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The first time I ate a chicken wing was at the Mangy Moose Saloon at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming, after one of those I-can’t-believe-snow-can-be-that-light powder days. Something about the all-day face shots capped off with deep-fried chicken and a gooey vat of blue cheese made me prone to infatuation.
At that moment, grinning around a packed bar table with my friends, I was convinced that if I had to spend my life on a glacier with just one food group, it’d be wings covered in dripping hot sauce.
Until my mid-20s, I’d avoided chicken wings. Maybe it was because they’re called buffalo wings on many menus and the thought of a buffalo with wings sounded unappetizing. (For those who may have a similar little confusion over the name, rumor has it buffalo chicken wings were first prepared in the town Buffalo, New York, in the 1960s.)
Or maybe it was because anytime I saw someone digging into a plate of wings at a sports bar, I’d look over in disgust to that graveyard of orange-paste-soaked napkins and platters piled with bones. I never noticed how utterly satisfied people looked while licking their fingers…until I sat there after that huge powder day, face and hands coated in hot sauce, like a delirious kid who’d just discovered
Wings had long been a staple at après-ski. Every bar menu at every ski-town pub has your basic hot-sauce-coated fried wing. But now even the fancier ski-town restaurants are hopping on some model of the American wing wagon, like La Forge Bistro at Quebec’s Mont Tremblant, which serves deep-fried duck confit wings with maple coffee sauce. You’ll find Asian-spiced wings at ski-area sushi restaurants, 50-cent wings during base-lodge happy hours, and après-ski nacho versus wing debates as heated as those in the presidential election.
Sure, wings aren’t the healthiest appetizer on the menu. They’re fried. Sometimes battered. Dipped in a tub of creamy ranch or blue-cheese dressing. But you just skied until your quads shivered. You just spent all day crushing nonstop Tram laps down 4,000 vertical feet. You deserve to indulge. And if you need something green and crunchy, isn’t that what the celery sticks are for?
Megan Michelson, former digital editor of Skiing Magazine and world champion telemarker, just sold her Tahoe home to buy stock in Wet-Naps.