Semi-Rad: An Ode to Ski Resort Food Courts

Maybe you’ve had one of those ski days: 7 inches of powder, very little wind, mild temperatures and a somehow uncrowded mountain where you’re still making fresh tracks at mid-afternoon. Maybe you thought to yourself: I am in Ski Heaven. How could this be any better?

I’ll tell you how: nachos. Or pizza. Or nachos and pizza at 11,000 feet. Inside a heated building. There are many great things about skiing, among them the lifelong search for the perfect turn, face shots, powder days, passing the dark and cold days of winter by doing something exciting, going fast until you’re just at the edge of scaring yourself. Also on my list: burgers and fries at the mid-mountain lodge.

Some people grumble about the food at ski resorts being expensive. This is often true. But let’s all keep in mind that we’re wearing a pair of boots that cost $300 to $1,000. And those boots are pretty much useless, uncomfortable, plastic torture devices unless they’re clipped into a pair of planks that allow you to slide down snow, which retail at $600 to $1,300.  Plus, these pants, jackets and gloves aren’t cheap—so maybe paying a dollar or two more for a slice of pizza than we would at a gas station isn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.

A chart showing the availability of warm pizza while skiing

You are, of course, totally free to abstain from ski resort food, but I recommend otherwise. I will always take the opportunity to duck in from the cold wind and spindrift, plop down in a chair, and tear into a hot slice of paper-plated pepperoni pizza, nachos with warm melted cheese on top, or a burger straight off a hot flattop. Or, if I’m feeling particularly wealthy, a breakfast burrito and coffee before I go out and attempt to slay pow.

I love backcountry skiing too—the freedom, the adventure, the accountability to my partners, the achievement of climbing everything you ski under your own power. But there is no warm pizza during backcountry skiing day trips. Cold breakfast burritos I hauled in in my backpack, yes, but warm pizza, no. Also, no chairs to sit in or fireplaces. And there’s the danger of avalanches, but let’s stick to the main point here: I can’t sit in a chair in a heated room, pull my helmet and gloves off, and eat a grilled cheese and fries when I’m skiing in the backcountry. But at a ski resort, I can. So I do.

Beaver Creek's Talons Restaurant

Talons Restaurant at Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado is situated at the confluence of Larkspur Bowl, Grouse Mountain and Birds of Prey. (Photo Credit: Jack Affleck/Vail Resorts)

You’ve probably noticed that at a ski resort, the food court can be quite crowded at, say, noon on a Saturday. Finding seats at a table for you and your friends can be like finding a parking spot at the mall on Black Friday—you have to hover, strike fast and be a little callous toward others. That’s just the way it is. Let me recommend another strategy: Arrive at the mountain early, get first chair, ski your face off, bring a few snacks to keep in your jacket, have a few calories throughout the day so you can ski through lunch, and then at 2:30pm, head in for “lunch.” There are no crowds, but there’s still hot food. And you’re tired enough to fill your belly and call it a good day of skiing. And to me, a good day of skiing always includes good food.