Summer dining might be flush with outdoor picnics, farm-to-table meals, and backyard barbecues, but what about winter? Just because the sun umbrellas have been put away for the season doesn’t mean combining dining and the outdoors is off-limits. Here, several options for cold-weather sustenance—hat and mittens required.
Snowshoe Dinner Series
Skip the traffic jams through Eisenhower Tunnel and head to Keystone or Arapahoe Basin after hours for the resorts’ dinner and snowshoe events.
KEYSTONE Meet at the Keystone Nordic Center (December 21, January 19, February 18, and March 19, times vary) for an hour-long snowshoe followed by hearty soup, bread, and dessert. ($40, includes snowshoes; 970-496-4275; reservations required)
ARAPAHOE BASIN Starting on New Year’s Eve, and then monthly through April, A-Basin invites diners to ride the new high-speed Black Mountain Express lift to Black Mountain Lodge for a themed multicourse meal with live entertainment. After the feast (the New Year’s Eve menu includes caviar with blini, lobster bisque, prime Angus Beef, and roast duck) diners can strap on headlamps and snowshoe or hike back down the mountain. Full belly? The lift will also run post-feast. (New Year’s Eve, $75; nonholiday rates lower; 1-888-272-7246; reservations required, events sell quickly)
Dinner Sleigh Rides
FRISCO Sleigh ride outfitter Two Below Zero leads rides that begin and end at the Frisco Nordic Center. Here, 14 diners board handcrafted sleighs pulled by mules to a guest tent, where a multicourse meal of homemade soup, New York strip, and hot apple pie await. Rides begin November 13, with or without snow (the sleighs can be outfitted with wheels), and during peak times two dinner sleigh rides are offered each night. (Adults, $84, kids 4–12, $55; 1-800-571-6853; reservations required)
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS Ragnar’s, an on-mountain Norwegian restaurant, offers Friday and Saturday night (plus holiday) sleigh ride events from late December through late March. Diners take the gondola to a snowcat-powered sleigh where they’re pulled to a five-course Scandinavian meal. (Regular season rates: adults and teens, $69; kids 6–12, $39; kids five and under, $15; holiday rates are higher; 1-800-922-2722; reservations required)
Dinner and Ice Skating
BOULDER They may be smaller than indoor options, but outdoor ice skating rinks have more charm—and dining options beyond the concessions stand. The rink at One Boulder Plaza (on 13th Street between Canyon and Walnut streets) opens mid-November and is a short walk to the Pearl Street Mall's dining options, including Zoe Ma Ma (2010 10th St., zoemama.com), a Chinese street food spot that serves mouthwatering noodle bowls and pot stickers. (Adults, $6; kids 4–12, $4; skate rental, $3; bouldericerink.com)
LAKEWOOD In Lakewood, the central plaza of the Belmar mixed-use development transforms into a mini ice rink in late November and is surrounded by restaurant options. Warm up with a shepherd’s pie at Baker St. Pub & Grill (7260 W. Alaska Drive, bakerstreetpub.com) or prep a rink-side picnic by swinging by Whole Foods Market (444 S. Wadsworth Blvd.) before the skate session. (Adults, $6; kids, $4; skate rental, $3; prices subject to change for 2010–2011 season; belmarcolorado.com)