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Il Rifugio at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. Photo courtesy of Arapahoe Basin.

Colorado’s 10 Best Ski Town Restaurants

You’re in the mountains to ski and ride, but you’re also there to eat. Here’s where to do that best.

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Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

OK, sure, A-Basin isn’t a ski town, but skiers and riders would be remiss if they shot past Il Rifugio on their way to the new-last-year Beavers terrain. This tiny on-mountain bistro sits around 12,500 feet and, as the highest restaurant in the United States, enjoys unprecedented views of the Continental Divide and beyond. What to order? That’s simple: Cheese and charcuterie platters, antipasti, panini, and salads. 28194 U.S. Highway 6, Dillon, 970-468-0718 

Aspen

It’s not the fanciest spot (for that, check out Betula Aspen), but Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop is where you’ll find us time and again. This half-market, half-restaurant is perennially packed with locals and visitors alike, dining on “boards” (the biscuit board comes with buttermilk biscuits, shaved ham, and house-made mustard, while the rotisserie chicken version is served with roasted potatoes and a seasonal green salad), sandwiches (oh, the mushroom French dip), and fresh salads (cabbage, spinach, and mint with dates and kamut). Don’t miss the dishes that sing with Asian influences (larb board, Thai coconut soup, Vietnamese chicken noodle salad), for while they perhaps seem out of place, they’re always—always—worth an order. 319 E. Hopkins Ave., Aspen, 970-710-7120

Beaver Creek Resort

Photo courtesy of Craftsman

If you’re willing to drive six minutes west of the Avon/Beaver Creek exit to Edwards, an epic lunch or dinner (or both!) awaits you at Craftsman. Chris Schmidt, formerly of the much-loved Mountain Standard in Vail, opened what some call an elevated sandwich shop in 2017. We call it a mecca with otherworldly sandwiches, creative salads, and a constantly changing craft beer list that rivals larger spots. We find it difficult to order anything other than the crispy avocado sandwich with roasted beets, cucs, arugula, and Green Goddess dressing on a brioche bun, unless, of course, it’s ramen night. Bonus: Schmidt is opening Bird Craft, a Thai fried-chicken spot, in Frisco in 2020. For anyone traveling the I-70 corridor, that should get you excited. 56 Edwards Village Blvd., Unit 112, Edwards, 970-926-5833

Breckenridge Ski Resort

If you haven’t yet found yourself at Aurum sipping a Manhattan enlivened with Green Chartreuse and dining on burnished Parker House rolls, crispy curried cauliflower, and duck confit, you haven’t experienced the new face of dining in Breckenridge. No longer just a bar food town, Breckenridge’s food game changed when Aurum opened in the fall of 2018. Our favorite place to sit is in the pretty bar area, where you can see the comings and goings. Whatever you do, don’t miss happy hour. 209 S. Ridge St., Breckenridge, 970-771-3943

Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Photo courtesy of the Sunflower

When we’re in CB you can find us at the Sunflower. This brightly painted spot sits on Elk Avenue and does a valiant effort as a farm-sourced restaurant. That’s not easy in the depths of a Colorado winter, but the kitchen works hard all summer to preserve sunny bursts of flavor and there’s always freshly baked bread perfuming the air. The concise menu changes regularly (any variation of risotto will be a winner) but what doesn’t shift is the charm and genuine hospitality inside the four walls. If you can, nab one of the few tables upstairs where you will have a mezzanine-esque view of the whole space. 214 Elk Ave., Crested Butte, 970-417-7767

Sunlight Mountain Resort

This wonderfully old-school, mom-and-pop ski resort (which celebrates 54 years in 2020) sits just about equidistance from Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. Since lift lines are never a problem at Sunlight, we say zip over to Silo in Carbondale for breakfast or lunch before hitting the slopes. The nitro coffee and the Blue Plate Special, a piece of hearty toast with house-made ricotta, kale, and a fried egg, will do you just right. 1909 Dolores Way, Carbondale, 970-963-1909

Steamboat Ski Resort

The foie gras torchon at the Periodic Table. Photo courtesy of the Periodic Table

The Periodic Table at Catamount Ranch, a brand-new (as in, it opens December 18) restaurant just outside of Steamboat, has the potential to capture the nation’s attention. Along the lines of the famed Next in Chicago, the restaurant will explore the great dining periods and cities of the world as it completely reinvents itself—across the food and bar menus as well as the decor—twice a year. The first foray: 1920s New York with historic dishes (lobster thermidor, oysters Rockefeller, baked Alaska) to match. Seem gimmicky? Given proprietor Phillips Armstrong (Aurum, Table 79 Foodbar) and culinary director Patrick Ayres’ (Cloverdale Restaurant, Canlis) tenure in crafting supreme dining experiences, we think the Periodic Table will quickly become Steamboat’s most sought-after reservation. 33400 Catamount Dr., Steamboat Springs, 970-457-1224

Telluride Ski Resort

Photo by Bree Schreckengost

Siam may have opened in 2006, but it’s still a staple for locals and a treat for out-of-towners. Often described as a Thai restaurant, Siam is more of a global melting pot leaning heavily on the flavors of Malaysian, Indian, Chinese, and, yes, Thai, cuisines. Don’t-miss dishes include the chu chee curry with crispy duck, fried tofu hand rolls, and the warm, flaky roti appetizer with chicken curry dipping sauce. In short, this is the ideal food to fill your belly after a cold day on the slopes. 200 S. Davis St., Telluride, 970-728-6886

Vail Ski Resort

You’ll quickly get swept up into the romance of Almresi. With Bavarian decor and a menu deep with German, Austrian, and Swiss dishes, you will sink into its plush banquette cushions around rough-hewn tables and never want to leave. Let your server be your guide into this dreamy world of hearty meats and fondues and crispy Swiss potato pancakes served with farmers’ cheese and smoked salmon. Of course, there’s apfelstrudel for dessert. 298 Hanson Ranch Road, Vail, 970-470-4174

Winter Park Resort

You might not think of Winter Park as a haven for Nepalese or Indian food, but Durbar Bistro’s tender naan, butter chicken, and lamb korma will tell you otherwise. The dining room is cozy and always bustling, and if you stop by during happy hour (3 to 5 p.m. daily), you’ll nab samosas, pakoras, and fried momo (Nepalese dumplings), along with beer and wine, for what seems like a song. 47 Cooper Creek Way, Unit 222, Winter Park, 970-363-7081

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