Tales from the Lift Line IV: Vittels

Story and Photos by Mary-Colleen Jenkins

I could have made a New Year’s resolution that we’d become the family that packs cut-up fruit, artisanal sandwiches on home-baked bread and tubs brimming with quinoa salad for lunch on the weekend, but the truth of our ski food lies in two realms: the easy and the practical.

What will get us out the door in the shortest time possible? What is transportable? And, most importantly, what will we actually eat on a day in the mountains? (Historical note: not fruit and not salads.)


No one wants to eat a fuel-building breakfast at dawn on the weekend. Yes, of course breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but knowledge doesn’t make it any easier to choke down a meal when you’re only half awake.

Our solution to the early morning food dilemma is breakfast sandwiches. If I’m organized, I pre-build breakfast sandwiches the night before and throw them in the Panini press while the car is being loaded the next morning. (It took months of “research” at coffee shops around Seattle to develop Best Sandwich Practices.) Wrapped in foil, they stay warm, and we can eat them at any point in the ride up. I’m rarely that organized, though, so Michael, the speedy cook, usually makes and wraps “Mike MockMuffin” sandwiches right before we get into the car.

The Ultimate Ski Breakfast happens only on the rare days that we don’t have to rush out the door because we are staying close to the ski area. Huevos rancheros is the perfect combination of high-powered ingredients: corn tortillas laden with black beans, fried eggs, salsa and queso fresco. We can ski all day after a breakfast like that.


Lunch is a drag to make ahead of time, but worth the effort. The type of lunch we make and bring depends on where the parking lot is in relation to the lifts. If it’s a trek from the car to the lift, we pack a picnic and take it with us. If we can ski or walk right to the car, then we tailgate.

Better a picnic lunch in the cold than fighting crowds in the lodge. Lodge food is expensive and the menus are limited for our mostly vegetarian family. We save eating in the lodge for wet weather days or days when the temps are super low and the wind is rough. On days like that, warm food and comfortable seats are well worth it.

Brown bag areas? I’d rather sit in a steamed-up car with a cold sandwich on a wet day. Brown bag areas, located in the bowels of the lodge, are designed to be too small to accommodate many people. It can get ugly in Brown Bag Land when squatters mark their territory with coolers and bags so no one else can sit at the tables while they’re off skiing. I think it’s a sign of the inherent goodness of human nature that while tempers sometimes flare because of barricaded tables, I’ve never seen anyone sweep the squatters’ possessions to the floor in protest.

Tailgating on temperate, sunny days when our friends are coming back for lunch at the same time we are make for the best in lunch experiences. We set out the folding chairs and tables, fire up the camp stoves and cook whatever we want, from chili to grilled cheese to salmon burgers. (Some of the more gourmet folks go all out: we’ve sampled grilled oysters, ceviche and fish tacos on warm spring days.) We meander from car to car, checking out what other people are making, comparing notes on conditions, telling tales.


Thank goodness skiing burns a lot of calories because, frankly, the most appealing snacks are not the healthy ones. Yes, trail mix is good and so are power bars. They handle being smashed up in backpacks quite well. We, however, prefer chocolate and foods from the salty, crunchy snack continuum, which runs from pure guilt (e.g., Cheetos) to a bit less guilt (e.g., pretzels).

Occasionally we have what the kids call “milkshake days.” Those are days on which we’ve skied so hard and had such a good time that we just know we deserve a real treat. On milkshake days we take a short detour from Alpental through North Bend on our way home and stop by the refreshingly retro, no-frills Scott’s Dairy Freeze* for the best milkshakes around.

Sometimes an order of fries mysteriously finds its way into the car, too. But, I don’t bother to think much about the whys and wherefores of that.

(*Scott’s does not have a website—it’s a vintage burger joint and doesn’t need one. Just head there on a whim because it’s all the more sweet that way: 234 East North Bend Way, North Bend, WA 98045.)

Winter weekends call Mary-Colleen out to the snow, but during the week she can be found warm and dry and working with words. Jenkins is a freelance editor, writing coach and writer of two blogs, Too Fond of Books (toofondofbooks-sea.blogspot.com) and Along the Branches (www.alongthebranches.wordpress.com). You can find her on Twitter at @EmceeReads

Catch up with all the previous posts of “Tales from the Lift Line” below.


>> I. Waiting for Winter

>> II. Dorothy and Oz

>> III. The Poles You Save May Be Your Own

>> IV. Vittels

>> V. What kind of parents let their kids…?

>> VI. Olympians

>> VII. Emergence

>> VIII. Nickels and Dimes

>> IX. Nickels and Dimes Part II

>> X. Letting Them Run



>> I. The Beginning

>> II. When Seeing is Believing

>> III. Expeditionary Forces

>> IV. Velocity

>> V. Pack Rat

>> VI. Dude

>> VII. Expectations

>> VIII. Don’t Cry in the Trees

>> IX. The Sounds of Silence

>> X. Known/Unknown

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