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Our Boozy Guide to The Best Ski Bars in the West

Ski bars are a breed apart, a skier’s soul embodied within four walls. Herein, an opinionated take on where to ski based on where to drink.

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I’ve spent a lot of time in ski bars. It’s possible I feel most at home with my ski boots still on, sitting at a dimly lit corner booth with friends or bellied up, yamming with the bartender about the incoming storm and the latest yahoos from the Front Range.

Ski bars are different from bar bars. That’s because they’re full of what most bars aren’t: skiers. The right ones feel lit from within. Aglow. Maybe it’s because everyone, after a day on the hill, is just happier. The mood is generally light and celebratory. 

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The best ones have the things you can’t just conjure: history, lore, character, locals, affordability. And fireplaces. But like everything else that’s good in the world, those places are dying. The wood fireplaces replaced with fake gas things. At my local hill, we lost the best watering hole to corporate greed. With nowhere to find a beer under $10 left, the locals just pull six-packs out of coolers and gather around the parking lot. Sure it’s cold, but it’s community.

But some of the best bars are still out there. And they’re worth celebrating. Because once they’re gone, they don’t come back.

Author’s note: I have been to a lot of ski town bars, but I have not been to ALL the ski town bars. Did we miss somewhere? Great! Glad it’s awesome. And I’m on my way—first round’s on you.

8 Classic Ski-Town Bars in the West

The Snorting Elk, Crystal Mountain, Wash.

The Snorting Elk
(Photo: Courtesy of Crystal Mountain)

The last time I was at the Elk, a classic, Bavarian-themed nook in a thick forest of evergreens at the base of Crystal Mountain, two Bernese mountain dogs sat near the front door like mascots. Or bouncers. Thankfully, after a few behind-the-ear scratches, they let me in. Inside, groups gather around big long communal tables with benches, in wooden booths, or at the small bar. With low ceilings and a raging fireplace, it feels a bit like a hobbit hole. If there’s an afterlife, I’d like to talk to all the skiers who have come and gone while sitting in one of those wooden bar stools for eternity.

The Griz, Bridger Bowl, Mont.

Talk about community. A lot has changed in Bozeman in the past 10 years, but somehow the vibes in the Griz feel as authentic as ever. Labs wander around inside. Outside, folks gather around a fire pit. The pitchers reasonable. The chocolate chip cookies warm. As an outsider, it feels like you’re crashing a family gathering, but they’re always happy to have you.

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The Mangy Moose, Jackson Hole, Wyo.

There’s a lot going on in the Moose, right near the Jackson Hole tram. A lot of wild shit has happened within these walls. Which are adorned with ski kitsch. A moose hangs from the ceiling. The dinner menu is a bit more Dick Cheney than Jackson Hole Air Force —  the ribeye is $92, the vegan meatloaf $24 —  so skip the grub and come for a show or an apres pitcher with your breaux.

The Sitzmark, Alta, Utah

Drinks with a view at the Sitzmark Club in Alta Lodge
Drinks with a view at the Sitzmark Club in Alta Lodge, Alta Ski Area, Utah. (: Courtesy of Alta Ski Area)

Après doesn’t get cozier than when it happens at the Sitzmark at the Alta Lodge. The small room has a sunken bar with a handful of stools, a few couches, and a few tables. And yes, a wood burning fireplace. It’s in front of that fireplace where I first flirted with the woman who eventually became my wife. Sure, she totally spurned me that evening, but I’m pretty sure I planted the seed in the homey confines of the “Sitz.”

The Clocktower, Mammoth, Calif.

Clocktower Mammoth
(Photo: Courtesy of the Clocktower Cellar)

Across from the village gondola, in the basement of the Alpenhof Lodge, this gem features low ceilings, walls of ski memorabilia, foosball and pool tables, and salty ass locals. What more could you want?

The Bierstube, Whitefish, Mont.

It’s gray. It’s cold. Sometimes the only place to warm up is the Stube. The locals show up in earnest after they clock out of their ski school or patrol gigs. The urinals have headrests above them for the inebriated, and they have a thing called a beer card. Why doesn’t every place have a beer card?

The Eldo, Crested Butte, Colo.

It’s hard to go wrong in Crested Butte. Kochevars, the Public House, the Wooden Nickel. All pretty classic. I’m an Eldo guy myself. The long bar with a great summertime balcony is on the second floor of an old wood mining building that makes Elk Avenue so charming. The Eldo is no frills — it’s about as unpretentious as it gets. I once watched a skier, who had podiumed the freeride competition earlier that day, put his head through the window of the front door. Another time, someone skied the stairs down straight into the snowbank. My wife and I often reminisce about the time they had a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump with darts available to throw at that big orange face. Good times!  

The Warming Hut, Skibowl, Ore.

The Warming Hut Skibowl
(Photo: Courtesy of Mt. Hood Skibowl)

Massive, roaring fireplace? Check. Comfortable seating for fewer than 15 people? Yup. Reasonable beers and soups? Oh yeah. America isn’t exactly known for its cozy mid-mountain huts—I’d recommend the Alps for that. But Skibowl’s Warming Hut is an anomaly. Built in 1937, the 400 square foot stone building radiates warmth. Located between the Lower Bowl and Upper Bowl, it’s the perfect stop for dinner or a late-night snack while riding Skibowl’s unrivaled night-skiing terrain—open, gloriously, until 11 pm.