Dining returns to Sam’s Knob
September 10, 2008
SNOWMASS ” When Sam’s Knob restaurant was demolished in the spring of 2005, its loyal base of customers never imagined that a replacement facility at this high-traffic, mountain eatery at Snowmass Ski Area would be more than three years away.
But a modern design in the first incarnation of plans for its replacement was rejected by the U. S. Forest Service. An over-budget second attempt was scrapped by the Aspen Skiing Co. for several reasons, including its failure to meet the company’s environmental design criteria.
Last season, a yurt did yeoman’s duty in providing the basics to skiers and riders who needed a warming hut (serving basic food) on the Sam’s Knob side of the mountain. But the yurt will be a distant memory when the splashy new Sam’s Smokehouse debuts in December. The 7,900-square-foot, single-story building with wait service will feature 170 inside seats, 70 patio seats and a 50-seat picnic area, according to its new general manager, Glenn Wood. Many know Wood from his time overseeing the Cirque in Snowmass and, about a decade ago, the Hard Rock Cafe in Aspen.
There will also be 10 “grab and go”-style seats. By comparison, the old Knob had room for about 260 people ” 150 on the main floor and the remainder upstairs (which had various lives as a sit-down eatery, as well).
The project was designed this time by 555 of Chicago and Obrien Partnership out of Frisco and the restaurant’s entrance recalls the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain. The restaurant takes better advantage of the views of Mt. Daly, Capitol and Garret’s Peak than its predecessor.
Alluding to the ever-escalating cost of construction, the price tag for the Sam’s Smokehouse is $8 million, “at least for now,” said Rich Burkley, Skico vice president of mountain operations.
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Snowmass Village Town Councilwoman Sally Sparhawk, who moonlights as a ski instructor, is among those who can appreciate the long-awaited eatery.
“We need another on-mountain facility. We need that capacity,” she said.
It’s a view echoed by a group of Town Council members who threatened to fine the Skico up to $1,000 a day if it couldn’t get the building done on time last year. A compromise led to installation of the yurt.
But this week, elected officials enjoyed a preview of the new restaurant. Sparhawk said she was struck by the views, captured by floor-to-ceiling windows and the building’s orientation.
Wood’s staff is still honing the menu, which will have feature plenty of smokehouse choices coupled with some lighter fare. Cedar-planked salmon dishes, sandwiches and side dishes like sweet potato fries should also find a home on the Sam’s Smokehouse menu.
There will also be salads and soups ” the old Sam’s Knob was famous for its tasty, homemade soups, and Wood said the new Smokehouse will likely offer several soup choices. For dessert, the eatery plans on rolling out some bread pudding with Bourbon sauce, among other caloric delights that may lend themselves to afternoon naps rather than mogul munching.
Diners, said Burkley, will find the decor and accoutrements casual in nature, despite the omnipresent wait service. That means diners will likely find paper tablecloths and napkins rather than linen (which gets trashed by barbecue sauce). Expect your drink to arrive in a hefty Mason jar rather than a delicate glass. Prices are expected to be “mid-level,” according to Wood, who said there will be children’s prices and children’s baskets available, as well.
At this stage, the Skico is open to suggestions about the fare and the ambiance.
“We’re keeping ourselves open to what people think and like,” Burkley said.
One decision that’s bound to be a hit is the placement of restrooms on the same floor as the entrance (which wasn’t difficult, since it’s a one-story building).
Something Sam’s Smokehouse won’t have is a fireplace.
While Sparhawk and other members of the Town Council pushed for completion of a restaurant on Sam’s Knob to relieve overcrowding at other on-mountain restaurants, Burkley is among those who feel the establishment will provide guests yet another reason to ski Snowmass.
“I think it will bring more people here,” he said.