The 2018–2019 season has been a banner one for Arapahoe Basin: In November, the beloved ski resort opened 468 fantastic acres known as the Beavers. And mid-January, the Basin debuted a tiny European bistro called Il Rifugio, which is Italian for “the Refuge,” in the Snow Plume warming hut at the top of the Beavers and Lenawee lifts.

At an elevation of 12,456 feet, Il Rifugio claims the title of highest restaurant in the United States, unseating Telluride’s Alpino Vino at 11,966 feet. It’s accessible only by chairlift and the views are spectacular, you might even say reminiscent of the Alps.

“Il Rifugio was very much inspired by its location and the feeling of being in the Alps,” says chef Chris Rybak, Arapahoe Basin’s director of food and beverage. “At ski areas, most people expect to pay a premium for mediocre food. I like to serve things that I appreciate and enjoy. With Il Rifugio, I wanted to offer something nicer and more European.”

The glassed-in space, cheese and charcuterie platters, small selection of antipasti, panini, and salads, and espresso drinks further the high-alpine vibe. Cured meats such as coppa and prosciutto are sliced to order with a Legend slicer imported from Italy—a fitting tribute since A-Basin’s nickname is “the Legend.” A liquor license (beer, wine, and cordials) is pending.

In keeping with the resort’s dedication to sustainability, Il Rifugio cuts a unique path in a building with solar panels, composting toilets, and no running water. Reusable dishes, glasses, and cutlery travel the Lenawee lift via special bins to be washed at mid-mountain and twice-weekly snow cat trips haul food and waste.

Arapahoe Basin, 28194 U.S. Highway 6, Keystone, 970-468-0718 

Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.