Aspen Snowmass is known for delivering exceptional experiences in unexpected places. Sam’s, the latest addition to the on-mountain dining scene in Snowmass, continues the tradition of high-country hospitality with exquisite Italian fare served at 10,000 feet.

Located at the top of the Village Express lift, Sam’s is both convenient to access and perfectly situated to highlight views from Big Burn to Mt. Sopris. The name — of both the restaurant and the peak on which it sits — honors Sam Stapleton, a local rancher who spent his teenage years tending his family’s sheep on the lower slopes in the summer and exploring the higher mountains on skis in the winter.
Friends cheering at the newest addition to the Aspen Snowmass restaurants at Sam's.
Friends cheering at the newest addition to the Aspen Snowmass restaurants at Sam's.

The restaurant, which opened in 1967 alongside the first lifts on Snowmass, has a rich history of revelry. In its most recent incarnation, the fully renovated Sam’s provides a true mountain oasis. Welcomed by a warm fire and plush couches, guests are invited to slide out of their ski boots and into some slippers. Comfortable feet are critical when leaning into a long lunch, once your feet are cozily ensconced in the complimentary slippers you can get serious about your meal.
The cuisine, which ranges from Southern Italian seafood to the heartier cuisine of the Alps, was inspired by the travels of Aspen Snowmass Culinary Director Jim Butchart and Executive Chef Andrew Helsley. “Both Andrew and I travel extensively in Italy,” Butchart says. “This was a great opportunity for us to introduce Italian to the mountains.” Sam’s is the only Italian concept in the Aspen Snowmass restaurant repertoire and the first new outlet to open since Elk Camp debuted in 2012.
“Pranzo In Famiglia,” which translates loosely to family style lunch, is displayed prominently on the menu which dedicates an entire page to antipasti. Visitors are encouraged to fill the table with small plates to share. Standouts included the Margherita Arancini, a favorite of Butchart’s from the street vendors in Palermo, and the Proscuitto Americano, which was sliced dangerously thin on the Ferrari-red Legend slicer and served with Tuscan-style onion coccioli, fig jam and ricotta.

If you have room for more, the Pizza a la Nonna, a doughy homage to Sicilian grandmothers, is not to be missed. A square pie with perfectly caramelized edges, it is served with shears to cut your own slices. (Personally, I am a fan of food that comes with specialty tools). The pasta dishes are all handmade in-house and generously offered in two sizes, to avoid the embarrassing situation of being taken down by ski patrol in a toboggan after crushing too many carbs. The Rigatoni Bolognese and Bucatini Pomodoro are simple dishes executed excellently with locally-sourced ingredients.
The cocktail and wine programs, developed by Manager Rodrigo Ramirez, compliment the overall mountain Italian experience. Enjoy a Negroni Spritz as a refreshing aperitif before diving into the Italian wine list. The bar boasts an extensive list of Amaro’s that can be sampled as a flight, and the signature Café Alpino, a caffeinated cocktail that provides just the right amount of pick me up to get you back into your ski boots.

Between the majestic views, exceptional ambiance and authentic food, Sam’s is once again the center of the dining universe on Snowmass. Walk-ins are welcome but it fills up fast, reservations are recommended.

About the Author

Oliver Sharpe, contributor to AspenSnowmass.com
Oliver Sharpe, contributor to AspenSnowmass.com

OLIVER SHARPE

Oliver Sharpe is a content creator across multiple mediums primarily focused on snacks, travel and leisure pursuits. He is an Emmy-winning television producer and the host of "Après," on Aspen 82. Loves pancakes, hates clowns and only lives to get radical.

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