Arapahoe Basin’s new mountain-top restaurant the highest in the US at 12,500 feet
Il Rifugio sits at 12,500 feet with 360-degree views of A-Basin
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area opened a European-style bistro on the Continental Divide in February that is now being touted as the highest elevation restaurant in the United States.
Il Rifugio (“the shelter” in Italian) at Snow Plume Refuge sits at 12,500 feet with 360-degree views of A-Basin’s terrain and the surrounding mountain ranges and is only accessible by chairlifts.
The Snow Plume Refuge once offered simple lunches, a practice that ended more than a decade ago. When the new Beavers Lift opened after A-Basin expanded its terrain for the 2018-19 season, it meant more people would be accessing the top of the mountain. Chef Chris Rybak, Arapahoe Basin’s director of food and beverage, decided it was the right time to bring back food service and offer more options for guests.
“At ski areas, most people expect to pay a premium for mediocre food. I like to serve things that I appreciate and enjoy. With Il Rifugio, I wanted to offer something nicer and more European,” Rybak said. “Also, I think the views up there are the best you’re going to get from any restaurant, especially on a clear day. Il Rifugio was very much inspired by its location and the feeling of being in the Alps.”
The Snow Plume Refuge building is unique in that it features no running water, solar panels and composting toilets. Arapahoe Basin is committed to reducing its waste, and Il Rifugio is no exception. Reusable dishes, cups and cutlery travel the Lenawee Lift via special bins to be washed in Black Mountain Lodge at mid-mountain, significantly reducing paper and plastic trash. Snow cat trips hauling food and waste are minimized; materials are brought up only twice per week and all meals are prepared on-site.
The restaurant is open seven days a week and serves food from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The menu includes meat and cheese charcuterie plates; signature soup, salads and flatbreads; beer, wine and espresso drinks as well as tiramisu for dessert. The restaurant is accessed by two lifts: Lenawee and The Beavers. Patrons must be ready to ski or ride, at minimum, an intermediate run back to the base area as the lifts do not allow foot traffic.
17th annual Beacon Bowl returns to A-Basin Feb. 9
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is hosting its 17th annual Beacon Bowl Saturday, Feb. 9. The event is a fundraiser for the Friends of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and includes a beacon search competition, beacon practice area, avalanche dog demonstrations, live and silent auctions, ski and snowboard demos and an apres party with pizza and beer specials that is open to all.
The event was conceived 17 years ago by A-Basin’s ski patrol and is one of four fundraising events hosted by A-Basin each year. Participants include ski patrollers from across the state plus backcountry skiers wanting to hone their rescue skills. The A-Basin ski patrol team is the defending champion from 2018.
“This event is the culmination of the training we patrollers do all the time and inspires a little friendly local competition. There is an actual winner’s cup and we invite local patrollers to come and try to take it from us,” said A-Basin Patrol, Parks and Planning Director Tony Cammarata. “The recreational division also offers a great way for backcountry skiers to get involved, and is a reminder that companion rescue is often the best hope for survival outside a ski area.”
People wanting to participate in the competition can register online for $20 at https://www.arapahoebasin.com/event/beacon-bowl/.
Justin Fillmore and his dog Parker had no shelter from the storm when the snow arrived Thursday.