At least there’s been one positive development from the pandemic’s impact on the local ski industry.
With social distancing all the rage and lodges off limits last season, many ski areas in New England focused on either creating more or improving outdoor lounging areas, giving skiers and riders opportunity to eat, drink and relax in environments with less risk for transmitting COVID-19.
One year later, while most base lodges are open, some skiers and riders might still feel hesitant being in a crowded space, particularly as the omicron variant spreads its way through the region and nation. With that in mind, we rounded up some of the best outdoor spots for après activities, sites that let a day in the great outdoors go a little longer.
To keep guests more comfortable outside last season, Wachusett installed more outdoor seating on its deck, including additional fire pits, heaters and heated benches. Those features returned this season, with increased outdoor seating. That includes new heated benches, from Dragon Seats, outside at O’Brien’s Grill Deck Bar & Grill. These are the same benches that a number of NFL teams, including the Patriots, use on their sidelines. They’re so satisfactory that the Dallas Cowboys even brought their Dragon Seat bench along with them to a road game in Washington last month. So, yeah, they’re comfortable. — www.wachusett.com
There are few better spots to relax with an afternoon libation than at the mid-mountain Lostbo Cabin. The mid-station bar serves up music, snacks and drinks with a view of idyllic Jackson, N.H., below. This year, Black Mountain expanded the outdoor seating and, come warmer temperatures, will feature entertainment on the deck. A selection of some of the events planned for this season at the cabin can be found at www.blackmt.com/events.
Fellow independent ski area Magic Mountain also has expanded its outdoor space in recent years, particularly at the popular Black Line Tavern. If you do happen to get stuck inside, the tavern does have HEPA air filtration systems, but the outside deck is expansive enough to take your orders into the great outdoors. The tavern serves dinner Thursday through Sunday, with a new menu for winter. Après-ski music is every Saturday, with live bands many Saturday nights. Reservations can be made at [email protected].
To expand its seating offerings at the popular Sled Pub last season, Pats Peak added more than 30 new tables to the outdoor seating area located at the base. That included additional heaters and wind blocks to make the outdoor experience more enjoyable. Now, the large, heated deck remains a great place to hang after a day on the slopes. Don’t miss acoustic Friday nights, as well as more bands live on Saturday nights. www.patspeak.com
It’s not your typical après scene per se, but for families looking for evening activities, Whaleback Mountain offers Friday night family nights. These nights are fully outdoors, with a new theme each week (techno night and old-school night were a couple of the ones held last season). The outdoor kitchen will be selling food off the grill and the outdoor bar will be open for drinks in the beer garden, where five fire pits will keep you warm at the Enfield, N.H., ski area. www.whaleback.com
Smugglers’ Notch Resort
Lot 1, which is conveniently located at the base of Sterling Mountain, long has been a popular weekend après spot, and that hasn’t changed over the past two years. In Lot 1, you’ll find the tailgating locals, on the outskirts of the Smuggs vacation bubble. “The scene is unique because Smuggs is known for being a family resort,” Matt McCawley, who coaches the Smugglers’ Notch Freeski Team and has been frequenting Lot 1 for more 20 years, told New England Ski Journal. “It’s their kids programs and ski lessons that create the image of Smuggs. But on the opposite side is this incredible local crew and this fun parking lot. Not to mention the skiing and terrain is pretty aggressive. It’s like two opposite sides of the spectrum all in the same spot.”
Think of it as a drive-through window, but for pedestrians in ski boots. The Fat Tire Mountain Bar, located right at the front of the base lodge at Maine’s Saddleback Mountain, is the anchor of the Fat Tire Village, which features large warming huts and plenty of outdoor seating. The bar, a recycled shipping container, serves up snacks, wine and beer. New Belgium Brewing’s Fat Tire will, obviously, be among the selections. www.saddlebackmaine.com
Wait a minute. A restaurant? In Providence? OK, so while it might not be at the base of a mountain, this Providence, R.I., eatery dresses up its outdoor patio to reflect an après-ski environment, complete with Adirondack chairs, heaters and blankets. Chez Pascal owners Kristin and Matt Gennuso don’t even ski. “But we both really love everything else that goes along with it,” Kristin wrote in a blog post on the restaurant’s website. “The warm, fun parts that is. The beautiful scenery, being outdoors, enjoying hot food and tasty drink even when it is knee slapping freezing cold outside. Something about the whole setting is just so darn comforting. We can’t bring the mountain to you, but we can bring the dining experience to you.” Chez Pascal is located at 960 Hope St. in Providence. www.chezpron.com
Eric Wilbur can be reached at [email protected].