My wife and I smelled beef sizzling on an outdoor grill at one of Colorado’s premier ski resorts. An employee there was systematically flipping what must have been four dozen beef patties.
“We’re getting ready for the lunch crowd,” the spatula-wielding man said.
But it was only 10 in the morning. Those precooked patties would swelter beneath heat lamps for an hour or more before being sold and consumed.
Standing in line to buy parched patties is not for us. When we crave burgers on the slopes, my wife and I head for full-service restaurants where the cow is cooked to order.
Here are a few of our tastier base-area options:
Keystone: Go Big Burger
I’m a cheapskate. When I ski Keystone, I park for free outside the River Run Village. It took a long time for us to discover Go Big Burger at Mountain House, Keystone’s original base village.
The unpretentious restaurant sits in the old lodge building, harkening back to that bygone era when skiers didn’t need second mortgages to buy lift tickets.
Its menu offers nine different burgers, which can be ordered in one-, two- or three-patty form. I like the Ultimate Colorado Burger (starting at $16.95) with cheese, pork green chili, roasted Hatch chiles and creamy horseradish with steak fries on the side. The “black-diamond,” double-patty version requires a dentist-worthy, open-wide mouth to consume. The juiciness of meat and topping make this a sloppy, multiple-napkin treat.
My wife and I formerly sedated our Breckenridge burger cravings with brie fondue burgers from the stand-in-line grill at Pioneer Crossing atop Peak 7. They’re not offered this year.
Looking for a full-service alternative, we went to the base of Peak 7 to check out Sevens, Breck’s self-proclaimed “premier on-mountain dining experience.”
The restaurant sits in the Grand Lodge behind the Independence SuperChair. Its interior features a modern motif appropriate for its timeshare-condo surroundings.
Sevens offers four burger choices. I prefer the Claimjumper ($18), which features BBQ sauce, melted cheddar, blue cheese crumble, Texas toothpicks and applewood bacon. Fat and tasty, it pairs well with a glass of imported malbec.
Crested Butte: Butte 66 Roadhouse Bar & Grille
The restaurant sits upstairs in the Treasury Building. True to its roadhouse moniker, the Butte features the feel of a highway road bar where tabletop buckets hold menus, napkins, condiments and cutlery.
For us burger lovers, there’s only one carnivorous option — the Roadhouse Burger ($16.95). It’s topped with sharp cheddar and garlic aioli on a butter-toasted bun; add Butte bacon for another $2.95. The crunchy waffle fries that accompany it come seasoned with sea salt, pepper and untold secret ingredients.
“As good as Chick-fil-A’s,” our server assured us.
With parking running $30 a day, skiing Vail is an indulgence we don’t make as often as we’d like. When the tax refund check arrives and we do head to Colorado’s largest ski resort, we’ll descend to the Golden Peak base and hit the Larkspur restaurant for classic “Larkburgers” ($23.50).
The burger features 7 ounces of unadulterated beef. It’s served with leaf lettuce, not iceberg, and the in-house-ripened tomatoes on top taste as flavorful as those from grandma’s garden.
Options include smoked bacon, marinated avocado and a choice of cheeses. The burger comes with butter-roasted fries, but since we’re splurging, we’ll opt for truffle fries.
Beaver Creek: 8100 Mountainside Bar & Grill
Some burgers go down best with beer. Others demand wine. One of our favorite places for such a pairing is the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek’s 8100 Mountainside Bar & Grill.
Their 8100 Burger ($22) comes covered with aged white cheddar, applewood smoked bacon and “special” sauce. They also offer a Black Diamond Burger ($32) made from black-truffled Kobe beef. Unfortunately, tax refund checks only go so far.
Our favorite place to enjoy a burger and bordeaux combo is outside on its patio. On warm, bluebird days, it’s a tough setting to leave.
Our well-honed plan is to arrive late, eat slowly and kick back with second pourings of wine. That leaves us with just enough time for a run or two before Beaver Creek’s free, chocolate-chip cookies arrive at the bottom of the Centennial Express Lift.