Ever ridden in a snow cat? Don’t know what one is, you say? Well either did I…until last night.
It turns out there’s a private dinner club at the top of one of the mountains we’ve been skiing and the only way to get there is by snow cat – the machines used to groom ski hills.
These vehicles have enclosed cabs for the driver to sit in and have the same tracks that tanks use. But to go up the side of the mountain and be able to groom such steep tracks as black diamonds, they’ve got to be pretty powerful…and have a driver with a taste for the daring.
This uber schwanky dining experience (too nice to pedestrianize it with the moiker “restaurant”), The Game Creek Club takes reservations for non-members one night a week. So last night we took the gondola most of the way up the mountain and then boarded a snowcat for the remainder of the trip.
They let one person ride in the cabin with the driver (the others ride in the personnel carrier in the back) and I was the lucky one that night. Steve the driver lives in Alaska during the off-season and loves, loves, loves grooming. He groomed glaciers in Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics and lives for this kind of work.
We continued to climb up the mountain and the view out of the massive windshield was breathtaking. The sun was getting low in the sky and we could see Beavercreek ski resort and Avon the next mountain over.
The club was tucked into the side of the mountain and its expansive view was impressive. Once inside, we checked our coats. As we did so, we noticed little slippers in cubbies lining the wall of the coat check. The attendant informed us that since the members ski in for their lunch, they need something to change into as you obviously couldn’t wear ski boots to the table.
The meal was another one for the record books. It was a 5-course dinner (okay, full disclosure: there was an option for three, four, or five courses and we chose five. What?! You burn more calories at 12,000 feet) which got started with a petite cube of aged manchego cheese with balsamic reduction drizzled on top.
The experience start to finish lasted over four hours and we had menu items ranging from red deer to dehydrated truffles. It was exquisite.
The trip down was even more stunning than the way up. When we got in the gondola, we stood looking out the front at the lights of Vail in the valley below. It was a sight to behold, one that we will never forget.