The 2020-2021 ski season has been very different. Oh sure, the skiing and snowboarding itself hasn't changed. The pure bliss of carving turns down the mountain remains the same no matter what the situation. What is weird though is the inability to congregate and socialize with others like in the past. Socialization is a huge part of the ski and snowboard experience. To not to be able to stop and have a beer without a reservation or without purchasing food (the norm in NY state) has made this challenging to say the least. Weird as it may be, we skiers and snowboarders are persistent and always find a way.
Often it's when situations become most difficult that new and innovative ideas are born. In this case, the limited access to on-mountain dining has seen the resurgence of tailgating at ski resorts. Tailgating at a ski resort is neither new nor innovative, but it is experiencing quite a renaissance this winter thanks to the Covid pandemic. For the All About Après Ski Team, there have only be a couple times this ski season that we have not had some sort of end of the ski day tailgate session. Everybody's doing it and we've been prepared for these opportunities all winter. This is was especially true this past weekend where with the help of our friends at Camp Chef, we elevated our après-ski tailgate session to new heights ultimately resulting in happiness and great memories for all.
Camp Chef Provides an Amazing Tailgate Setup
Camp Chef sent us quite a setup for this tailgating extravaganza. When the boxes kept piling up on my steps two weeks ago, I knew we were in for quite an experience. Armed with their Versatop Grill that included a flat top and bbq grill box, the Deluxe Outdoor Oven, the Rainier 2X Combo and Sherpa Camp Table, I knew that our menu needed to go beyond chips and some beers. They even threw in this sweet Coffee Set suggesting that we should make this a full day affair. That we did!
When it comes to a good tailgating session, the key is in the prep work. In the week leading up to the event I wrote out the menu, shopped for, prepped and froze as much food as I could ahead of time. Doing so makes the day of so much easier. Once you're there, it's a matter of setting up and executing.
Braving the Single Digit Temps
Peaking ahead at the forecast, the weather initially looked favorable with temps right around 30 degrees. However, as the day approached, that all changed. The forecasted temps plunged to a low of 7 and and a high of 20. You could just hear my poor exposed cooking hands screaming...OUCH!
Unfortunately, that's exactly where the temperatures hovered. Actually, I don't even think it got above 17. This is not exactly conducive to cooking for long hours with no gloves on. Good thing it was a bluebird day. At least the sun warmed it up a little bit (and I do mean a little).
Nonetheless, despite the frigidity of the situation, a few of us braved the early morning single digit temps. We headed up to the mountain at 7 with the Camp Chef gear and food in tow and set up for what was going to be a really cold but fun experience.
Breakfast Burritos and Coffee Surf are a Hit
The day's menu kicked off with my "Big Ass Breakfast Burritos and coffee. Stuffed with my own bangers hash creation, bacon, eggs and cheese these are the ultimate hangover cure for when you hit it a little too hard on a Friday or Saturday night. Having pre-made the bangers hash and bacon, it was a matter of heating those up, cooking the eggs and assembling.
The griddle on Versatop came in quite handy. The hash spread out over the flat top formed a nice crust on the bottom. This added a layer of texture that, along with the crispy bacon, was an excellent contrast to the soft, cheesy, creamy eggs. The burritos were a hit! In fact, some even said that it was their favorite meal of the day. A bit surprising given what was to come but I get it. Hangover breakfasts have a way of doing this.
The coffee, complements of my boys at Coffee Surf and available at a 10% discount using my code "apresski10," was also excellent. Their quality at a convenient price is unrivaled. It's an adventure in every cup and the ideal pick-me-up for your day on the mountains. Using the burner on top of the Outdoor oven and the coffee pot that Camp Chef sent me I had the coffee ready in no time. It was all so easy to use and makes one hell of a cup of coffee.
You Can't Have a Tailgate Without Cracking a Few Zero Gravity Beers
It would not be a true après-ski tailgate party if we didn't ski at least a little bit. So we headed out onto the mountain to earn our après. Getting in plenty of turns over the next few hours, we decided to cut the ski day a bit short to take advantage of the day's warmest temps between the hours of two and three (a balmy 17 degrees and sunny). Quickly setting up, it was back to cooking up more of this delicious comfort food.
The crew and I started cracking into the beers that were provided by Zero Gravity Brewing. Tailgate and après-ski without beer is blasphemy. Zero Gravity who we featured on episode 8 of Beyond the Après hooked us up with a healthy amount of their core four offerings which included the Madonna Double IPA, Conehead IPA, Little Wolf Pale Ale and Green State Lager. Most of these craft beers are season ticket holders in my fridge at home thanks to their drinkability. Even Madonna is scary drinkable despite being a Double IPA. Whether you are tailgating après-ski or not, any one of these four (or all of them) are worth picking up. You won't be disappointed.
Burgers and Chicken and Steak...Oh My
Madonna in hand, I kicked the Versatop flat top back into action. It was time to make sliders. There is something about burgers on a griddle. I just love the outer crust that the sear produces. It locks in the juicy flavor while adding that oh-so-important crunchy layer of texture on the outside. Plain, topped with cheese and pickles or the bacon jam that I premade, these were the bite sized bits of joy we needed to get us rolling for what was to come.
Switching out the flat top for the grill box was super simple. In a matter of seconds I was back up and running and ready to cook some more. Next up, the smoked chicken and waffle sandwiches. Marinated in a maple syrup sriracha mixture and pre-smoked, it was a matter of grilling the chicken in order to bring it back to temp. The buckwheat waffles which I made ahead of time using a winter ale toasted back up nicely on the grill as well.
These were a hit! The smoked chicken and buckwheat waffles complemented each other nicely and the maple sriracha aioli that is was topped with took the sandwich to new heights. Just ask the snowboarders who happened to roll up at the right time and were the beneficiaries of the extras. They couldn't have been more appreciative of the post shred comfort food.
The final leg of this après-ski tailgating journey was the open faced flank steak sandwiches. Marinating for 24 hours in a mixture of brown mustard, soy and garlic, it was primed and ready to be kissed by the hot grates of the Camp Chef grill. Hitting it first on either side to sear in the juices, then closing the lid and finishing this hunk of beef in an oven-like format was the way to go. The closed lid kept the grill up to temp. As the sun fell lower in the sky and the outdoor temperature began to drop with it, having the ability to cook this way was a huge necessity.
After spending about 20 minutes covered, the steak was a perfect medium rare. Served over Texas Toast, it was consumed in a heartbeat. The kids were savages! They couldn't keep their hands off of the steak, often diving in before the meat would even hit the bread. The adults were also all in. They just kept saying, "this is soooo good."
Cold Temps Humbled By Beer, Comfort Food and Friends
Comfort food, beers and friends equals happiness. Were the conditions ideal for a post ski tailgate session? Eh, probably not. It's always a little better when it's warmer. However, when you have grilling equipment that performs as good as what Camp Chef sent us and some of your favorite beers from Zero Gravity, you forget about your surroundings. We were just there having a good old time. Gathering like this over food and drink is how people connect. The late Anthony Bourdain once said, "I think food, culture, people and landscape are all absolutely inseparable."
It's so true. When we revisit this ski season. We'll look back on this day as one of our favorites. We'll recount how it was cold as all hell. But what we'll remember more is how much fun we had sharing good food, good beer and good times in that particular setting. That's the culture of skiing. That's the beauty of an après-ski tailgate party.
A Special Thanks
This epic tailgate party was made possible first and foremost by Camp Chef. Thanks for your willingness to support our brand and the top notch cooking equipment. Without all of that, this day would not have happened.
I also like to thank Zero Gravity Brewery and Coffee Surf for their additional contributions. Going from good coffee right to good beer results in the best days and this was certainly the case.