The irresistible urge of the burger | AspenTimes.com

The irresistible urge of the burger

Tim Willoughby
Lift One was so close to Skiers Chalet that you could almost pick up your order from the chair. (Willoughby Collection)
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Do ski areas place stove vents near chairlifts to increase hamburger sales? Is this a pernicious plot to promote beef consumption?

In the days when Lift One cruised by the Skiers Chalet at arm’s length, the vents spewed fat pheromones at every skier heading up Aspen Mountain. Lift One was a single-chair lift with the chairs spaced far apart so it could run faster. Getting on was quite an experience, with no detached chair slowly approaching. By the time you gained confidence that maybe you would not fall out of the chair, you were in front of the Skiers Chalet. Even if you mentally tried not to notice, your nose would recognize America’s lunchtime staple. Even vegetarians were tempted to visit the lunch line.

In skiers’ memory, the scintillating invitation of grilled hamburgers in winter cold ranks alongside views of snow-capped peaks and the feel of fluffy powder. That fragrance is an integral part of the mountain experience. Fresh air, sunshine and exhilarating exercise build appetite. By 11 a.m., stomach pangs begin just as the patties hit the grill. Riding a lift or skiing by the grill is distracting at best and can become downright risky.

Who can resist this olfactory obsession? It is stronger than the lure of garlic that wafts down city streets dominated by restaurants. Stronger than the urge to eat when you’re hungry at the grocery store. Animal fat, frying slope-side, is less resistible for a skier than a newly opened can of tuna to a cat.

You could not be disappointed if you gave in to the temptation of an enticing Skiers Chalet burger. The beef, Colorado range-fed, offered a hint of sage. It was ground fresh daily at Beck and Bishop grocery by either Albert or Barney Bishop. Just the right amount of fat was mixed in to ensure barbecue “broadcasting,” and in those days restaurants did not have sophisticated fat traps in their stove vents. Condiment choices were few and cheese choice was limited to American. Why alter the pure taste of barbecued beef?

You could have the same Beck and Bishop beef at the Sundeck, but it didn’t taste the same. The Sundeck’s location allowed the wind to disperse fragrance over a much larger area, diminishing its effect. The skier became more acutely aware of the close relationship of nose to taste buds at the Skiers Chalet.

Today’s stove vents are not as close to the lifts as those of the Skiers Chalet, and the beef is not as fresh, but the burger trap is still in operation. The olfactory obsession should not be resisted. Is there a better culinary treat than a burger hot from the grill consumed in the clear, high-altitude air on a deck in the winter sunshine? Ah, as Jimmy Buffet sings, “cheeseburgers in paradise.”


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