Four Points Lodge elevates fine dining at Steamboat Ski Area to 9,700 feet |

Four Points Lodge elevates fine dining at Steamboat Ski Area to 9,700 feet

Skis and snowboards are stacked outside the new Four Points Lodge on Wednesday at Steamboat Ski Area.

— Loyal Steamboat skiers who visit the new Four Points Lodge this holiday weekend may struggle to remember that once upon a time, a humble ski patrol shack occupied the space.

Steamboat Ski Area unveiled its new, on-mountain dining facility Nov. 27 with a limited opening offering barbecue service on the deck and drinks in the bar. The full dining room is expected to open by the middle of December. That's when the menu will offer fresh pastas and salads and dishes like cedar plank grilled salmon.

It has comfortable seating for 200 diners, a state-of-the-art kitchen designed to serve the freshest, healthiest foods of any restaurant above 9,700 feet. And the building was strategically located to afford dramatic views of skiers in action, both swooping down Storm Peak and dropping out of sight as they crest the lip of trails like Tornado and Nelson's Run.

Longtime ski area spokesman Mike Lane said the new dining experience at Four Points is emblematic of a concerted effort the ski area has been making for years.

"The experience our guests will have here is part of a five-year effort to elevate the culinary experience across the mountain," Lane said.

Steamboat Vice President of Resort Services James Snyder, who has had a hand in opening 10 on-mountain facilities at a variety of ski areas, said care has been taken to offer a range of culinary experiences on the ski slopes, with Four Points introducing northern Italian cuisine to complement the Scandinavian cuisine of Ragnar's, the family-style barbecue on the third floor of Thunderhead and the creative American food served at Hazie's. Also, Hazie's will shift from its prix fixe menu to an a la carte menu this year.

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The new facility, with its contemporary take on the classic ski lodge, makes the original facilities seem quaint by comparison.

The 13,000-square-foot lodge replaces the undersized 1,000-square-foot facility that skiers and snowboarders have packed themselves into since 1992. But before that, it was even more rustic. The original Four Point ski patrol shack, one of three on the upper mountain, shared a concrete bunker with the motor room beneath the upper terminus of the old Four Points chairlift.

"There was a picture window, and you walked in the door and down a hall to the right to get to ski patrol. There was a public bathroom to the left," former ski patrolman Bill Martin recalled. "The noise from the chairlift and the vibration was incredible. But I think that still is the best place on the mountain. It’s sunny, and it's warm, and it's the coolest view spot."

The modern Four Points Hut was built in 1992 right over the top of the old patrol shack after the chairlift of the same name was extended and moved a few degrees to the south.

About the food

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Executive Chef Chris Wyant said the emphasis at Four Points for the noon meal will be on freshly prepared meals that can be ordered as guests come down the serving line. For example, he is importing fresh ramen for an Asian noodle bowl.

The chicken Dijon preparation will feature freshly roasted chicken, chick peas and roasted vegetables.

Breads served at Four Points, including the focaccia, will come from Boulder's Breadworks, where bread is made by hand.

"We want the menu to have a marketplace feel," Wyant said. The New England-style clam chowder and the bison chili will be made in Four Points, and all of the burgers served in the dining room will be bison burgers (though beef burgers will be available on the deck, where the staff will work under a permanent shed roof to protect themselves from the elements).

Lane hastened to add that there are more economical options, including grilled cheese panini in the serving line as well as take-and-go items off one corner of the handsome bar that faces Storm Peak.

Guests are also welcome to enjoy their own lunches on one of a half-dozen indoor picnic tables built by craftsman Dennis Lodwick from local beetle-killed pine. They are located at the lower entrance to Four Points where skiers may enter to shop at a small gift store and use the spacious restrooms.

Ski area Public Relations Manager Loryn Kasten said shoppers are welcome to take their purchases away in a small knapsack that will be provided or take advantage of courier service delivering merchandise to the bottom of the ski area for later pickup.

Dinner service

Steamboat will begin an exclusive fine-dining experience at Four Points Lodge later this winter for no more than 52 people in four seatings per night. Guests will reach Four Points from the top of the gondola via a luxury snow coach that seats 13 in plush bucket seats.

"The difference is that this will be much more high touch, Snyder said. Chef John Shaw will come out to the tables to greet the guests and prepare Caesar salads table side and to pour soups. Shaw came to prominence during his summer residency at the Tides Beach Club in Kennebunkport, Me.

Diners will order their own entrees but share the traditional first course of pasta family style, and the same will be true of the dessert.

Looking ahead to winter 2014-15, the ski area intends to add a second, larger snowcat that seats 20 to offer the Four Points dinner service to more guests.

Snyder observed that the snow coach to Four Points will be a memorable experience for families and particularly for some members of the older generation who might not otherwise experience the mountain above the summit of Thunderhead.

Steamboat's cowboy bar

Snyder said the ski area knew that it wanted the bar at Four Points to have a cowboy motif, but it wanted that theme to be understated. The solution was to build a timeline of famous cowboys and cowgirls, both real and the Hollywood variety.

Instead of pictures of the cowboys themselves, they are represented by brushed steel replicas of their personal cowboy hats set into the concrete bar top. So every bar stool is set in front of a historic cowboy hat — Annie Oakley from the 1880s, for example. You also can choose between bellying up to Billy Kidd or Billy the Kid. They're two different people, you know.

Elsewhere in the bar, there are customized light fixtures and decorative items that evoke the story of how Four Points got its name.

Anyone would be forgiven for assuming that Four Points is a crossroads on the ski area where four trails come together. But the truth is the location got its name one day when ski area pioneers Gordy Wren and John Fetcher were high on the mountain and spotted a mule deer buck with four tines on each side of its antlers — hence the name Four Points.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

At the old Four Points Lodge: Always on guard against shark attacks

Former Steamboat patrolman Bill Martin recalls the old days when the only public amenity offered by the Four Points Shack was a public bathroom of which most skiers were unaware. The main purpose of the little building beneath the upper terminal of the original Four Points double chair was to house the chairlift’s motor room and cramped ski patrol offices.

“It was all concrete, and you could literally climb up a ladder into lift operations,” Martin said. “There was a table with chairs (but no means of heating a hot lunch), and a bed meant for first-aid.”

Of course, no ski patroller would ever catch a catnap on the bed. That was reserved for mild days when patrollers dragged their chairs outside the shack to bask in the winter sun. But anyone who dared to doze in the sun was at risk of a shark attack.

“The guys from the Priest Creek shack would come over there down Storm Peak at high speed and spray us with snow in a shark attack,” Martin remembered. “You wouldn’t see them coming, and the good ones would just bury everyone sitting outside.”

The sharks included guys like Wes Richey, Larry Schnackenberg and Matt Newman, Martin said.

The old Four Points shack is gone, but skiers who want to glimpse what it looked like can find a virtual copy at the top of the mostly dormant Priest Creek double chair, which is still held in reserve on the other side of the ski area.

Four Points Lodge at a glance

Steamboat vice president of resort services: James Snyder

Chef: John Shaw

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. project manager: Michael Gumbiner

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. building manager: Christine Gumbiner

Building designer: Laurie Kohler, Kohler Design

General contractor: Calcon Constructors, Steamboat Springs

Calcon Constructors project manager: Jim Kohler

Interior design features: Three Dimensional Services, British Columbia

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