By Ellise Pierce

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Ski season isn’t all about the powder. Sure, I like a day on the moguls as much as any other Type A skier, but it’s the other stuff — the big dinners, the lunches, the après-ski activities — I like most. So call me shallow if you want. I’ll be in the spa or in the bar.

But which bar and what spa treatment? And where to dine aprés that? Here’s a roundup of some of the newest off-mountain things to do, experience, eat and drink this ski season. Bottoms up!

Santa Fe and Taos, N.M.

Santa Fe’s most historic hotel, La Fonda on the Plaza, has just undergone a face-lift, giving a new look to its 164 guest rooms and suites. Actually, the makeover is a throwback with original painted concrete floors, folk art headboards and hand-carved furniture by local artists, some dating to 1922, when the hotel was built.

The Bell Tower Bar has had a makeover, too, with more seating and a kitchen, in case you’re in the mood for, say, a few green chile cheeseburger sliders. The fifth-story Bell Tower overlooks the city and faces west for a perfect sunset view. We suggest the bell ringer margarita, with Tanteo jalapeno-infused tequila, jalapeno juice, Patron Citronge liqueur, and lemon and lime juice. It’s served in a salted-rim glass with a slice of jalapeno. Yowza.


About an hour from Santa Fe or Taos, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa is celebrating its 145th year with a special “Ski & Soak” package for lift ticket and season pass holders from any New Mexico ski resort. For $14.40 weekdays and $22.40 weekends and holidays (that’s 20 percent off), skiers can dip into any one of Ojo’s 10 geothermal mineral pools — filled with lithium, iron, soda and arsenic — that come steaming to the surface at 100,000 gallons per day.

Plus, there’s the messy, must-do mud pool, along with steam and sauna. Deemed sacred by the northern New Mexico American Indians, Ojo is one of the oldest natural health resorts in the U.S., with a range of American Indian and East Indian-inspired therapies. Blue corn and prickly pear salt scrub, anyone?


Jackson Hole, Wyo.

It’s still Western, but with a new, contemporary aesthetic. Spur Restaurant & Bar at Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa has a whole new look, with recycled corral board wood, burnished steel and antiqued mirrors, and table tops made from reclaimed Douglas fir beams.

The menu — “elevated mountain cuisine” — includes signature buffalo short ribs braised in Zonker Stout and dry-aged buffalo sliders by executive chef Kevin Humphreys, who likes to source his kitchen locally around a seasonal menu.

But it’s not all Billy Buffalo here. There’s also a $4 menu that includes croquettas made with Teton Valley Creamery Yellowstone cheese and speck, elk-stuffed peppers, and Devils on Horseback, dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in bacon. At that price, you can order all three.


For those with over-the-top expectations of a ski vacation, enter the Clear Creek Group’s Elite Winter Escape ($5,800 per person). Clear Creek Group has more than 50 luxury properties in the area, including some with bowling alleys and even recording studios, should you want to channel your inner rock star.

Interested? Pack light. On the first day, you’re fitted for a pair of custom handmade wood-core powder skis. On the second day, there’s an in-home tasting from Wyoming Whiskey, a smooth local bourbon whiskey that tastes of vanilla, caramel and sweet fruit. Day three: Early-access backcountry skiing with a private guide. Four: Pack your camera for an exclusive snowmobile tour in the Gros Ventre Wilderness and snap bighorn sheep, elk, moose and deer.

Afterward, take in an around-the-fire beer tasting by a local expert from Snake River Brewing, which still brews every batch by hand — and mixes it up with a canoe paddle.

Five: Hit the slopes. Then dream of doing it all again.

Info: www.theclearcreek

Another option: Start off with evening hors d’oeuvres and cocktails at Four Seasons Base Camp, where you’ll meet other guests and instructors as part of the new Haute Route experience at Four Seasons Resort and Residences at Jackson Hole ($1,399 per night, based on a five-night stay).

Sure, there’s plenty of skiing and hands-on instruction for skiers of all levels, but there’s also lots of stuff to do afterward: a mixology session, where guests learn how to make winter cocktails such as millionaire’s mochachino and pale mary; a cooking class where guests learn how to slow-smoke elk loin and braise bison short ribs with sarsaparilla; and dinner at Couloir Restaurant, which, located at the summit of Bridger Gondola at 9,095 feet, is an adventure in itself.

Tip: Chef Wes Hamilton’s four-course locavore menu, including house-smoked buffalo tenderloin (brined for 24 hours in port and red wine, then roasted over applewood chips), is a house favorite.


Vail, Colo.

Because a day on the slopes can work up an appetite, Four Seasons Resort & Residences Vail has introduced the TJW (That’s Just Wrong) Dog, a hot dog made of 100 percent Kobe beef, with house-cured applewood bacon, blue cheese coleslaw and house-made ketchup on a locally baked soft roll. Wrong? What’s wrong about that?

For those who can’t leave the mountain for a minute, not even to eat, they can “ski with the chef,” who’ll ski along, then set up an outdoor grill for lunch. We’re talking dry-aged Colorado lamb sliders, wagyu beef over white cheddar mac and cheese with black pepper relish, and elk bratwurst. Sounds a little better than that granola bar in your pocket, doesn’t it?


Yes, yes, you can ski in and out of Vail’s newest boutique hotel, The Sebastian Vail, but we love its Bloom Spa, where two new après-ski therapies are on the menu this season: the Bio-Freeze, which will help ease tired and painful ski-weary muscles, and the Hot & Cold Stone Massage, which uses heated stones plus essential oils to warm muscles and cold ones to improve blood flow.

All of which is designed to ready you for another day filled with steep, satisfying runs on the mountain.

Got kids? The resort now has a Tykes Room, where toddlers to 4-year-olds can draw on the chalkboard wall, play karaoke or settle in for a movie with their parents on movie night, complete with popcorn, sugary drinks and Milk Duds.

Would a movie be a movie without a sugar rush? We think not.


Beaver Creek, Colo.

Because kids need something to do après-skiing, too, so parents can relax, this year Park Hyatt Beaver Creek is offering a “s’mores nanny,” who takes the kids to the s’mores happy hour while the big people go to the slopeside bar. 8100 Mountainside Bar & Grill (it overlooks the Beaver Creek slopes) offers a beer float made with high-end, locally sourced Colorado craft beer and house-made ice cream.

Also new this year is Allegria Spa’s Slumber Massage, a Swedish massage plus soothing lavender oils and hot stones to calm the body, with sleep-inducing background sounds to create brain wave patterns that support deep sleep.

The idea is to coax guests into a 20-minute nap, with a scalp or foot massage at the end of 80 relaxing minutes.

Info: http://beavercreek.

OK, so you know about the hot toddy that you drink, right? (That’s 2 ounces of Hennessy VSOP and 3 ounces of hot Earl Grey tea in a mug with 1 tablespoon honey, a cinnamon stick, a lemon wedge and 4 cloves — courtesy of Spago by Wolfgang Puck at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch.)

Now The Bachelor Gulch Spa has introduced a Hot Toddy for the Body, which sounds yummy enough to eat. A scrub with almond oil, jojoba beads and shea butter plus cinnamon and nutmeg is massaged into the skin. My idea: to have both, at the same time. Talk about sweet dreams.


Aspen, Colo.

Hotel Jerome, the iconic Aspen landmark that opened in 1889, is brushing off the dust from its 4½-month renovation and has a new, very vintage look that includes accents such as American Indian rug-patterned tilework floora, balustrades and vintage pieces such as the legendary Chippendale chinoiserie bar in the famed J-Bar.

New, too, is a private bath service. A personal therapist comes to your room and draws a bath according to your whim and wishes. Which of three therapeutic bath salts will you choose? Or will you simply go with argan oil? Nibble on fruit and sip champagne as you soak.

Another après-ski option is Hotel Jerome’s new Living Room, an open, comfy space for relaxing at the end of a hard day on the mountain. Order up something from the hot chocolate menu, such as a mug of Bellagio hot chocolate with house-made raspberry marshmallows. Or for something stronger, J-Bar’s famous Aspen crud cocktail: French vanilla ice cream and three shots of bourbon. You can nibble on Milagro Ranch beef sliders or share a Mason jar stuffed with smoked trout with egg and fennel mustard.

Or just forget all of that and head straight to dessert. Pastry chef Aleece Gallagher’s famous seven-layer chocolate cake comprises four layers of cake, two custard layers and a layer of salted caramel. Definitely not meant for sharing.

Info: http://hoteljerome.

Park City, Utah

If a morning and afternoon’s worth of skiing isn’t enough to chill your bones, the coolest après-ski watering hole will definitely shiver your timbers. Waldorf Astoria Park City’s Powder Champagne Ice Lounge is a 14-foot bar made of carved ice, with sculpted ice furniture.

So have a seat and grab a fur blanket. Be sure and order up a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, which you may garnish with raspberries, strawberries, olives and juices. Or ask for the Ice Bar’s new winter cocktail, maple spiced Manhattan — High West Rendevous Rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, maple syrup and spices. Clink.