What's Brewing in Your Ski Resort?

By Simon Hudson Endowed Chair in Tourism & Hospitality, University of South Carolina | December 30, 2018

Après ski in ski resorts used to consist of a few pints of ale and plate of nachos, but increasingly the bubbly allure of champagne, beer and spirits is being packaged by resorts into beer and distillery tours, private in-room liquor tastings, champagne toasts on the slopes, and beverage and food pairings. Ski resorts in Colorado, famous for its craft breweries and brewpubs, are one of the pioneers of this trend.

In Aspen, dotting the slopes are vibrant Veuve Clicquot pop-up bars, and at Highlands on sunny afternoons Cloud Nine is a riot of music, tabletop dancing and champagne spraying. "I love the spring skiing atmosphere and parties on the mountain when the champagne starts flowing," says Aspen local, Chelsea Dillon. "The Veuve Clicquot pop up bar is so much fun as well as the party atmosphere at Cloud Nine and Ajax Tavern!" 

Around town, après ski offerings include the St Regis Hotel's champagne sabering ceremony, where sommeliers de-cork the bubbly with a flamboyant slash. The Little Nell runs a wine cellar tour with rap music and charcuterie; there are distillery tours at Woody Creek; beer dinners at Limelight Hotel; and tastings at Aspen Brewing Company. At Jimmy's restaurant, staff are taken overseas each year, bringing back innovative international cocktail ingredients and recipes.

Further north in Colorado, Telluride is wooing wine connoisseurs with world-class sommelier and wine director, Andrew Shaffner, who oversees the wine program for the resort's ski eateries. With breathtaking views of Palmyra and the Wilson Range, Bon Vivant is the perfect venue for sampling the all-French wine list, and at Allred's nine certified sommeliers help brand-boggled tipplers navigate the list of 1,200 bottles on the 35-page wine list. At Alpino Vino, 12,000 ft above sea-level, there are 400 ways to get light-headed at North America's highest elevation fine-dinery.

Colorado also boasts the world's highest distillery in Breckenridge. At 9600 feet, the distillery offers tastings, tours and sharing dishes. Secret ingredient, according to CEO Bryan Nolt, is Breckenridge's pure mineral water, coupled with flavorings from fresh Colorado Western-Slope fruits. Another new business in town is the custom ski/craft brew bar – RMU Tavern, launched last year, offers craft beers and cocktails on draft along with handcrafted skis.

At Purgatory Resort the craft beverage scene is very much part of the local culture and a big draw for tourists. Down in the valley, Craft Beverages of Southwest Colorado, a regional partnership marketing group, is looking to raise awareness of the region's agricultural tourism and 'drink local' movement. As part of a new marketing initiative, supported by Colorado Tourism, the group is highlighting signature craft beverages and special events, while encouraging regional side trips to cultural, historic and outdoor attractions. It spotlights the increase of small-batch, independent producers of crafted beverages including beer, wine, spirits, cider, non-alcoholic gourmet sodas, and coffee and tea roasters.

A beer-themed party at Purgatory, Colorado
Author Simon Hudson tasting the Solitude Beer
Bon Vivant, Telluride
The Ice Bar at Lizard Creek Lodge, Fernie
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