Up in Smoke
Barbecue joints are making a run at the iconic skier’s lunch. Move over, burger—there’s a new meat in town.
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When Chris Rybak decided to add barbecue to the menu of Arapahoe Basin’s midmountain Black Mountain Lodge, he envisioned a sunny patio with live music, house-cooked meats in the smoker, beer flowing from the taps at the bar, and…a whole pig roasting on a spit on spring weekends? “It’s quite a sight,” Rybak laughs. “Definitely not what people are expecting when they unload from the chairlift.
Rybak, who came to A-Basin as food and beverage director six years ago after 20 years at nearby Keystone, knows that the Basin is famous for many things—tough terrain, plenty of soul. But the dining experience? “This was the epitome of the cut-and-dry ski-area menu—burgers, pizza, fries,” he says of the lunch offerings when Black Mountain Lodge first opened in 2007. “We needed to make something happen.”
Thank the mountain’s topography for what happened next. Black Mountain Lodge sits on a plateau where the Black Mountain Express chair unloads. The Basin’s epic terrain, including the gnarly East Wall chutes, rises from there, creating a valley effect where the air hangs for a while. “It’s the best spot ever to put a smoker,” says Rybak. “As soon as you break that ridge, the smell of the meat lures you in.”
All meats are smoked in-house daily, including all-natural Red Bird chicken from Englewood, Colo., outside Denver. The most popular menu item is the Carolina pulled pork, Rybak says, which he smokes at a low temperature for up to 12 hours and then simmers in a vinegar boil until the meat falls of the bone. It’s shredded and served in a brioche bun from Boulder’s beloved Breadworks Cafe. The brat, which comes from Sara Sausage out of Palmer Lake, Colo., offers a more local—and far tastier—alternative to the ski-menu hot dog.
You can’t have awesome barbecue without a cold brew, a fact not lost on Rybak. The Black Mountain Lodge bar is the heart of the spring-skiing scene, keeping sunning skiers supplied not only with beer but also with pint glasses full of the Basin’s signature Bacon Bloody Mary. Made with bacon-infused vodka and a salad’s worth of veggie garnish, it’s finished with a skewer of crisp bacon. Add live tunes on the deck, views of the Continental Divide, and the smoker aroma wafting through the joint, and you’ll think you’ve died and gone to spring-skier nirvana.
Some people say good barbecue is a skier’s God-given right. Pray at the smoking altars of these gustatory temples this spring.