Thursday, February 29, 2024 Feb 29, 2024
43° F Dallas, TX

Colorado Ski Country Is the Other Dallas (Just With Snow)

Although our love is unrequited, we can't quit our favorite Rocky Mountain state. We talked with six Dallasites to find out why they keep returning for that perfect powder.
By |
Jonathan Zizzo

Toni Muñoz-Hunt’s Aspen/Snowmass

Model Behaviors founder Toni Muñoz-Hunt and her husband, FC Dallas president Dan Hunt, escape several times a year to their Aspen home with a pair of Yorkies and two young children. A New Mexico native, Toni says she prefers the Sangre de Cristos to the Rockies, but she and Dan have a deal. “Dan can pick Aspen if we go on an adventure once a year off the beaten path, somewhere new,” she says. “Because I’m like, man, we go to Aspen and we see everybody from Dallas.”

Powder Room: Toni and Dan hang with the kids at The French Room. Tom Ford Quilted Faux-Fur Puffer (Toni’s own), Erin Snow Zuma pant ($498), Bogner Lech-T jacket ($1,600).

❆ The scene: “You know, it’s really grown on me. The locals are super cool and laid-back. I think the whole vibe has probably changed from the ’80s and ’90s, and it’s just a little more earthy. It’s got a good music scene, and it obviously has a great intellectual scene with the Aspen Ideas Festival and Aspen Words. They bring in these amazing speakers and writers.”

❆ To ski or not to ski: “Dan isn’t a huge skier. He just recently had back surgery. I had two knee surgeries, so I’ll have to get a knee replacement if I tear anything else. So neither one of us skis very much, but we like the ski bum life. We like looking like we skied, and then going to the ski lodges and drinking hot cocoa.”

❆ The layered look: “What’s cool is, I think you can dress like New Mexico in Aspen. You know, kind of ranchy-boho. Good boots and hats are a must. But the weather changes all day long. So just bring layering pieces, ’cause that’s the key to looking cute in cold weather.”

❆ Kids in tow: “We go snowshoeing and hiking. You can put crampons on your hiking boots so you’ve got a good grip out there. And we have all of these apparatuses where you can take the kids on these little covered sleds, so you can hike and snowshoe up the mountain. We put the dogs in there, too.”

Toni’s Picks

Casa Tua. “It’s like going to Italy with the homemade spaghetti and noodles, and one of our closest friends runs the place. They usually have amazing music going on across the street at Belly Up Aspen, too.” 403 S. Galena St. 970-920-7277.

Pine Creek Cookhouse. “They have sleigh rides that they do out to the restaurant, which has the most beautiful view of the Maroon Bells. They use a lot of game, like elk and venison.” 12500 Castle Creek Rd. 970-925-1044.

CP Burger. “In the summer, CP Burger is kind of like a mini-golf. And in the winter, they turn it into an ice skating rink, so you can have burgers and watch the kids skate. It’s really cute.” 433 E. Durant Ave. 970-925-3056.

O2 Aspen. “They have yoga there. And the most amazing CBD massages. And not to worry, you don’t get high from it or anything. I hope not. I mean, who knows, I feel great after them.” 408 S. Mill St. 970-925-4002.

Pedialyte popsicles. “A lot of people aren’t prepared for the altitude. I’ve learned, because you cannot force kids to drink water or get enough liquids, that something they will take are the Pedialyte pops. They’re a lifesaver.”

The Little Nell. “When we travel, I like to have a kitchen so it feels like home. So the Residences at The Little Nell are a great place to stay. The atmosphere is so warm and cozy, and they have the best hot chocolate.” 501 E. Dean St. 855-420-9009.

Carley Seale’s Crested Butte

S’more fun: Johnny and Carley stock up on provisions at Royal Blue Grocery with sons Ernest and John Jr. Obermeyer Mach 9 jacket ($200), Obermeyer Allemande jacket ($150).

Carley Seale, owner of Favor the Kind on Henderson Avenue, has been going to Crested Butte with her family every year since she was a little kid. So when it came time for her to choose a location to expand her business, it was a no-brainer. She opened a second outpost of the clothing and gift boutique in the ski town in 2012, and launched Roam Fine Goods there in 2015. Now she spends 12 weeks out of the year on the mountain with her family. “It’s like a postcard,” she says. “And all my travel there is a business write-off.”

❆ The discovery. “My dad says he ‘discovered’ Crested Butte in the ’60s. When you go there, you do feel like you discovered it, because it is so quaint and small, and they haven’t ruined it with anything commercial. We had a ski condo, and every year we would leave as soon as the last Christmas present was unwrapped. I’ve never skied another mountain. There is just something about it.”

❆ The business. “When you travel, you want to take something with you. It doesn’t have to have ‘Crested Butte’ on it or even a mountain on it. But when I went shopping there, there wasn’t anything to take home. So that was my aha moment. As soon as I was able to sort out how I would manage a store 800 miles away, we put together a business plan that really works out great. Because it’s busy there when school is out, so we’re like the seasonal help.”

❆ The family. “I was skiing that mountain from a very young age. There are shuttles that go from town to the mountain, and you can put your kids on it. As a child, you are exposed to freedoms there that you aren’t anywhere else. It’s just safe. My kid gets himself from the condo to ski school with no supervision. Here, my kid wants to walk home from school and I’m like, ‘No!’ It’s like two blocks.”

❆ The understatement. “The fashion there—it is no Aspen or Vail. Aspen has the Range Rovers, and in Crested Butte people have vintage Land Cruisers. Everyone there has a lot of money, and no one is flaunting it. Which makes for a really awesome environment. You have people who are washing dishes and people who own the resort mingling together. It’s a very strong community. Everyone is working toward keeping it special.”

Carley’s Picks

Secret Stash Pizzeria. “Secret Stash is a must, must, must do. They are famous for this pizza called the Notorious F.I.G. with fig and prosciutto.” 303 Elk Ave. 970-349-6245.

The Dogwood. “I haven’t had a cocktail in Dallas as good as anything there. They have a drink called the Rosebud, and one called the Beetnik. It’s just a treat. And it is in this quaint, really tiny cabin.” 309 Third St. 970-349-6338.

The Slogar Bar & Restaurant. The restaurant and tavern was built in 1882 to serve miners coming home from work. Some of their recipes, including their famed skillet fried chicken, have been the same for more than a century. 517 Second St. 970-349-5765.

Pooh’s Corner. “I’m 43, and this toy store has been there in the same spot my whole life. That is still the thing to do—go and get a toy for $5.” 302 Elk Ave. 970-349-6539.

VRBO it. “Most people rent houses through VRBO or Airbnb, and rent the same house every year, so it’s hard to get in. But there are so many options, and they are growing. Consider Crested Butte South, too, which is a different community.”

Plan ahead. “The town isn’t equipped to be a big place, so you really need to plan out some meals, and rentals, and ski school in advance. You can’t show up there and figure it out, or you won’t get anything. I’ve seen a lot of people be disappointed.”

Kameron Westcott’s Beaver Creek

Off-Piste: Kameron and her kids, Hilton and Cruise, take a snow day in Klyde Warren Park. Bogner Phili jumpsuit ($1,670), Perfect Moment Queenie jacket ($290), Spyder Leader jacket ($179).

If you are a fan of The Real Housewives of Dallas, you’ve already seen inside Kameron and Court Westcott’s family home in Beaver Creek, with its hand-carved hearth, wood beams from an old gold mine, “Willy Wonka” elevator, and bowling alley. It was all designed by Kameron’s mother-in-law, Jimmy. “My husband’s family has been going to Beaver Creek since he was a kid, and he just fell in love with it,” Kameron says. “So when I started dating him, we started going up there together.”

❆ Cookie time. “At the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek they start passing out warm chocolate chip cookies at the mountain at 3 pm. They even do it at 8 am. You’ll be walking to the ski lift, and they’re like, ‘Oh, have a chocolate chip cookie.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s 8 in the morning. Thank you.’ ”

❆ The next generation. “My little boy is 5, and my daughter is 7. My daughter is obsessed with skiing. She wants to go all day, and she gets little pins for her hat every time she goes. My little boy started skiing last year. He doesn’t really like it. It’s cold. He’s not really into it, but we’re going to give him another chance.”

❆ The essential gear. “I always wear my Bogner liners. My favorite is my pink ombre, Swarovski crystal one. It’s my favorite. I’m obsessed with it. I’ve never seen anything like it. And then I love my hot pink Bogner jacket. It’s the only thing that keeps me warm, and I got it there at Gorsuch.”

Kameron’s Picks

Mirabelle at Beaver Creek. “It’s an old, little house, and it was turned into a restaurant. You literally feel like you’re having a home-cooked meal. It’s real cozy and private, and there aren’t many tables. I love it, but Court hates going there.” 55 Village Rd. 970-949-7728.

Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa. “I love going to the Park Hyatt and sitting at their outdoor restaurant, 8100, having a hot chocolate. That’s the best place to do lunch, because it’s great people-watching. They have this big bonfire always going, and they do s’mores in the afternoon. The kids love that.” 136 E. Thomas Pl. 970-949-1234.

Gorsuch Beaver Creek. “They have home products, and they have amazing ski gear. We do our ski rentals there, and they have beautiful clothes to wear out for dinner.” 136 E. Thomas Pl. 970-949-7115.

Al Biernat’s Wolf Creek

Pole position: Al Biernat atop the bar at his eponymous restaurant, which can trace its roots to a one-way ticket to Aspen. KJUS Boval jacket ($799), Black Crows Camox skis ($700).

Al Biernat and his wife, Jeannie, own a home in Creede and a cabin up the mountain, 45 minutes from Wolf Creek Resort. “Southwestern Colorado is completely different than Aspen and Telluride and Crested Butte,” Al says. “It’s more ranches. And it has the Weminuche Wilderness area, which is the largest wilderness area in Colorado with about 500,000 acres. So when you have property in Creede, you are surrounded by the most beautiful high country wilderness you can imagine.”

❆ No country for old men. “When you like to ski as much as I do, you like a mountain that offers a lot of transition, with different types of terrain. At Wolf Creek, you can start at the top and you can ski the expert runs really hard through the trees, and through the pine needles, and through the powder. And then you can come down to an intermediate run, and you can just let your skis fly and open up.”

❆ The price is right. “There are a lot of Texans that love Wolf Creek, and I will tell you why. First of all, it’s a great resort. But it’s also affordable for families. In Aspen, they are going to charge you about $139 for a daily lift ticket. If you have a family of four or five, you can imagine how that can add up. At Wolf Creek, it is $72 for an adult ticket.”

❆ Force majeure. “My son lives out here and does avalanche search and rescue. With all that snow, you can have serious problems if you don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t try to go into the backcountry without knowing about avalanche danger.”

For the Love of Snow

How I went from ski bum to steakhouse entrepreneur in four seemingly random steps.

I went to Aspen one time on a high school senior trip and fell in love. Growing up in Michigan, everybody likes the winter sports. We would ski anytime we could and dreamed of living in a place like Colorado.

I graduated when I turned 18. I had about $300 in my pocket and a one-way ticket to Aspen. I landed and hitchhiked into town. I got a job first at a lodge in Aspen called the Holland House. It was a beautiful lodge at the base of Lift 1A.

Holland House was very international. The man that owned it was from Holland, and he built the lodge himself. He spoke eight different languages and all the people that would come were mostly just return guests year after year from all over Europe and the United States. It really didn’t pay much. We had room and board and $50 a month, but, you know, we were ski bums. We skied every single day.

I was underage for working at a bar, but I ended up getting a job at The Paragon Ballroom and Oyster Bar, which was the hottest concept in town. It was a discotheque, and in the back was an oyster bar, and on the other side was like a parlor. Aspen back then in the early ’70s was a scene. Everybody was there, because it was a serious ski town.

The oyster bar was where all the ski racers would hang out. I used to open about a barrel of oysters a day from the Chesapeake Bay area. We sold about 500 bluepoint oysters a night. We used to open up the oysters and serve daiquiris and, you know, all kinds of Champagne. It was just packed every single night, and I fell in love with the business. That’s how I got into it.
Then in ’75, it was a terrible year for snow. And I had a lot of customers that were saying, “Maybe you could get out this year.” One customer said, “Here is a round-trip ticket. I own restaurants in New York. If it doesn’t work out and you don’t like New York, you can always fly back here.”

I landed there and got a job working in New York at a place called Chick’s. And then I went to the Palm Restaurant shortly after that, in February. I just thought it was the greatest place, and I asked for a job. They just kind of laughed and said, “You know, you have to wait like forever to get a job here. Most people who work here are family.” Back then, that’s what The Palm was. It was only in a couple of locations, in New York, Washington, and they had just opened Beverly Hills. So they said, “If you want, you could fly out to L.A. and interview there and see if they will hire you.”

So I flew out there and I went to The Palm in Beverly Hills. I went in for a job to be the busboy. They hired a nephew. And they were like, “You guys can both work tonight. Whoever works the hardest can have the job.” So I went in there and worked as hard as I could and got a job there at The Palm in Beverly Hills. That’s how I started in the steakhouse business. But really, skiing opened the doors for all that. You know, I loved being a ski bum for those years. That was the most exciting time to be in Aspen. —Al Biernat, as told to Kathy Wise

Brandy Minick’s Steamboat Springs

Moguls: Brandy Minick and Greg Brown, publishers of Dallas-based Cowboys & Indians magazine, at Whiskey Ranch in Fort Worth. Descente Rachael fur jacket ($750), Helly Hansen Garibaldi jacket ($450).

Brandy Minick and Greg Brown are the Western power couple behind Dallas-based Cowboys & Indians magazine. Brandy, the magazine’s current associate publisher, also happens to be a former team roper. Greg, the magazine’s owner and publisher, is an honorary member of the Cowboy Artists of America. For their second ranch outside of Tarrant County, the couple was looking for a mountain respite from the Texas summer heat. They found the perfect place to hang their Stetsons in Steamboat Springs.

❆ True grit. “Greg had been looking for another ranch outside of Texas for years. We looked at a lot of different places in Colorado, Montana. We settled on Steamboat for several reasons. I don’t want to take anything away from Vail or Aspen, but Steamboat feels like a real town. It has its own soul. It’s founded in a ranching community, and some of the big ranches are still there.”

❆ Good bones. “Proximity to healthcare was important for us. I know it sounds silly, but it’s a big deal when you’re there vacationing and skiing down that mountain. You have some of the best orthopedic surgeons in the country that can help you.”

❆ Long distance. “The thing I like best about Steamboat is the thing that is the most challenging. It’s hard to get to. It helps keep the town small and lovable without too many tourists. The other resorts are all right off I-70. This is about an hour and a half off the highway on a good day.”

Brandy’s Picks

Ore House at the Pine Grove. “Ore House is one of our favorites. It has been in Steamboat since the 1970s. They have great steak and fish. It’s just a great Western atmosphere.” 1465 Pine Grove Rd. 970-879-1190.

Mazzola’s Italian Diner. “Everybody knows Mazzola’s. You can’t even get into it. It’s underground and kind of dark, but it’s a staple in Steamboat with great Italian food.” 917 Lincoln Ave. 970-879-2405.

Saddleback Ranch. “Saddleback Ranch is probably my favorite thing to do in Steamboat in the winter because I don’t ski. They built a mountain that you can actually take tube rides down. You can take a wagon ride pulled by horses to this beautiful lodge with a stunning view for a steak dinner. The couple that owns it has had that ranch in their family for years, and they live and work on that ranch.” 37350 RCR 179. 970-879-3711.

Wild Plum Market. “This little grocery store on the mountain has ridiculously good food. It’s a total hidden gem that not a lot of people know about quite yet.” 2525 Village Dr. 970-879-1981.

Cowboy Downhill. “Picture real-life cowboys—PRCA cowboys, ranching cowboys—with their chaps and cowboy hats on, and they’re all at the top of the mountain on snowboards. And the gun blows, and they go down. It’s chaos, it is mayhem, and it is so much fun to watch.” January 21.

The Winter Carnival. “It’s one of Steamboat’s biggest annual events. They have everything from a parade to an event where they pull kids on skis behind horses through the streets of downtown.” February 6–10.

The Texas Ski Rangers of Dallas

Pipe dreams: Marc Hepburn, a commercial pilot and current president of the Dallas-based Texas Ski Rangers, taught himself to snowboard on a National Brotherhood of Skiers retreat. The ski togs are his; the plane is borrowed.

Dallas’ African-American ski club, the Texas Ski Rangers, first came into being over plates of chicken-fried steak and squash casserole at the Highland Park Cafeteria, back in 1984 when the restaurant was in Sakowitz Village in Addison. Willie Jackson, the club’s original treasurer, jokingly described the group at the time as “an upscale social club of professional snobs.” Although they hosted Leather and Lace fundraisers at the Hilton Anatole to support black youth with Olympic ski potential, the club’s parent organization, the National Brotherhood of Skiers, didn’t take them seriously. They just couldn’t produce many young winter athletes.

Over the decades, however, it was the club’s strong social and professional network that kept it together. The new president, Marc Hepburn, a commercial airline pilot, is organizing happy hours and monthly meetings at Champps. He plans to start sponsoring youth ski trips again and has been working with a friend at Microsoft to use Steep, a skiing and snowboarding video game, to entice potential young skiers. And then there’s the annual NBS Summit, which takes place March 2–9 in Steamboat Springs. More than 1,000 NBS members will attend, along with 30 or so Texas Ski Rangers from Dallas. Hepburn plans to be there, carving the black runs on his snowboard and catching up with friends and fraternity brothers.

“What I love about the NBS trip is that you’re taking all of these African-Americans from across the country, and from other parts of the world, and we’re getting together to party,” Hepburn says. “It’s a huge happy hour every day. We just have a great time, and we do it for a purpose.”

Related Articles

Local News

City Council Repeals Ordinance That Allowed Easier Demolitions for Historic Homes

The Council's decision to walk back a 2010 ordinance that allowed smaller historic homes to be demolished was unanimous. Advocates and city staff say it had a disproportionate impact on Black neighborhoods.
Local News

Dallas Zoo Debuts Teeny Tiny Baby Monkeys

The Zoo has three new baby monkeys: twins born to emperor tamarins Lettie and Roger, and a new Bolvian grey titi monkey born to Juniper and Biscuit.

Chris Tanev Is the Deadline Coup the Stars Needed

The 34-year-old defenseman might be Jim Nill's savviest deadline move yet. Don't believe us? Then take it from a bunch of NHL scouts.