Creating new traditions is a wonderful way to celebrate life, family, friends and other things we hold dear. My newest winter tradition involves a Nordic ski excursion, complete with a snowbank bar and a delicious, savory feast.
My celebration takes place in the Methow Valley, a magical place in Washington that I call home. My wife and I relocated here from Seattle in 2020 and immediately fell in love with the area’s charm. Our first thought: Let the adventures begin.
Our tradition officially kicked off last winter—we joined a group of friends to ski a Nordic trail locally known as the “espresso loop” because it involves sipping the caffeinated drink at different stops along the route. The trail is fun for many skill levels—even for this San Diego native who is new to the sport.
We ended the day by drinking champagne at our homemade snowbank bar outside our cabin. We also feasted on raclette, which is a traditional Swiss dish made by melting cheese (typically raclette cheese) using an electric table grill. Raclette is always a very engaging eating experience because multiple people can make their own dish at the same time using the grill. Each person can also get creative with their toppings to personalize their dish.
Making raclette is simple, which makes it perfect for a post-ski feast when you’re tired and craving a hearty meal. Our group began by placing toppings (potatoes and vegetables, mostly) on each of the nonstick pans that comes with the raclette grill. We then topped each with a thick slice of cheese and melted it under the grill’s heating element. There’s nothing like warm, melty, cheesy goodness. To wash it down, we popped open a bottle of sparkling wine from our snowbank bar.
I love this tradition because it brought together my closest family and friends in a social way that felt safe during the pandemic. The craving for connection became so strong in 2020 when many people couldn’t see loved ones. Finding pockets of time to gather outside safely has been a lifeline of love and support for me. After all, we humans are very social animals. Connecting, collaborating, showing love and being together is something we all cherish. Traditions like this one allow us to celebrate one another.
Creating special experiences that connect the community is a precious gift. When I say community, I include Mother Nature as well. The trees, the mountains, the rivers, the meadows and the wildlife are a part of our community. The food that has been produced from the land and sea is also a holistic part of how we connect to the earth and with each other.
I feel fortunate to continue this tradition as a way to embrace the natural world and to share food with people I love.
Serves 6 people
5 ounces, raclette cheese, sliced ¼-inch thick
3 raw zucchini, sliced into ¼-inch-thick coins
1 cup, sun-dried tomatoes
1 jar, cornichons
6 boiled eggs, cut in half
3 cups, apple slices
12 baby potatoes, boiled, cut in half
Heat up the raclette grill. Take out one of the individual nonstick pans and place your garnish of choice at the bottom of the pan. Next, top it with one slice of cheese. Place the pan back under the heating element of the grill and melt for 5 to 8 minutes, until the top of your cheese is light golden brown.