Inland Northwest ski hills haven’t traditionally been celebrated for their culinary creativity (serving up great skiing has rightfully been the priority), but local resorts have been cranking up the quality in recent years to bring ravenous skiers and riders more fresh and satisfying food and drink offerings. Whether you’re looking for a mid-day munch or a full-on meal at the end of a big ski day, here’s a sample of some of the eats you can look forward to in the lodge at your local ski hill this winter.

Last season, Mt. Spokane brought local chef Gabe Cruz on board, and his fresh menu changes have made a world of difference. “My absolute favorite,” says guest services manager Brenda McQuarrie, “is his fish tacos. Fresh ingredients and lots of flavor.” Their most popular item, the giant nacho, will feed a small crowd and can be whipped up fairly quick.

49 Degrees North has three food and drink spots: Boomtown Bar and Grill and the Quick Turn Cafe in the main lodge, and Cy’s Cafe in the new yurt at the bottom of Chair 5. In his fifth season as 49’s food and beverage manager, Frank Marmo makes a point of offering local beers and ciders alongside great from-scratch food. “If we can make it ourselves,” he says, “we will.” Marmo’s favorite thing to eat at 49 is the Rueben sandwich. This year, he will be introducing a Western bacon cheeseburger stacked with cheddar, bacon, onion rings, and house-made BBQ sauce.

A ride on the gondola to the top of Silver Mountain is a scenic trip that many non-skiers make each winter, and the food and beverage options are also becoming a worthy draw. The Mountain House Grill offers ski-hill staples like burgers, chicken strips, fish ‘n chips, and a burrito bar, and, last season, Silver added a ramen bar and hopes to begin making artisanal pizza this year. “We are adding more fresh ingredients,” says Chris Johansen, who runs the food and beverage services at the top of the mountain. “We will also be opening a juice and smoothie bar at the espresso station.” For a true local-beer experience, duck into Moguls 21, the 21-and-over bar, and grab a pint from Radio Brewing, Wallace Brewing, or North Idaho Mountain Brew, all from the Silver Valley.

The lodge at Lookout Pass is the second-oldest ski lodge in the Northwest, and in that classic setting is where you’ll find the ski area’s food court and the Loft Pub & Grub. Grab a seat and slurp a bowl of the local’s favorite, Lookout Chili, which is “so smooth, has great flavor and large chunks of meat,” says Lookout’s food and beverage manager Donna Bottman. It also happens to be gluten free, and the kitchen has gluten-free buns for burgers and sandwiches upon request as well as a fryer solely for cooking gluten-free foods. “We are the only mountain that has gluten-free fries,” adds Bottman. // (S. Michael Bennett)

Brown Bag It—The Ski Bum Supreme

Stories I’ve heard from back in the day of penny-pinching ski bums predatorily cruising the ski lodge cafeteria lunch line for free calories—in the form of condiment-heavy provisions like packaged soup crackers dipped in a gazpacho-style soup of catchup packets and coffee creamer or whatever was available—still come to mind every time I walk up to a resort eatery. But today’s more enlightened, health-conscious, and cash-strapped ski bums are more likely to pack a more nutritious, brown-bag snack to chase their lodge bar PBR lunch. For you seasoned or aspiring ski bums out there, try these simple yet healthy vittles in your next brown bag:

  1. One tortilla filled with whatever reasonably fresh leftovers are available in your fridge (or, more likely, your girlfriend or parents’ fridge). Mac N’ cheese, refried beans, spaghetti, scrambled eggs, sandwich meat, garlic mashed potatoes, etc. Add a squirt or two of mayo, BBQ sauce, mustard, catchup or other condiments, a dash of salt for taste and help with dehydration cramps, and wrap the little guy up in a bag so it won’t squish out in your pack.
  2. Whatever fruit or vegetable matter you have access to (eg., bruised apple, brown banana, pre-cut vegie bits, etc.).
  3. That’s pretty much a balanced meal right there and all you’ll need for a day of shredding the mountain, so we’ll leave it at that. Look for more Brown Bag tips in upcoming winter issues of Out There. // (Derrick Knowles)