The answer to "How hard can it be to find a meal in a ski resort town, late at night?" is: Quite hard.
A late start from Central Massachusetts to the Central Vermont town of Ludlow, home of Okemo Mountain Resort, meant a 10:30 p.m. arrival.
The kitchen at the Jackson Gore Inn was closed.
"Go to Christopher's," one wombat advised. "It's the late-night spot for food in town."
So off to Christopher's we went. It's at The Mill, a renovated industrial building in the center of town. The Mill was originally a woolen mill, built in 1834, rebuilt in 1865 after a fire, and most recently occupied by GE when that company was a big employer.
Well, the front door of Christopher's was open wide despite temps in the mid-20s, but the lights were out, and a sign on the door said, "Closed for renovations beginning Dec. 9." It was Dec. 10.
A local couple in the parking lot steered us up the street to Frank's, which they said would be open and serving.
"Don't park on the street," they said.
A quick review of Ludlow Town Ordinances showed a winter parking ban in effect on all streets, 2 to 6 a.m. Nov. 1 to April 1.
Since it was only 10:50 p.m., I wondered what kind of wild and crazy people these locals thought we were. Besides, my Jeep was in the lot at The Mill, but perhaps they did not know that.
We toddled up the street and, as we approached Frank's, the door was flung open, and a very inebriated man lurched out and on the sidewalk outside the door deposited the contents of his stomach. It appeared to be mostly beer.
My friend and I looked at each other, eyes wide.
"I don't care. Just hold your breath and step over it," she said. "I've got to have something to eat."
In we went, to a warm greeting and the cold news that no food was to be had.
"Try DJ's or the Pot Belly Pub," the barkeep said.
So off we went, again holding our breath and stepping gingerly on our way.
DJ's was closing, and a waitress there said, "Sorry Hon, no food here, and you'll never get anything at the Pot Belly."
It was right next door, however, so we tried.
"The kitchen's closed," the bartender said, and must have seen the defeat in our eyes, since he immediately added, "but I can give you a salad."
By this time it was 11:10 p.m., lunch had been long ago, and the sawdust was starting to look good. The salad, by comparison, sounded divine.
Two cold beers arrived first, then two very large salads, and they had to be among the best meals ever.
The following day found us at epic, Okemo's gourmet on-mountain restaurant, at the Solitude Base Area.
Chef Craig Cornell had prepared a stunning lunch buffet of chicken, salmon, tenderloin, risotto, and carrots with aspargus. Dessert was a choice of cakes: chocolate, carrot, lemon, and cheesecake.
Friday night was famine; Saturday lunch was feast. You just never know what life will bring.
epic is the most high-end dining choice at Okemo, but there are others, including the Sitting Bull and the Base68 Cafe in the Base Lodge near the Clock Tower; the Coleman Brook Tavern, the Roundhouse, and Siena all at Jackson Gore; the Sugar House Lodge on the slopes above the main Base Lodge; and the Summit Cafe and Sky Bar at the top of the high-speed summit quad. Willie Dunn's Grille at the Golf Course-Cross Country Ski Center is dedicated to private functions this winter.
Ellen Demers is culinary director at Okemo, and has worked closely on restaurant tone and operations with Diane Mueller, who with husband Tim and a talented staff has turned the resort into an elegant but approachable venue for family fun.
Moral? Eat early and often, bring food when you travel, and don't expect even the liveliest ski town to stay open late.