Ski to Eat
At these spots, the Nordic skiing is as good as the lunch menu.
by Lila edythe
Skiing from Togwotee Pass to Brooks Lake Lodge for lunch is a roughly 10-mile round trip. Photo by Jonathan Crosby
IF YOU GET lunch at Snake River Brewing, it will be one of the best lunches you’ve ever had at a brewpub, especially if you go for the Brussels Caesar followed by the Thai peanut pasta. And then there’s Picnic, the edgy sister-café to adorable Persephone Bakery. Picnic’s lunch menu changes, but might include the “T-Day Sub,” a baguette stuffed with turkey meatloaf, Utah Valley cheddar, balsamic red onions, Sriracha-spiked cranberry ketchup, spinach, and horseradish; it’s dessert menu is pretty constant and includes the valley’s best brownie and cookies. Go ahead and have lunch at both of these places, and then, when you have more time and are looking for a lunch experience, head to Turpin Meadow Ranch, Brooks Lake Lodge, or Dornan’s where the food is fabulous, and the Nordic skiing is even more so.
As gorgeous as the views and the ski trails here are, it’s lunch and hanging out in the main lodge that are the highlights at Turpin Meadow.
You can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the main lodge at Turpin Meadow Ranch. Photo by Price Chambers
BUFFALO VALLEY’S TURPIN Meadow Ranch is exactly a one-hour drive from downtown Jackson, but feels a world away. The ranch, which was totally remodeled in 2013, originally opened in 1932 as a gas station and rest stop at the base of the western side of the first road over Togwotee Pass. The highway over Togwotee Pass has long since been replaced and rerouted, but the original road does still exist (it begins climbing up the pass directly behind the main lodge). In the winter though, it’s not plowed past the lodge, so the ranch’s cozy main cabin is literally the end of the road.
A small ski shop at the ranch rents all the gear you need, whether you’re a classic or skate skier. Geared up, explore the ranch’s 25 kilometers of trails, all of which are groomed daily. Jackson locals Hans and Nancy Johnstone, who both competed in the biathlon in the Albertville Olympics (1992) in France, designed Turpin Meadow’s trail system with the goal of appealing to all levels. They succeeded. The flat 3-kilometer Summer Homes Loop is mellow enough that even first-timers can look up from the ground every once in a while to enjoy the Tetons rising in the distance without falling.
As gorgeous as the views and the ski trails here are, it’s lunch and hanging out in the main lodge that are the highlights at Turpin Meadow. The menu changes daily, but could include curried carrot and coconut soup, beef chili, a veggie focaccia sandwich, or bison and beef meatloaf. Post lunch, don’t hurry back to town. Instead, stay and play a few games of table shuffleboard in front of the lodge’s river-rock fireplace. Day ski passes are $15, lunch starts at $7, 24505 Buffalo Valley Rd., Moran, turpinmeadowranch.com
Brooks Lake Lodge provides a nice spot to warm up for skiers and snowmobilers in the Shoshone National Forest. Photo by Jonathan Crosby
BROOKS LAKE LODGE, in the shadow of 11,516-foot-tall Pinnacle Butte in the Shoshone National Forest, was built over six months in the winter of 1922. At one point it was the biggest hunting/guest ranch in the country. The lodge was expanded (in the original style) in the 1980s. In winter, the only way to get there is via snowcoach, snowmobile, or cross-country skis. Even though it’s a longish ski to get there—5 miles each way, and uphill on the way in—Brooks Lake’s lunch, available to nonguests, is worth the effort.
From the parking area on U.S. Highway 26, you’ll share a wide, groomed road with both snowmobilers and passenger vans fitted with tracks instead of wheels. The climb up to the lodge is gradual. If you start to feel the altitude, think about the three fireplaces waiting for you at the lodge, all of which are kept roaring all winter long, and a dessert menu with deep fried chocolate chip cookie dough balls and Fireball apple pie. (There’s real food, too, like hamburgers, a duck spinach salad, a sloppy joe, beef and pork chili, and chicken sandwiches.)
If you’ve got energy left after skiing in, you can access hundreds of miles of trails from Brooks Lake Lodge, including the famous Continental Divide Trail. These are groomed a couple of times a week, and are primarily used by snowmobilers, but because the trail system is so expansive, there’s enough room for everyone to play. If you’re feeling adventurous, you don’t need to limit yourself to groomed trails—the Shoshone National Forest is 2.4 million acres and Brooks Lake Lodge is smack in the middle of it. No ski pass required, lunch entrees start at $7, 458 Brooks Lake Rd., Dubois, brookslake.com
In Grand Teton National Park, 11 miles of the Inner Park Loop Road are groomed for Nordic skiing twice a week. Photo by Jonathan Crosby
THERE’S NO MORE classic ski-eat combo than Grand Teton National Park’s (GTNP) Inner Park Loop Road and Dornan’s. The former is an 11-mile stretch of road at the base of the Tetons that in winter is closed to cars and groomed for classic and skate skiing a couple of times a week. The latter started as a small homestead, added a restaurant in the 1940s, and has grown to also include a deli and wine shop. (There are other amenities here like retail shops and cabins, but they are only open in summer.) Dornan’s is just outside the Moose entrance to GTNP, and the restaurant is a cozy, woody space where two walls of windows frame the Tetons. (FYI, in the attached wine shop you can get some of Mary Kate Buckley’s Urlari wines, which are mentioned in a profile of her on pg. 34, at Dornan’s.)
The skiing doesn’t start at Dornan’s, but about 4 miles up the road, at the Bradley-Taggart Lakes Trailhead. Here you’ll find a large parking lot with a vault toilet, and unless we’ve gotten so much snow that it’s buried, a metal gate across the road.
From the trailhead, you can follow the groomed road for as long as you’d like and then turn around, or explore smaller trails that aren’t groomed but are made by other users after each snowstorm. The easiest of these will take you to Taggart Lake, about 1.5 miles from the parking lot. If you’re up for a little bit of climbing, head for Bradley Lake, which is over a several-hundred-foot ridge to the north of Taggart. You can get to Jenny Lake via the groomed road or a smaller, user-made trail. The latter will be about 1 mile shorter than the former (about 5 miles instead of 6). Both options are flat. If you take the groomed road to its end, you’ll find yourself near Signal Mountain Lodge. Don’t look for lunch here though, it’s closed in the winter. But that’s fine because you want to eat at Dornan’s.
If you plan your ski in GTNP for a late Monday afternoon, you can hit Dornan’s famous open mic, the Hootenanny, after. Photo by Jonathan Crosby
Dornan’s menu is heavy with pizza, pasta, and salads. The different pizzas are named after different Teton peaks. There’s the Mt. Moran (roasted-garlic cream sauce, chicken, spinach, Roma tomatoes, and toasted pine nuts), the Thor Peak (marinara, Italian sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, and caramelized onions), and the Static Peak (BBQ sauce, chicken, smoked Gouda, and red onions), among others. It’s hard to go wrong with the artichoke dip appetizer (artichokes baked with Asiago cheese and served with pita bread). There is no fee to ski, but entrance to GTNP is $10, lunch starts at $9, 12170 Dornans Rd., Moose, dornans.com