches the soaring ceilings and mountain views. It’s upscale and tony. Think succulent and subtle veal porterhouse, sophisticated seared yellowtail tuna or robust prime rib. Seafood is perfectly prepared. Since Bear Creek is a day and night ski area and boasts a popular hotel, the Grille is open for lunch and dinner on weekends and dinner mid-week. For skiers looking for lighter fare, the bar and lounge offer a full menu of unique pub food while the Trail’s End Café serves up sandwiches, wraps and personal pizzas. For groups and families looking for a quick cafeteria meal, the Mountain Eatery provides a large fireplace warmed indoor setting with plenty of seating and an outdoor deck for sunny-day dining.
One of my favorite mountain lunch stops for nearly three decades has been the Winter Garden Restaurant at Pennsylvania’s loftiest mountain, Elk. The restaurant rose with the reconstruction of a once rustic and hectic base lodge, and now, the popular, full service, elegant eatery occupies two levels and offers a commanding view of the mountain and its skiers and riders. Here, it’s Thanksgiving everyday, as hungry skiers tuck into a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, one of the highlights on a menu that ranges from exotic Asian Chicken Salad to spicy Seafood Fra Diavolo. A lively bar and well-spaced seating covers the main level that hums to weekend entertainment. Elk Mountain also boasts an efficient cafeteria with non-skid floors (important, when navigating with ski boots!). It turns out an impressive variety of in-demand ski food, notably burgers, fries, dogs and chili. And Elk is alone in eastern Pennsylvania is maintaining a picnic hut on the West Slope for groups and families who enjoy putting together their own break-time chomps.
For the loftiest view when noshing your way through a day in eastern Pennsylvania ski country, head for Camelback Mountain and the Cameltop Mountain Lodge; the view of the base and the surrounding mountain vista is spectacular. The lodge also looks straight down on the Rocket and Margie’s Delight, two of the steepest and most challenging slopes on the mountain. At Cameltop, you’ll find popular ski area fare and cafeteria service, plus beer and wine. But the kicker here is the view and ski-in, ski-out convenience at the summit.
For something completely different, check out the Glen Lodge Smoke House. The name is the lure to moist, meaty ribs, smoked chicken and a relaxing bar scene. On the eastern side of the mountain, the lodge is found in a laurel setting near the Raceway lift–ski right up and enjoy! But be warned, it’s only open on weekends and holidays.
Another dining highlight is the Deck BBQ. When the winter sun beats down, it’s a great spot for deck dining. Camelback is also known for the Thirsty Camel, a full service restaurant and popular bar that throbs to top local bands on weekends throughout the winter. Cafeteria space is also plentiful, with lines that move like a raceway.
The Sno Grille at Sno Mountain has become a happening place. A wide-ranging pub menu backed up by traditional comfort food draws skiers and riders in, but a bustling sports bar with half a dozen big screens and weekend entertainment keeps them nibbling. The menu has been designed around some of the more popular and trendy items found at favorite Philadelphia area pubs. There are wings and quesadillas, nachos and hummus, and they’re all dressed up with spiffy mountain and ski related names to let you know this is food for an active mountain lifestyle. The Jamaican Bobsled Salad features jerk-seasoned chicken, and then there are eats preceded by “Sidewinder”, “Boomer” and tributes to other popular slopes that skiing chowhounds have just come off of. In a ski pub setting, I usually tuck into an open faced-turkey sandwich, served here on Texas toast. And while there may not be much skiing in Texas, the toast fits right in.
A couple of thoughts when grabbing lunch at a ski area: It shouldn’t be hurried. The mountain isn’t going away. But on sunny days, look for barbecue pits serving up burgers and dogs outside the lodge.
Many skiers are under the impression that the full-service restaurant will be much more expensive than cafeteria food. In most cases, it’s about the same for comparable food, or only slightly more. The difference is in the tip, and of course, the ambiance.
Before bringing home made lunches, check with the ski area to find out if they have space in the lodge set aside for picnickers. Bringing in alcoholic beverages from outside is widely frowned upon.