Earning Your Calories on Buttermilk

by Nicole Birkhold

Full moons are useful to more than just werewolves and tides. They can also light the path for hikers and uphill skiers and snowboarders to make their way up Buttermilk for monthly dinners at the Cliffhouse. The first full-moon dinner of the 2016-2017 winter season on December 14th was a bit marred by clouds due to an incoming storm (no one was complaining!) but that didn't stop people from getting to the top and enjoying delicious salmon, prime rib, pho and Mongolian BBQ. In fact, the smell from the Mongolian grill starts to make itself known about two thirds of the way up the mountain which can definitely help in the motivation!

For those who haven't tried the Cliffhouse during the day while skiing Buttermilk, you're missing out. A favorite restaurant among repeat visitors and locals alike, the Cliffhouse offers a unique take on on-mountain dining. The Mongolian grill allows patrons to choose their own vegetables, meats and sauces and then you can watch as the chefs grill your selections on the large, round wok. You can then add a fried egg and assorted toppings. Pho is always an option as well along with a baked potato bar and fresh squeezed juices.

Then, as if those delicious options weren't enough, Chef Jim Butchart — the executive chef of Aspen Skiing Company who oversees the on-mountain dining on Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk — creates more gourmet masterpieces to enjoy as well. In December traditional prime rib along with fresh caught salmon from the Pacific Northwest were paired with brussels sprouts and Asian slaw. Local and sustainably-sourced meats are a priority for all of Aspen's on-mountain restaurants and even more so at the full-moon dinners.

Full Moon Dinners at Cliffhouse - Mongolian BBQ
Full Moon Dinners at Cliffhouse - Mongolian BBQ

"We change the grill station offerings each event but always aim to serve a fish and a hearty protein," says chef Butchart. "Next it could be whole fried fish — you just never can tell!"

While all this food might seem indulgent, the beauty of the full-moon dinners is in order to enjoy this culinary goodness, you have to self-power your way to the top of Buttermilk. No chairlifts are spinning, it's all about earning those calories! The 1,800-vertical-foot journey can start at either main Buttermilk, Tiehack or West Buttermilk (if you’re comfortable with non-groomed terrain) and the uphill route is marked by lights every few hundred yards to help ensure you're on the right path.

If the exercise and culinary treats aren't enough to sell you on the next event on Thursday, January 12th, picture the descent: Freshly groomed trails all to yourself — and chosen friends! — lit by a full moon and your headlamp. Skiing doesn't get a whole lot better than that.

Dates for this season's full-moon dinners are January 12th, February 11th and March 12th. The Cliffhouse opens at 5pm for hot chocolate, with dinner starting at 6pm. Meals generally run anywhere between $20-$30 depending on selections. The event is fun for the whole family but skiing, snowboarding and hiking are the only ways up and down. No sledding or bumming a ride on a snowmobile from the snow-making crew.

Full moon uphilling at Buttermilk
Full moon uphilling at Buttermilk

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