It's dark, cold, and the chairlifts aren't running. Let's go skiing.
I'm at Arapahoe Basin on a chilly December evening, putting on my boots in the parking lot by headlamp. Somewhere up on the dark monolith before me lies the Black Mountain Lodge, and in it, a decadent feast. So while I wonder what's wrong with this group of people gathering around me, I'm motivated to beat them to the grub.
We're here at the Moonlight Dinner Series' Swiss Night, a creation of renowned Chef Rybak. The full moon we've been promised has not shown its face yet, but if it's anything like me it'll come running once it hears the dinner bell. Sufficiently layered and lit with headlamps, we begin our trek.
It should be noted that this is the only Moonlight Dinner Series event which allows climbing and skiing. Subsequent dinners will be served by chairlift on the way up, and snowshoe on the way down.
Arapahoe Basin sits in, well, a basin. As such, once the full moon crests the horizon, the snow reflects the light on all sides making the night so bright that many of us turn off our headlamps, finding it easier to climb under the moonlight. There is a calm, still tranquility as we ascent, punctuated only by the rhythmic creating of boots and heavy breathing.
I crest the first headwall and gaze back at the valley below. The night sky is so full of stars and the air so still I wish I weren't expected at the lodge above, for I would've been completely content simply to count shooting stars. That's a nice way of saying I'm ready to be finished hiking. My stomach is grumbling and I swear I can smell the food. Finally, the lights of the lodge greet me.
Inside I'm surrounded by a gaggle of goretex and polypropylene-clad diners. The entryway becomes an enormous repository of all things outerwear. Many of the guests have arrived in evening wear; some sport lederhosen and other regional garb appropriate to tonight's Swiss theme.
What lays before me is a feast that defies any attempt to describe. But I'll try anyway. Platter after platter of appetizers greet hungry guests, all appropriate to the theme for the evening. As luck would have it, I spent two weeks touring the Swiss Alps last spring, and so I can confidently say that Chef Rybak has created a very authentic menu. I made friends with a party sitting closest to the buffet, and began my first of three delectable courses.
I won't try to describe the menu (I'm a skier, not a food writer), but suffice it to say I haven't eaten like this in a long time - since I was in Switzerland. It's almost surreal to be treated to such an amazing experience in such a setting. Every dish is unique and delicious, and I am soon glad to find I'm not the only member of my party heading back for seconds.
The night continues on and dining gives way to laughing, conversation, and the general merriment one only finds high atop a mountain, in the middle of the night, surrounded by new friends.
I cannot recommend this experience highly enough. Arapahoe Basin's Moonlight Dinner Series sells out fast, so hurry up and make your reservation: Arapahoe Basin Moonlight Dinner Series
-John Trousdale, Mountain Correspondent, Colorado Ski Country USA