Cheap resort town dining—sounds like an oxymoron, right? Colorado’s ski communities aren’t exactly known for their modest price tags. Between Vail Resorts’ $949 Epic season pass and single-day lift tickets nudging $230, paying the tab for après-ski beers and burgers can add to the sticker-shock sting.

Sure, parking lot PBRs and dogs on the camp grill are great for the spring scene at Arapahoe Basin. But in the thick of wintry high country magic, when the snow blows and the sun dips early, we’re bee-lining to these mountain town watering holes to swap rosy-cheeked yarns about that double black diamond, backs and banks unbroken.

Here’s where to find those locally treasured breakfast, lunch, and après spots—and make your ski holiday dollar stretch a little further.


The bar at Aurum in Breckenridge. Photo courtesy of Jameson Midgett Photo

Skip the white linens and head straight to the back barroom at the Briar Rose Chophouse & Saloon. Nab half-priced Cajun beef filet tips, escargot, and ahi tuna to pair with professionally shaken BOGO martinis and Manhattans from 4 to 6 p.m.

At the original Breckenridge Brewery, it’s $2 off full-sized draft pours from 3 to 6 p.m. Sip your Avalanche Amber Ale with an order of Bavarian pretzels ($12) to dunk in honey mustard and bacon beer cheese soup.

Sit in the buzzy cantina at Mi Casa for après (3 to 6 p.m.) deals on taco baskets (3 for $5) and cheap beer and margs. Do like the locals do, and order $2.50 pints of Pabst and the $5 sticky sweet buffalo wings.

Beautifully gilded Aurum draws upscale happy hour (4 to 6 p.m.) crowds for its $5 Parker house rolls with cultured honey butter; $10 Korean fried chicken; and a $16 French onion burger (normally $28) dripping in caramelized onion jam and gruyere, served with fries.

Slide into a stylish booth at the Blue River Bistro between 2 and 5 p.m., and score two-for-one appetizers and martinis. You can’t go wrong with the filet mignon shumai ($16) and the Parmesan fried calamari ($14).

For something a little less posh but just as satisfying, grab a $10 gyro or $7 baked mac ‘n cheese at Redzz Above the Blue’s no-frills walk-up window.


Three orders of carnitas tacos at El Sabor in Vail.
Carnitas tacos at Vail’s El Sabor. Photo courtesy of El Sabor

Before you head way back to Vail’s legendary Blue Sky Basin to play for the day, pop into the husband-wife-owned Little Diner for a $9.99 sausage, egg, and cheese on a fluffy scratch-made buttermilk biscuit.

Steps from the gondola in Lionshead Village, the French Deli is good for a grab-and-go sandwich—try the Dijon chicken salad ($9)—or après baked brie ($10.25) with French bread and apples. Cheap (for Vail) breakfast sammies ring in around $8.50 and are built with two eggs, meat, and cheese to keep you fueled on a powder day.

Local pub the George serves $5 happy hour (3 to 5 p.m.) you-call-it cocktails and apps like rich, gravy-doused poutine and a raved-about mushroom and duck quesadilla for $10.75 a piece.

Comfy post-ski fireside hangouts transpire at the Fitz inside the Manor Vail Lodge. Ask for the half-off apps and cocktails après menu (served 3 to 5 p.m.), and share the burrata-pesto-arugula flat bread ($9) and jumbo Asian sesame chicken wings ($8) while clinking $6 house wines.

Latin American eats, a sunny slope-facing deck, and an impressive tequila lineup are the draw at El Sabor. Hit the cheery 3 to 6 p.m. happy hour for $5 tequila shots, $6 house margaritas, and a duo of carnitas tacos for $5.

Follow devotees into laidback wallet-friendly Moe’s Original Barbecue for cheap happy hour drinks from 3 to 6 p.m. Choose from bloody marys, margaritas, whiskey shots, and domestic brews—but don’t miss the generous $13 pulled pork platters served with two sides and corn bread.

Steamboat Springs

Steamboat Springs. Photo by Noah Wetzel

As a ranching valley turned ski mecca, Steamboat is seeing lots of growth these days. Pocket the pre-ski $5 breakfast taco at Taco Cabo made with Hayden Fresh Farm eggs. Then, return for happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. (grab a spot in line; it’s worth it) and enjoy $5 draft beer, rum and cokes, and hand-crafted tacos filled with everything from pork belly to Sriracha celery cod with dill salsa.

Hospitable welcome-home vibes remain steadfast at Mahogany Ridge, where visitors and locals rub elbows over half-priced drinks and a $1 tapas menu that includes curry samosas and house-smoked salmon tostadas from 4 to 5 p.m.

Squeeze into the Laundry between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. to catch the coveted window for $9 gourmet offerings—think brisket potatoes and a petite meat and cheese board—alongside a frisky “wine by the time” special where the clock determines the price of your glass of vino.

Bring your ski-ravished legs and appetite to Mambo Italiano from 4 to 5:30 p.m. for half-off specialty pizzas and cocktails. A forager pie topped with decadent mushrooms, broccolini, truffle oil, and eggs will set you back a mere $9.

From the same culinary masterminds behind the Aurum outposts in Breckenridge and Steamboat, Table 79 keeps the happy hour tradition going strong 4:30 to 6 p.m. with $7 soup du jour offerings, a $10 fried sweet potato, and an $11 beet and chevre arugula salad. Order from the “preserving the past” cocktail menu for a $10 Old Fashioned, French 75, or a white rum-based Hemingway #4.

Winter Park

Start your snow-lovin’ day at Fraser’s Rocky Mountain Roastery Cafe over freshly baked, gluten-free orange-cranberry muffins ($4) and vanilla scones ($3) nibbled in between sips of micro-roasted joe.

After a day shredding Mary Jane’s famed bumps, Deno’s Mountain Bistro delivers the quintessential ski town après scene. Join the goggle-tanned masses from 3 to 5:30 p.m. to indulge in $10 toasted ravioli, $8 gorgonzola fondue, and a divine $10 Greek table platter.

Thaw out at Randi’s Grill & Pub over $5 wine and $6 beer with hearty Irish grub that includes $9 cheddar and jalapeno elk sausage, and a trio of wild beef sliders with Guinness caramelized onions for $9.50.

See why Idlewild Spirits consistently snags the blue ribbon for Grand County’s best cocktails. Stop by the gastropub before 6 p.m. for discounts on white whiskey, alpine gin, Rocky Mountain Gold rum, and more. Nosh on $5 happy hour bites, including tomato and roasted garlic bruschetta and crispy Brussels with a Thai chili reduction.

Soak up the lodge scene between 3 and 5 p.m. at Vertical Bistro & Tap, and order $5 Colorado craft brews and innovative snacks such as tuna poke wonton cups, baked avocado with goat cheese and candied bacon, and homemade caramel apple bread pudding, all hovering around $5.

Crested Butte

The bustling bar at Bonez in downtown Crested Butte. Photo by Trent Bona

For the ultimate one-and-done pit stop, the Gas Cafe fills your tank and your belly. The gas station and convenience store grills up killer sandwiches like the Hurley—an English muffin, fried egg, American cheese, hashbrown patty, and choice of meat—for under $6 starting at 6:30 a.m. so you can grab first chair and fresh tracks.

Bonez is a vibrant, richly designed cultural nod to Mexican folk artist José Posada and an invitation to let loose over a potent happy hour (3 to 4 p.m.) of $9, 100-percent blue agave margaritas and two-for-one tequila shots.

Modern Colorado saloon Public House is home to a stellar grown-up après (3 to 6 p.m.) happy meal. For $14, hungry diners can dig into a juicy burger, a pile of French fries, and an Irwin Brewing beer.

Voted best pizza in Crested Butte year after year, the Secret Stash is a must-stop. While their award-winning pies are worth every cent, the best deals are found off-menu in the $6 Poor Boy special—a slice of cheese pizza, pint of PBR, and a shot of whiskey or tequila.

Beer lovers flock to the Eldo’s taproom for hazy IPAs, fruity sours, and sweet milk stout. Bartenders knock $1 off your pint between 3 and 5 p.m. Grab takeout from nearby Momo, and nibble on the flagship spiced beef dumplings; a plate of six is just $10.


Rotisserie chicken, potatoes, and greens at Aspen's Meat & Cheese restaurant.
The rotisserie chicken board at Aspen’s Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop. Photo by Gianni Giordano

We asked a few Aspen locals to point us to the glitzy celebrity-sprinkled ski town’s elusive cheap eats. We received some chuckles—and a few much appreciated unicorn tip-offs.

Nautically designed upmarket oyster bar Clark’s Aspen boasts a phenomenal weekday happy hour from 3 to 5 p.m., where its famous pan-roasted Black Angus burger with skinny Clark’s fries is half off ($12), and $20 top-shelf martinis are only $10.

Glam yet easygoing Ajax Tavern sits at the base of Aspen Mountain next to the Silver Queen Gondola, and is known for prime people watching with a side of signature French onion soup and a plate piled high with Ajax truffle fries. Both ring in at $19, so bring a friend and split the tab.

The lounge at the Limelight Hotel hums with après-ski chatter and 3 to 5 p.m. specials that include $10 specialty cocktails, a piping-hot $12 shareable pizza, and a $10 gourmet Caesar salad.

The chic Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop anchors bustling Restaurant Row (aka Hopkins Avenue), wielding a hefty 2:30 to 5 p.m. après menu of shared plates, Thai coconut soup ($9), quesabirria tacos ($24), and a $35 half rotisserie chicken board loaded with roasted potatoes and seasonal greens that easily feeds two with leftovers. Pro tip: Ask about the homemade ramen. It’s not on the menu, but if you know, you know.

Lisa Blake
Lisa Blake
Lisa Blake is a freelance writer and children's book author living in Breckenridge. When she's not writing about food and mountain adventures, she can be found on the river with her son, pug and husband.