There's a reason we named Turner Mountain, Montana, the ski area with the friendliest locals in our 2010 Resort Awards. Part of that is because of guys like Bruce Zwang, Turner's president of the board of directors, and his wife Mary Jo, who bakes a damn tasty caramel bar.
Bruce Zwang is the boss. It sounds way cooler than his official title, President of the Board of Directors. There’s no doubt he’s the right man for the job. He spends most of his days as a certified public accountant, so he has the money skills to run the nonprofit that manages Turner Mountain. And he’s got history with the hill. Zwang’s been skiing at Turner since 1966, just five years after the mountain opened in ’61. Back then you had to ride a milelong T-bar up 2,110 vertical feet and hope not to get swallowed by man-size whoop-de-doos on the 18-minute leg burner. Zwang, who’s been a volunteer at Turner for 18 years, was part of the team that helped score a double chair for the ski area in 2001. He doesn’t have any major plans to change the mountain aside from additional glading, and he wants to keep the mom-and-pop feel. But Zwang does endorse having a good time if you rent the place. “If people rent it, bonfires are fine,” he says. “People can stay as long as they want and do whatever they want, as long as they don’t trash the place.”
Bruce's wife, Mary Jo, made delicious caramel bars during our visit to Big Thursday. She was also kind enough to share her recipe with us here.
Mary Jo's Caramel Bars
1 1/2 cups Quaker Oats-Quick, uncooked
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts)
1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
14 oz bag vanilla caramels
1/4 cup water
Unwrap caramels and place in medium saucepan. Add water and set aside.Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13 x 9 pan. Combine first five ingredients, mixing well. Stir in melted butter. Reserve heaping 1 cup; press remaining mixture onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light brown. Cool 10 minutes. Top with nuts, then chocolate chips. While pan is in the oven, melt caramels and water over low heat, stirring frequently. Drizzle over nuts and chocolate chips to within π inch of pan edges. Crumble reserved oat mixture, pressing lightly. Bake additional 15 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely. Cut into bars, cover with foil.