Get a good meal and support your local ski bum by visiting the following ski-town eateries.
Skiers love to eat. So, it's only logical that they make great restauranteurs. A cook with a goggle tan and a season pass is practically guaranteed to serve up hearty, tasty grub. And though opening a restaurant may generally seem like a risky proposition, it's one enterprise at which skiers seem to excel. Need proof? Here are seven of the nation's finer skier-owned-and-operated establishments, along with their home ski areas, signature dishes, and a word or two on the well-ordered priorities of their proprietors. These folks love to ski; so, remember: Tip big!
The Establishment: AZTECA TAQUERIA Steamboat, CO;970-870-9980
The Ski Bums: Keith Hicks and Jim Ruggiero. Ruggiero skis over 100 days each winter, and Hicks's 10-year average is 100 days of snowboarding per season.
The Signature Meal: Chicken Burrito, whose massive girth includes Spanish rice, black beans, peppers, onions, guacamole, cheese, and sour cream, $4.65.
On the Side: Hicks and Ruggiero have each notched a "start-to-finish" season, skiing or riding at Steamboat every single day, from opening day to closing day.
The Establishment: BERGER'S Mammoth Mountain, CA; 760-934-6622
The Ski Bums: Gary and Teri Berger. Both ski; Gary gets at least 75 days per season.
The Signature Meal: Berger's trademark is beef, especially its fresh-ground hamburgers, which start at $4.25, and slooow-cooked beef brisket, $7.50.
On the Side: Gary was Mammoth's longtime assistant ski-school director, and is a fully certified ski instructor in New Zealand, France, Canada, and the U.S.
The Establishment: THE BUFFALO CAFÉ Big Mountain, MT;406-862-2833
The Ski Bums: Charlie and Linda Maetzold. Both ski a lot; Charlie notches about 75 days per season.
The Signature Meal: Buffalo Pie-a pile of hash browns, ham, and cheddar cheese, topped with two poached eggs, served with toast, $5.25.
On the Side: Charlie's business philosophy: Have fun, stay in business, go skiing.
The Establishment: CHEZ HENRI Sugarbush, VT; 802-583-2600
The Ski Bums: Henri Borel, age 73, skis every day, races on Tuesdays.
The Signature Meal: Vermont Cheese Fondue for lunch and steak tartare for dinner (entrée, $18.50; appetizer, $9.50), plus a classic Marseilles bouillabaisse.
On the Side: This quintessential French bistro offers ski-in access and a fabulous wine bar for Alps-style lunches.
The Establishment: DON & GG'S FOOD & SPIRITS Big Powderhorn, MI;906-932-2312
The Ski Bums: Dave and Terry Johnson; on skis 100 days per winter.
The Signature Meal: Unique salads and pasta combos like sautéed Lake Superior whitefish served over tomato-basil fettuccine. The whole menu runs $4.95-$12.95.
On the Side: Serves the future of the ski industry, in the form of nearby Gogebic College's ski-area-management majors, who run Mt. Zion, the school's "on-campus" ski area.
The Establishment: NEW YORK PIZZA (NYP) Aspen, CO; 970-920-3088
The Ski Bums: Earl Rodgers and Kevin Jones; both ski 100-plus days per season.
The Signature Meal: Huge, hot slices with an array of toppings for under $3 apiece, featuring the rare high-elevation feat of an authentic, thin and crispy NY-style crust.
On the Side: The popularity of NYP's slices, available nightly until 3 a.m., funds its owners' Alaskan heli-skiing habit.
The Establishment: THE RED FOX Snowshoe Mountain, WV; 304-572-1111
The Ski Bums: Brian and Margaret Ann Ball. Brian can ski to work in the morning and skis aat least a dozen full days per year (for West Virginia, that's a lot).
The Signature Meal: Huntsman's Grill, which includes pheasant, wild-boar sausage, and elk, $28.95.
On the Side: The Red Fox recently won a Fodor's Choice award as one of the top restaurants in the U.S.