My first trip into the backcountry involved a full day of breaking trail in knee-deep powder after an early season storm dumped feet of snow in the mountains. My partner and I were rewarded with excellent views, the finest champagne powder, and complete exhaustion upon returning to our car. Somewhere on our way back out of the woods, I realized I knew exactly what I wanted for dinner: a big, juicy burger. Wrapped in bacon. With cheese.
Whether spending the day in Vermont’s backcountry or gliding down my favorite groomers, many of us cap off a well-spent day in the mountains with a burger, usually along with good friends and a local brew or two. In anticipation of many great winter adventures to come this season, here is a list of some of the most popular and creative après-ski burgers around Vermont, organized by proximity to a ski hill. Happy trails and bon appétit!
Stratton and Bromley Mountains: The Tavern at the Red Fox Inn
Winhall Hollow Road, Bondville, (802) 297-2488, www.redfoxinn.com
This is a traditional Irish pub: think beer, joviality, and great pub fare. The burger is a classic, although with the Vermont twist of local, farm-fresh beef. It comes with lettuce, tomato, onion, and your choice of cheese, on a delectable Portuguese muffin—plus fries. A great variety of à la carte sides allows you to create a personalized burger too—apple-smoked bacon, blue cheese, sautéed mushrooms, roasted peppers, and more. You can also catch live music here on most weekends.
Mount Snow: 1846 Tavern and Restaurant at the West Dover Inn
108 Route 100, West Dover, (802) 464-5207, www.mountsnowrestaurant.com
This tavern offers perhaps the best burger deal in all of Vermont: On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings, you can get a burger and a beer for 10 bucks. The 1846 Tavern Burger is 10 ounces of angus beef on a soft kaiser roll with Vermont cheddar and homemade fries or onion rings. There is also a low-carb burger option (no bun, and salad instead of fries). Do note that the doors open for dinner at 5 p.m. and lunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays only. There’s also live music toward the end of the week and a magician on Saturdays!
Killington and Pico: McGrath’s Irish Pub at the Inn at Long Trail
709 Route 4, Sherburne Pass, Killington, (802) 325-2540, www.innatlongtrail.com
This out-of-the-way Irish pub is a favorite stop whenever I’m in the area. Steeped in Long Trail history, there is an obvious mountain culture at the inn and tavern, including a gigantic boulder that serves as a wall in the pub. The bacon blue cheese burger pleases every time. But for an unusual twist, try the Paddy Melt: topped with Guinness-braised mushrooms and Guinness-mushroom catsup. Both burgers come with lettuce and tomato and are served with a pickle and fries. There are also Irish classics on the menu like Guinness stew, a Reuben, and shepherd’s pie. They also serve Nature Burgers. Live Irish music on most weekends adds to the fun pub atmosphere.
Mad River Valley: The Big Picture Theater & Café
48 Carroll Road, Waitsfield, (802) 496-8994, www.bigpicturetheater.info
This menu features lots of local ingredients and creative combinations. There are two delicious burger options here: the Big Picture Burger is piled high with blue cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and onions; the Bacon Bourbon Burger speaks for itself and is amazing. Both come with Madhouse Munchies potato chips and a salad, or order corn on the cob, potato salad, or citrus-infused beets. There are also several delicious vegetarian options like salads, spanakopita, and a daily veggie special. While you’re there, check out a movie, see some live entertainment, or enjoy a drink on the couch.
Bolton Valley: The Reservoir Restaurant and Tap Room
1 South Main Street, Waterbury, (802) 244-7827 www.waterburyreservoir.com
The Res, as it’s known among locals, is the perfect après-ski spot. It’s spacious, all of the food is very good, and this place might just hold the bragging rights for most local beers on tap. The Truck Driver Burger is a legend: one full pound of beef topped with everything a burger should have on it, including an American flag. For smaller appetites, there are several other burger options: half-pound beef, turkey, salmon, or veggie. There is also a wild game burger on the menu!
Stowe Mountain and Spruce Peak: Rusty Nail Bar & Grille
1190 Mountain Road, Stowe, (802) 253-6245, www.rustynailbar.com
New management has transformed this popular après-ski locale into a foodie destination, but don’t be fooled by high-class menu options like White Truffle Popcorn, Artisanal Cheese Board, and Duck Fat Fries. There are four burgers on the menu: the Classic (bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and onion), the Surf & Turf (lobster tail, fennel, and aioli), the Rusty Nail (pastrami, Swiss, and maple brown mustard), and the Black & Blue (blackening spices, blue cheese, bacon, and an onion ring), plus equally creative turkey and veggie burgers. The atmosphere of this place can’t be beat, and there is frequently live entertainment. Exceptional food and live music? This is a great après-ski joint.
Smugglers’ Notch: The Brewster River Pub & Grill
4087 VT Route 108 S, Jeffersonville, (802) 644-6636
This popular pub, formerly the Brewski, in Jeffersonville has been transformed by new owners. Their youthful energy and creative flavors are apparent in the atmosphere, frequent live music, and on the menu. The burger is no standard: The Godzilla comes with bacon, pastrami, pork roll, cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, pulled pork, a fried egg, lettuce, tomato, and onion. It’s served with hand-cut fries and a pickle. The owners, however, have become displeased with how easily patrons can eat this monster, so look for a sequel: The Gigantor. To make room for this protein fest, ski over the Notch to get there!
Burke Mountain: Tamarack Grill
223 Sherburne Lodge Road, East Burke, (802) 626-7390, www.skiburke.com
There are several standard beef burgers on this menu, but the one that stands out for me is the Beefalo Burger. If you have not yet tried beefalo, now is your chance, and it is well worth it. Featuring beefalo from a local farm in Barton, this burger comes with lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheese; served with regular or sweet potato fries. Other burger toppings available include blue cheese, sautéed veggies, barbeque sauce, bacon, and smoked mozzarella; and a veggie patty can be substituted in any of these creations.
Jay Peak: The Snow Shoe Lodge & Pub
13 Main Street, Montgomery, (802) 326-4456, www.snowshoelodgeandpubvt.com
This is the sort of après-ski joint that you hate to include in an article about the best après-ski joints. Not because it’s not great, but because you don’t want everyone to know about it and crowd you out! Still, it’s an excellent place—and far enough out of the way for most—so it’s my top pick for this part of Vermont. There are several burgers, and a local favorite is the Black & Blue (blackening spices and blue cheese). But my favorite (and the most popular) is the Snow Shoe. It comes with bacon, pineapple, blue cheese, and cheddar—wow! All of the burgers also come with lettuce, tomato, onion, a pickle, and fries. The bar includes many local brews and everyone there, both staff, patrons, and the resident dog, are very friendly. There’s also cheap lodging upstairs, if you’re looking for a place to crash.