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Last Saturday, I was skiing Mammoth Mountain with some friends. By 12:30 p.m. we had conquered at least a dozen blue runs, black runs, and mogul-lined slopes. We were starting to get tired. And more importantly, we were hungry. It was time to refuel. We finished our final run of the morning, popped our skis off, and headed inside McCoy Station, one of Mammoth Mountain’s main lodges. It was packed, but I wasn’t flustered, because I didn’t have to think twice about what I wanted for lunch. Veggie Chili, please.
Every cafeteria in a typical American ski lodge serves chili. When I think of slopeside fare, I think of chili. It works because it’s hearty and it’s warm, easy to make in big batches, and hard to mess up. Pile on your choice of toppings — diced onions, sliced jalapeños, shredded cheese, sour cream, and a couple of dashes of Tabasco — and you’re set for the rest of the afternoon. As Adam Fehr, Digital Marketing Manager of Utah’s Alta Mountain puts it: “Regional preferences differ on the perfect chili recipe, but one thing’s for certain — nothing fuels the body and soul of a skier like a midday bowl of chili on a cold winter day.”
Most ski lodges aren’t known to have great food. The staples include burgers, chicken tenders, sad salad bars, subpar pizza, plus snickers bars and M&Ms. For the vegetarian skiers and snowboarders who are still burning the same amount of calories as their meat-eating peers, the options for protein-packed meals are almost always less.
Enter veggie chili.
The stick-to-your-bones stew is loaded with fibrous (read: filling) and protein-packed legumes such as black beans and pinto beans plus nutritious chopped veggies like carrots, bell peppers, and celery. A proper bowl will keep you full for hours and ready to send it down double-black diamonds (or breezy greens, no judgement here). And whether you’re skiing Jackson Hole in Wyoming or Hunter Mountain in Upstate New York, you can bet that it will always be available come lunchtime.
Sara Cox, the Senior Director of Mountain Dining at Colorado’s Keystone Ski Resort, confirms that chili is available as every single one of their dining locations. She says it alone accounts for seven percent of overall food sales, and that vegetarian chili accounts for a quarter of all chili sales. “It is a great option for vegetarians, as well as someone wanting a healthier option,” she writes over email, adding that skiers at Keystone can “dress it up with sour cream, green onion, cheddar cheese and cornbread, or choose to keep it vegan and light — regardless, the flavor of the chili itself is enough to satisfy anyone.”
None of this is news to seasoned vegetarian skiers, but for those who are new to the diet or the sport, take note: when the clock strikes noon, spring for the veggie chili.