STEINS, SPÄTZLE AND THE SOUTHWEST
GEMÜTLICHKEIT AND GORE-TEX CELEBRATE THE BEST OF TWO WORLDS
A place where lederhosen and dirndls mix with Gore-Tex and ski bibs, the Bavarian Restaurant at the base of Chair 4 is an unexpected twist on European culture. The mash-up of cultures might seem like an odd pairing in the crags of Northern New Mexico, but it reinforces the magnetic force in Taos Ski Valley that brings friends and strangers together by means of stories and steins in the shadows of Kachina Peak.
Modeled after a ski alm—a German term for a small restaurant in a snowy alpine pasture—the Bavarian Restaurant embraces an old-world theme, but doesn’t go so far as being mistaken for a trendy attraction. Après and ambiance are as genuine here as they are in the European region in which they originated—a telling sign of legendary gemütlichkeit that hasn’t been diluted by new-age hospitality.
Opened on St. Patrick’s Day in 1996, the Bavarian Restaurant was built in eight days, pieced together with Englemann spruce trees and hauled to the base of Chair 4, one truckload at a time. Antler chandeliers and mythical jackalopes brighten the ambient log cabin, but it’s the marquee oven—constructed from 200-year-old porcelain tiles by a Bavarian oven builder—that physically warms the entire building. Windows and chairs were brought over from Europe, and relics like paintings, paneling and the 600-year-old front door from an old hunting castle in the Alps were picked up from antique dealers in Bavaria.
A Pueblo woman dressed in a dirndl. An Australian man in lederhosen. Skiers donned in animal costumes, leading the restaurant in a Bohemian Rhapsody sing-along. It’s a weird sight, but somehow it feels completely appropriate. Cultural diversities and an anything-goes atmosphere contribute to the slopeside gemütlichkeit, an element of Bavarian hospitality that’s defined by a warm environment, good energy and festive spirit. Chairs and benches are cramped together in European fashion, forcing staff and skiers to cozy up in close company and embrace gemütlich as they prost! to carving turns down Kachina Peak and lounging under sunny skies on the patio.
The flavors of the Bavarian Restaurant are much like the story of Taos Ski Valley: traditional and simple and spiked with distinct heritage. To eat at the Bavarian Restaurant is to feed the soul with eclectic culture that’s stirred into a pot of hearty goulash warmed with smokey-sweet paprika. Or mulled into gluehwein spiced with cloves and cinnamon. Or mixed into a mustard dipping sauce for soft pretzels and bratwurst platters. Such dense foods at 10,000 feet are a justified staple and a part of the ritual after exploring the backside of the Ski Valley.
In any given season, the Bavarian Restaurant taps through 550 kegs of beer in a four-month period, serving the most brew in New Mexico. Oversized steins are filled with hard-to-import elixirs from Germany’s Andechs Monastery and Weltenburg Monastery breweries, crafted by the hands of monks since 1455 and 1035, respectively. The monastic approach to old-school tradition pours straight into the soul—and stomach—of the Bavarian Restaurant, reinforcing the first rules of hospitality: get everyone a beer from the minute they step in the door and let the buzz of a day on the slopes settle in nicely. Perhaps not so coincidentally, we’ve never met a Bavarian Restaurant customer that didn’t embrace that tradition wholeheartedly.