By Sarah Park, Matador Network -- Guide to the best apres ski food and brews in Utah
Best spot on the slopes: Molly Green’s, Brighton
Molly Green’s exists precisely for those days when you just can’t be bothered to pull your boots off before tucking into a gigantic heap of nachos.
Short of providing beer service on the chairlift, Brighton could not have made apres easier for you. Just ski, slide, tumble, or have your buddies drag you into the cozy cabin at the base of the hill for the best on-mountain place to sit for a beer, a nacho mountain, a handful of Gaz-Ex wings burning a hole into your hand, and a three-hour brag session about the backside 3 you seriously can’t believe nobody saw you spin.
Hint: Increase the difficulty level of the tricks you landed incrementally in accordance with the number of beers you drink. (I mean, it was really probably more like a backside 5, anyway.)
You’ll need a breath mint after: The Cotton Bottom Inn, Salt Lake
Many an epic pow day has ended here. The Cotton Bottom is located just past the 215 on your way down from Brighton or Solitude.
Finishing your day here is akin to finishing your day in the basement bachelor pad of an old friend. Pile in through the kitchen (has anybody ever even seen the front door open?), grab some pitchers of one of the four beers on tap, and don’t bother messing with the menu. You want what everybody else is having, and your server already knows what it is — the garlic burger.
The name doesn’t lie. It’s garlicky heaven sandwiched between squishy rectangles of bread fused together with American cheese. Don’t ask for fries. You get a bag of chips and a beer with this burger.
Best liquor by the slopes: High West Distillery, Park City
Booger-freezing cold, cheek-burning wind, a back leg so sore from riding waist-deep powder all day long, a bruised ego from that last run yardsale, or just the general melancholy of your last run before it’s time to head back to work — nothing a good Old Fashioned can’t handle. The High West Distillery in Park City is hands-down the best place to get one after a long day on the mountain.
For your apres convenience, it’s right at the end of Quit ‘N Time, so you can literally ski or snowboard straight to the front door. Their booze has made its way into bars and stores around the country, but here at the epicenter, High West liquors can also be eaten in dishes like vodka-battered shishito peppers and whiskey-whipped beer cheese. Servers are happy to suggest whiskey pairings for your snacks, but at the end of the day, the biggest reason to sit at their bar is to sip on some Dead Man’s Boots while thawing out in your snowboard boots.
Like stepping into a time machine: Alta Peruvian Bar, Alta
The Alta Peruvian is left over from a time before slope-side sushi and heated lift chairs, back when skiing wasn’t considered remotely respectable. One of five small traditional ski lodges at Alta, the ski-in/ski-out building houses tiny dorm-style rooms built with just one objective in mind: to give the most hardcore and dedicated of skiers a place to sit between last chair and first chair.
That seat is usually in front of the bar at the P-dog. You may recognize nearly every face sitting around the wood-paneled, heavily taxidermied room from your day out on the slopes. The bar here is where locals and ski purists tend to flock after last chair to swap tales from their day (everyone’s got one; most are highly exaggerated), warm their appendages, and make friends via shotski.
Another remnant from the good ol’ days of skiing, the Alta Peruvian still tosses in some free sustenance — free snacks!
The oldest apres spot in Utah: Shooting Star Saloon, near Snowbasin
If you want proof this is the oldest bar in Utah, start checking dates on the thousands of dollar bills pinned to the ceiling. They go back all the way to 1901, apparently (not tall enough to verify).
The Shooting Star opened in 1879 and has been running ever since. Every past owner is said to have made a commitment to change nothing: not the attitude, not the menu, and definitely not the decor, which includes a gigantic St. Bernard head on a mount, a jukebox that plays old 45s, a boot, the aforementioned dollar bills, and an old-timey cash register.
The best spot for a cold, local beer after a colder day at Powder Mountain or Snowbasin (and the only “real” bar nearby), the Shooting Star’s already the obvious answer for Ogden Valley apres. But add to that the deliciousness of the Star Burger, and it’s pretty much a given I’ll see you here at the end of the day. For about $10, you can score yourself their trademark double cheeseburger with a fat slab of Polish knackwurst on top, one of the many local beers on tap, and a 50-cent turn at the pool table in the back.
Bonus badass points to the Shooting Star for operating through Prohibition without getting busted.
Cheapest apres ever: Street meat in SLC
Tacos el Toro: 800 S State St, Salt Lake City, UT
After a day of slashing pow in the trees at Canyons, skip the slope-side foie gras and charcuterie. Save the money for another lift ticket, and instead truck it to downtown SLC.
Salt Lake City is littered with food carts, serving all kinds of meats with delightfully questionable origin. Every last one of them is awesome, but Tacos el Toro is king. It’s located on State facing south, by the Sears parking lot. Try not to get it mixed up with Don Rafa, which is the one on State facing east. (In the end, they’re both insanely satisfying after a powder-filled day.)
For $3, you get a burrito the size of a baby filled with the meat of your choice: standards like carne and pollo asada, to the more “mystery” spectrum of meat, like lengua and cabeza. They hand it to you open-faced — scoop up all the condiments you want, then either fold it up yourself or hand it back over to be professionally closed before devouring it all hunched over in your car like a caveman, moaning.
Bar with the coolest story: Owl Bar, Sundance
Another Western-themed apres spot, the Owl Bar in Sundance has one of the best claims to fame in the area. This is the very same bar Butch Cassidy regularly sat in front of in the 1890s — only, back then it was located in Wyoming. The story goes Cassidy had the Irish oak bar shipped all the way from Ireland. It sat in the Rosewood Bar in Wyoming, where he frequently hung out with his Wild Bunch gang. Robert Redford and his gang eventually came across it in Thermopolis before fixing it up (a process that took 18 months) and bringing it back to Utah to set up at the Owl Bar.
Today, you can order tasty snacks like fried pickles and chorizo pizza to eat in front of this infamous bar, and wash it down with shockingly reasonably priced cocktails (or a Drewski — a shot of tequila with cinnamon and orange) while listening to some live music playing in the background.
Best apres drink special: Tram Club, Snowbird
The decor of the Tram Club is closer to that of a sports bar in 1979 than a typical apres hangout (way more jerseys and flatscreens than old ski photos and taxidermied heads), but the clientele here is just as rad as the mountain it sits on. Most employees and regulars are die-hard Snowbird skiers and riders, with the occasional confused designer-ski-pant-clad tourist wondering where the hell the fondue menu is before finally kicking off their boots and grabbing a brew and a shot like everybody else.
Just about every skier or rider who calls Snowbird their home mountain has partaken in the Tram Club’s signature special: a $5 beer and a shot. It’s the quickest, easiest, no-nonsense way to start a post-powder party in Snowbird.