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Smugglers’ Notch Ski Bars

Words // Darcy and Dale Cahill
Photos // Craig Thomas

After the last run of the day, it’s time to enjoy a warm, noisy bar and a cold beer with a bunch of other tired skiers. The Austrians started après ski long ago in the Alps and it has spread to ski areas all over the world. Every skier has their favorite après ski bar whether they are in Aspen, Mont Tremblant, or the quaint little town of Jeffersonville, Vermont where skiers from Vermont’s third largest ski resort, Smugglers’ Notch, gather at the end of a ski day.

Cold-beer-on-the-Porch.-copyThe ski bar closest to the action is the Black Bear Tavern located downstairs at the Sterling Mountain Base Lodge.  Never dependent on ski conditions or temperature, the atmosphere in the Black Bear is constant. From when they open their doors at ten o’clock till closing they are what après ski is all about. Five days a week you will be greeted by William Fletcher, or “Fletch” as he is known to the locals. Fletch has been bartending at The Black Bear for 23 years. He is also gifted and may well be the most skilled and graceful skier on the mountain. Fletch is quick to serve a cold Long Trail or a hot chocolate with a smile. Resort guests and locals alike count on seeing him behind the bar each year. One year Fletch took a guest skiing, providing him with skis, boots, poles, gloves, helmet, and lift ticket. After a full day, their last run was a freshly groomed trail called FIS, the guest told Fletch it had been the best day of his life. The Black Bear revs up its’ après ski buzz with live music, drink specials, trivia contests and more. They serve food and offer a heated glassed-in porch where you can sit and watch skier’s bombing down the Madonna lift-line.

Also at Smugglers’ Notch Resort, downstairs at the Hearth and Candle, there is a cozy nook with only six stools at the bar, where locals gather to enjoy five star cuisine and catch up with Scott Thompson, the Hearth’s bartender. Scott is also an excellent downhill skier but favors alpine touring and the back country.  Owner Akash Parikh’s special infused vodkas, which he makes himself, make wonderful mixed drinks and shots.  A favorite of ours is the pepper infused shot served cold with a dill pickle slice or a pickled fiddle head. It never fails to warm from the inside out. Just what the doctor ordered after a cold day on the slopes. The Hearth offers an extensive wine selection and a knowledgeable staff that can help you choose a great pairing of wine with food or your mood.

Just across the road from Smugglers’ Notch Resort is the Stella Notte Restaurant which serves up great Italian food. Owners Jamie and Kirsten also offer great pizza and drink specials in the lounge downstairs.

Less than five hundred yards down the road is The Brewster River Pub and Brewery where new owners Billy and Heather Mossinghoff have turned the old Brewski into a Brew Pub where ski school instructors, Ski Patrols, and lifties rub shoulders with tourists and locals alike. This has been a hard core ski bar since the 70s. The Brewster is also one of the few bars to offer live music every weekend. They hire local bands and are open late into the night.  Après Ski at The Brewster can turn into a full night of drinks, dinner, and dancing.

New on the block is El Dorado’s Tavern where owner Jack Foley intends to spice up the local ski crowd with the taste of Mexico. Boasting a full bar with margarita specials, he hopes that generous portions and a late night menu will appeal to his guests.

Further down 108 in the town of Jeffersonville is another ski bar that has catered to the Smugglers’ Notch ski and snowboard crowd since the 70s. The Jeffersonville Tavern is where Jeff Minton, longtime proprietor and avid skier, holds court. It is rare not to see him moving around the restaurant, saying hi to friends, and making sure the food is to everyone’s liking. The Tavern is “where it’s at” from four to eight. Try the Burger in a Bowl and a cold Fiddlehead IPA for the perfect après ski combination.

Jeffersonville’s limited number of bars ensures that a lively crowd of locals, tourists, resort employees, and other out of towners will all be enjoying their evening together. Pool and foosball tables, darts, Jenga, trivia contests, and live music provide something for everybody every night of the week. Every Friday there is a locals’ race and après race party. Each of the local bars hosts the race party in turn. Free food and drink specials and prizes make up an evening that everyone enjoys.

Have fun, ski safe, and drink responsibly!