Ragnar’s Sleigh Ride Dinner guests load up on a snowcat-drawn sleigh at Steamboat Ski Resort onto Jan. 17. Guests take a gondola up to meet the sleigh, then are taken on a guided, 15-minute ride up to Ragnar’s inside the Rendezvous Lodge.(Andy Cross, The Denver Post)
You’ve driven to dinner, you’ve walked to dinner, heck, you might have even taken one of those annoying electric scooters to dinner. But when was the last time you sleighed to dinner? Or snowshoed? Or snowcatted?
Our mountains hold a smattering of restaurants that, at least in winter, you can only reach via some unusual modes of transport. These spots, ranging from ultra-elegant cabins to makeshift yurts, are so remote that four-wheel-drive just isn’t going to cut it. At these restaurants, dinner is the reward at the end of the adventure. A welcome bonus following the enchanting feat of just getting there. And the magic factor of arriving via horse-drawn sleigh? Come on.
Once you’ve surrendered to the fact that it’s winter in Colorado, and yes, it’s going to be cold, you’re free to launch into the crispest, otherworldliest, giddiest culinary exploit you’ve experienced. Here, 11 spots around the state where you can snowshoe, ski, cat, mobile or sleigh your way to a very special dinner.
Maybe it’s too cold for the horses. Or maybe the ponies just pale in horsepower comparison to snowcats. But it’s the rugged, metal machines that will be leading your sleigh ride up to Ragnar’s for a five-course Scandinavian feast. Tear into duck, elk or lamb and dip into chocolate fondue before returning to your snowcat-drawn sleigh. If you drink enough of the house-made glog, you might even pretend there are horses and whinny. That would be fun for the other guests. Most Fridays and Saturdays; from $89.
Hazie’s Snowshoe Dinner
The Steamboat Gondola takes you up to 9,100 feet, but the rest is up to you. Snowshoe with your tour guide for about a mile, during which you’ll marvel at the moonlit scenery, learn about Steamboat’s history and/or curse whose ever idea this was. (Sorry!) After, sit down for your delicious reward at Hazie’s restaurant. Meet at Steamboat Sports at Gondola Square; Fridays and Saturdays, through March 28; $95.
Four Points Lodge
Your enclosed (read: heated!) snowcat awaits just steps from the gondola. Zip on up to Four Points Lodge, where floor-to-ceiling windows and northern Italian fare compete for your attention. Pro tip: Choose both! You can enjoy both the views and the food. Open for dinner Thursday-Sunday; from $109.
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro
Linger over a long dinner inside one of the most elegant cabins you’ll ever enter, but you’ll have to snowcat your way up Aspen Highlands mountain to get there. Your four-course dinner includes foie gras, black truffle strudel and stunning views of the Maroon Bells. Because this is Aspen, be sure to note that Cloud Nine is often reserved for private dinners. Public dinners Wednesdays and Thursdays through April 2; 6-10 p.m. from $155 (diners ages 8-11, from $100).
Lynn Britt Cabin
After a 15-minute snowcat crawl up Snowmass mountain, you’ll be deposited at a century-old cabin that looks mighty good for its age. Explore the two-story cabin, sing along with the live music, feast on salmon pastrami, short ribs and s’mores budino, and maybe make some new friends. Like they say in the mountains, if you can’t make new friends over salmon pastrami, when can you? Tuesdays and Thursdays, through March 26; from $140 ($95 for kids). Family Chuckwagon Dinners on Wednesday nights from $100 ($65 for kids).
Here’s a New Year’s resolution for you: Eat at the second highest-elevation fine dining restaurant in North America. That’s way better than resolving to exercise more. Hanging out at 11,966 feet, the only ways to reach Alpino Vino are by skiing in by day, or riding in an enclosed snow coach from the top of the gondola by night. Whichever way you pick, the scenery and food will be A-OK. Open Tuesday-Saturday, through March 28; $160 for a five-course chef’s tasting menu, or a la carte lunch $21-38.
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Compared to the others on this list, Allred’s is easy to get to, but sometimes you don’t want to snowcat/shoe/ski yourself to dinner, you know? To access the fancy menu (where even the soup is $17), all you have to do is take Telluride’s free gondola to the top of the mountain. That’s it. Just sit down, take in the amazing tree-top views while you float on up, and then sit down to eat. You’ll enjoy all of the special dining experience of these other options and none of the freezing work to get there. Open 5-9 p.m. daily.
Mountains closer to Denver
Beaver Creek has a few dining cabins that you can only reach via snowcat-pulled sleigh, including the lovely Zach’s Cabin. While the sophisticated food is certainly a draw, it’s the wine list that inspires so many to brave the cold — it’s been awarded Wine Spectator’s Best of Award for Excellence for the past 15 years. And if you overserve yourself? It’s not like you’re driving the snowcat home. Open 5-8:30 p.m. daily; through April 5 (tentative).
Tennessee Pass Cookhouse
Ski or snowshoe one mile on the wide, well-groomed — and maybe most importantly of all, flat — trail to Tennessee Pass Cookhouse at 10,800 feet. Eat your four-course meal and then do it all over again. Note: A snowmobile ride can be arranged if you can’t make the trek on foot. Departs from the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center in Leadville; through April 15; dinner $95; lunch Saturdays and Sundays from $12.
RELATED: Eight après-ski spots to finish off a Colorado powder day
Cooper Yurt Dinners
Can you even call yourself a Coloradan until you’ve eaten a Salida-raised strip steak inside a yurt on the top of a mountain? Oh definitely, but you might want to experience this, anyway. These special Saturday night dinners are set up inside a cozy yurt on the top of Cooper. They say you can only reach it via snowcat, but we’re guessing real Coloradans can snowshoe, ski or find some other extreme way to get there. Jan. 25; Feb. 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29; March 7, 14, 22 and 28; $149.
2 Below Zero
When you think of a magical winter dining experience, this is what you’re conjuring. To get to your three-course dinner and country-western show, you take a real-life sleigh ride, pulled by real-life horses. It’s cold. It’s enchanting. It’s a memory-making experience. Departs from the Frisco Adventure Park; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays through March; from $84 ($55 for kids).
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