I do not ski or board nor do I snowshoe. The only black diamond run I attempt is finding a brand of Canadian cheese. I recommend the extra sharp Black Diamond Grand Reserve Cheddar.
That said, I’ve spent tons of time in the past year writing food stories and dining guides in the Vail Valley and Summit County plus various I-70 outposts from Dillon to Dotsero and beyond.
What I learned is what you already know: Extreme dining sticker shock lurks in Colorado ski country. I marvel at the price of water, never mind a sandwich, in the self-contained “villages” of Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Copper Mountain. In the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar of Star Wars fame: “It’s a trap!”
You can pack lunch, but I have found some cool, more affordable food sources tucked away in mountain towns and byways. While some of the eateries are well known to veteran skiers, other stops are under-the-radar or new places. At the very least you should exit the Interstate and grab something good to eat in your car while you are stuck in the stop-and-go at Georgetown.
Jersey Boys Pizza & Deli, 149 Tenderfoot St., Dillon, 970-513-1087, jerseyboyspizzas.com
Details: A genuine New Jersey accent to go with the huge pizza slices, limited seating and beer.
What to order: For good time try a hot stromboli. Also: Italian cold cut subs; fried ravioli with marinara.
Blue Moon Bakery, 253 Summit Place, Silverthorne, 970-513-0669, bluemoonbakeryco.net
Details: Beloved pre-slope fuel-up spot for breakfast, lunch and coffee drinks.
What to order: Huevos rancheros; sticky buns; seven-layer bars; carrot cake.
Sunshine Café, 250 Summit Place, Silverthorne, 970-468-6663, sunshine-cafe.com
Details: A go-to breakfast and lunch place across the parking lot from Blue Moon.
What to order: Grilled salmon Benedict, whole wheat cakes with honey; homemade soups.
Bread & Salt, 401 Main St., Frisco, 970-668-0902, breadandsaltfrisco.com
Details: Not inexpensive but chef-made quality in brunch and lunch dishes.
What to order: Challah French toast with creme Anglaise; duck confit hash with roasted apples and poached eggs.
Himalayan Cuisine, 409 E. Main St., Frisco, 970-668-3330, himalayancuisinefrisco.com
Details: A nice family eatery offering lots of meatless options and a weekday lunch buffet.
What to order: Momo chicken dumplings; lamb vindaloo.
Q4U, 857 N. Summit Blvd., Frisco, 970-668-1775
Details: A Southern-style family eatery
What to order: Great smoked brisket, sausage and even tofu with chipotle habanero sauce. Also: Po’boys; peach cobbler.
Daylight Donuts, 305 N. Main St. Breckenridge, 970-453-2548
Details: Comfortable, hometown spot open early with plenty of parking.
What to order: Great fritters and filled Long John doughnuts; Breakfast sausage rolls; chicken-fried steak; to-go burritos.
Muncheeze Cafe & Pizza Bar, 1900 Airport Road, Breckenridge, 970-453-1475, muncheezecafe.com
Details: An affordable pizza and beer place off the beaten track near Breckenridge Distillery.
What to order: Build-you-own pizza with a variety of sauces and topping options; spicy sausage grinders; PBR.
Annapurna Nepali and Indian Cuisine, 250 S. Frontage Road, Vail, 970-476-7812, annapurnavail.com
Details: A Sherpa family offers affordable Himalayan classics in the low-key space in the Evergreen Lodge.
What to order: Warm garlic naan; creamy shrimp korma; Baingan bharta (roasted eggplant).
BC Backcountry Wings, in the Cowboy Bar, 455 Main St., Minturn, 970-763-5621, backcountrywings.com
Details: The historic Cowboy Bar has the essentials: Wings, beer, free parking and sports on flatscreens.
What to order: Huge bone-in and boneless wings come in five heat levels with 10 sauces from teriyaki to mango sriracha.
Gardunas Mexican Food, 291 Main St., Minturn, 970-827-4017
Details: Tiny, family-owned authentic taqueria.
What to order: Carnitas, al pastor and chicharon stuffed in tacos, tortas and gorditas with a salsa bar. Also: Menudo.
Route 6 Café & Lounge, 40801 U.S. Highway 6, Eagle-Vail, 970-949-6393, routesixcafe.com
Details: A classic roadhouse with a twist, serving three meals a day.
What to order: Freshly baked biscuits and gravy; bison meatloaf; miso-marinated broiled salmon.
Benderz Burgers, 20 Nottingham Road, Avon, 970-949-1423, northsidecoffeekitchen.com
Details: Burger joint annex to the much-loved Northside Coffee & Kitchen (which serves doughnuts in the a.m. and prime rib at night).
What to order: A reputable, juicy patty with quality toppings on a fresh brioche bun with rings and fries. Dessert: Doughnuts!
Kiwi International Delights, 142 E. Beaver Creek Place, Avon, 970-949-4777
Details: A cool, tucked-away café offering a unique mix of taste adventures in one place.
What to order: Where else can you have Central American empanadas, Turkish or Vietnamese coffee, Italian gelato in waffle cones and guanabana-cherimoya sorbet?
Taqueria No Se Hagan Bolas, 91 Beaver Creek Place, Avon, 970-845-7959
Details: This must-try taqueria boasts limited seating, no beer, no free chips, Mexican soap operas and great salsas.
What to order: Authentic soft corn tacos; huge tortas; cheesy fries with roasted chilies.
Bakery Azteka, 57 Edwards Access Road, Edwards, 970-331-5645
Details: A warm, tiny storefront Mexican bakery with no seating.
What to order: Cookies, doughnuts, conchas, pumpkin empanadas and soft sandwich buns.
Café Milano, 429 Edwards Access Road, Edwards, 970-926-4455, cafemilanoco.com
Details: It’s a breakfast and lunch café by day, classic Italian restaurant with wine at night.
What to order: Legit Philly cheesesteak sandwich; chicken piccata with angel hair pasta.
Delite & Bowl Noodle House, 175 Main St., Edwards, 970-855-0335, deliteandbowl.com
Details: A unexpected outpost of real Chinese noodles and dumplings.
What to order: Broth-filled soup buns; Szechuan dan-dan noodles; hoisin short rib bao buns.
Expert Burger, 313 Chambers Ave., Eagle, 970-328-1291, expertburger.com
Details: A first-class burger destination operated by the chef-owner of Vail’s notable Noduru Ramen.
What to order: Freshly ground, cooked-to-temperature patty on a buttered brioche bun with great toppings; ale-battered onion rings; poutine with gravy and mozzarella.
Stoneyard Distillery, 4600 U.S. Highway 6, Dotsero, 970-471-0284, stoneyarddistillery.com
Details: Located in an old stoneyard, this tasting room doesn’t serve food but you can bring your own.
What to order: Small-batch rum made from Colorado beet sugar and mixed drinks.
John Lehndorff writes Nibbles for Boulder Weekly and is the contributing food editor for Vail Beaver Creek Magazine and Colorado Summit Magazine. He hosts Radio Nibbles 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU.