A version of this story appeared in the winter 2020 issue of Uncommon Path.
You’re carving smooth turns down Buddy’s Run at Colorado’s Steamboat Resort, capping off a delirious morning on blower powder, when it hits you: You’re starving. If only there were a taqueria built into a snow groomer halfway up the mountain, midrun. Well, this is your lucky day.
Enter Taco Beast, a roaming taco house on the body of a snowcat that can travel across mountainous terrain, delivering perfectly seasoned beef barbacoa to the schussing masses.
The snowcat aspect of the operation isn’t a gimmick, either. Each morning before sunrise, the chefs drive up the mountain to the spot of the day and cook on-site. “Our chefs say they have the most scenic view on the mountain because they are literally parked on a ski hill looking out over the Yampa Valley,” says Maren Franciosi, Steamboat’s digital communications manager.
Taco Beast is the brain child of Dave Hunter, vice president of mountain operations at Steamboat, who first saw snowcats as mobile food vehicles on European slopes. Once the idea came stateside, tacos were the natural choice. “They’re classic food-truck fare,” Hunter says, adding the most important part: “They’re also easy to eat on the slopes in ski gear.”
Taco Beast’s food features local ingredients. There are four varieties, including the Colorado- inspired Elk Chorizo taco and the vegetarian Tres Hermanas, with summer squash, pinto beans and corn. You’ll also find esquites (Mexican street corn), a salsa bar, Mexican sodas and beer.
The Beast serves out of five midmountain locations, often near the base or top of popular lifts. Hungry riders can keep tabs on Taco Beast’s whereabouts via Twitter (@TacoBeastSBT). It opens in December and sticks around as long as the snow does, sometimes dishing tacos well into July.
Taco Beast’s Esquites
This snack of Mexican street corn serves four and was furnished by Adam White, executive sous chef at Steamboat.
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
Neutral oil, such as canola, for sautéing
1 cup sliced green onions (about 1 bunch)
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves (about 1 bunch)
1 cup Mexican crema (or sour cream thinned with an extra 2 tablespoons lime juice)
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon lime–chile pepper seasoning, such as Tajín, plus more to taste
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1 quart corn kernels (cut from about 5 ears fresh corn, or about 1½ pounds frozen)
Queso fresco, crumbled, to taste
1. In a large frying pan over medium heat, sauté garlic in oil until soft. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
2. To make the esquites sauce, add everything but corn and queso fresco to the bowl and mix until smooth. Set aside.
3. Return frying pan to high heat and sauté corn until it begins to brown. Reduce heat to low and add sauce (use all of it for super saucy deliciousness, use less if desired). Heat until hot, but not boiling.
4. Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with queso fresco and additional lime–chile seasoning if desired.