*Photo Credit: Jessica Cook
Continuation of The Chautauqua Chronicles Part 1: Origins
Heading back on the road, the wintry weather had turned over to snow by this point in the evening and this is how it remained for the weekend. It dumped for the next two days. Talk about a stroke of luck and one that made our trip even more memorable. The ride from Pine Junction Tavern to Peek 'n Peak Resort was short. Only about five miles away, we got there quickly rolling up to the glare of the lights on the slopes that were illuminating the entire mountain area.
Medieval by Design
"Looks Medieval" I instantly commented as I got my first glimpse of the Inn at the Peak where we were staying that evening. Turns out I was spot on (I guess that history teacher degree is worth something after all). Apparently the Medieval theme is what the founders created back when the resort opened and they have been all in ever since. To say the place is Medieval is not to say the resort looks dated. It is merely the decor. The Inn at Peek n Peak is quite nice. Housing an indoor pool, spa, breakfast cafe and Bistro 210, one of their primary apres ski bars, it served as a more than accommodating home base for our time there.
Did We Just Become Best Friends?
Jessica, our host at PK2 clearly knew the way to my heart. We walked into the rooms to a welcome gift of chocolate covered pretzels, a ridiculously tasty snack mix with chocolate covered marshmallows and craft beers. Did we just become best friends?
Jessica met us the next morning for breakfast and filled us in on resort life while I sucked down my Starbucks coffee and chowed down on my breakfast burrito. Apparently, not a true menu item, we had to ask for this secret dish and they were more than willing to oblige. Eggs, bacon, cheese, and hash browns that they hit on the griddle to crisp before rolling it up in a nice little package...score, ski bum breakfast fuel at its finest. Jessica kept our tour brief knowing full well that with the snow coming down at a solid pace we really wanted to get out there as early as possible. And, we did.
Our other host for the day, Heather (equally as awesome) was caught on the roads, which were quite bad, so we hooked up with Chris, Jessica's husband who I am fairly certain was my long lost brother. Chatting about beers from the region and exchanging smoked BBQ recipes he showed us around until Heather joined us just a short while later.
Not Exactly Big Mountain Skiing but All About Après
At only 400 feet of vertical, Peek n Peak isn't what you would call big mountain skiing. This, however, doesn't seem to matter much to the regulars. The terrain there is fun, especially the park and apparently, from what I gathered, people are more there for the après ski scene.Talk about my kind of place! The three primary bars are spread evenly across the 26 trails that skiers and riders use are their primary routes to get to each one. Moving from bar to bar with a few runs in between is the exact experience we were treated to. Lapping the Peak early with Heather and Chris we soon stopped to meet back up with Jessica for our first frosty bevvie around 11 at the Sugar Shack.
Après Ski Kicks off Early at The Sugar Shack
The Sugar Shack, home to The Sports Bar was a fun little spot. With wall to wall and ceiling to floor windows, It offered great views of my favorite trail there, a blue with some nice contour called Finsbury Field. I could see my wife and I chilling there over some beers, watching our daughters lap that trail regularly until they decided to come in and play in the arcade downstairs. It's definitely our kind of place.
The bar began to fill in nicely at the time we were there. Apparently early après is the trend and one that we were down with given our tight schedule for the day. With not enough time to order one of the trademark pizzas they are known for, I opted for the resorts signature beer, Peek's Shred Ale brewed by Erie Brewing Company. A red ale that was well balanced with a touch of caramel sweetness up front and a hoppy finish, I found it super crushable and a worthy ski beer.
The Sports Bar was a sweet spot that apparently gets pretty rowdy on the weekends with their rocking live music scene. In fact, all three Peek n Peak bars have live music on the weekends where, as I mentioned earlier, people just chill out and drink until they decide to ski to the next bar. Trying to get the full experience, we headed out, clicked back into our skis and began making our way over to our next stop, The Retreat. The snow had picked up by the time we came out and I love big dumps, so we quickly made a few turns in the terrain park prior to heading in for beer number two.
Going Retro at Peek n Peak's The Retreat
The Retreat is retro to say the least, a definite time warp that will have you reminiscing about the 70's. According to Heather though, this "stuck in time" mantra is something that the regulars own and are proud of. "The guy with the mullet, yeah he's had that since it was cool three decades ago and has no plan of getting rid of it," she said. I love hearing this though because it is the type of culture that is starting to disappear at resorts around the country. But at Pk2 it's alive and well and shows no sign of dying. The Retreat is an excellent example of this and I hope it never changes.
Ordering up a Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale, I sipped this local fave enjoying the roasty sweetness of the malts that played well with the hops. Sipped that is until the shotski came out. The only debate was what spirit we were going to fill the ultimate friend making vessel up with. One, two, three...shotski! Down the hatch as we joked with Heather about her fortuitous day at the office.
Sending It Into Our Craft Beer Tasting at Bistro 210
Time was moving far to fast but we had to be at our next stop and by that I mean bar, for our 1:30 pm craft beer tasting and pairing. Hustling out and hurling full send back to Bistro 210 we were so bummed to have to come in from playing in the snow that continued to fall. Ugh. It's a tough life but someone had to tasted the beers and eat the food that they were preparing for us.
Named after the number of inches of snow they receive annually, Bistro 210 is definitely the most upscale of all three resort bars. Don't let that fool you into thinking it's pretentious though. None of that exists at there. It's as unaffected as you can get. Especially our new friends at Peek n Peak who continued to make their way to my heart with a variety of craft beer offerings and tasty food. Loaded tots, artichoke dip, Bavarian pretzels and a charcuterie platter that was to die for highlighted the table in front of me. Talk about speaking my language. The diversity of après ski snacks was absolutely delicious and I truly enjoyed tasting the variety of craft beers from around the region.
Drink Local, Eat Local and Enjoy the Experience
*Photo Credit: Jessica Cook
Drinking local is kind of my thing. I always like to check out what the palates of others around the country are. Presented with a diverse array of beers from Southern Tier and Ellicottville Brewing, I absolutely got a great feel for that. There were some unique ones, like the Southern Tier Cinnamon Roll and others that I would just drink all day, like the aforementioned Peek Shred Ale.
*Photo Credit: Jessica Cook
What really had me pumped was the food. I'm such a sucker for comfort food, especially après ski and DAMN did they nail this one. The loaded tots and fresh made artichoke dip was to die for however, the true Italian in me kept reaching for the charcuterie board. Filled with local meats and cheeses, it was heavenly.
Chatting with their staff who joined us for this feast, I got a great feel for just how awesome Peek n Peak Resort is. The people are just so nice (a common theme throughout the trip) and they don't overstate what they have but rather let it speak for itself. They seem to know that the skiing there is what it is and that it's all about the totality of the experience that they create that makes Peek n Peak special. So special that I was sad to leave. But there was wine and beer to taste and I did not want to Peek n Peak too early.
Too be continued...