Ski towns are known for many things, obliteration of liver cells being on the short list. Distilleries and breweries aside, ski towns are also full of dive bars from Truckee to Telluride. As devotees of the "work/play hard" ethic, we've logged enough hours on high-altitude bar stools to have acquired some favorite watering holes of the down n' dirty, local kind. Whether your goal is to be a barfly or a fly-on-the-wall, these local joints won't disappoint.
↑Truckee: It's a tie between the conveniently neighboring Pastime Club (dark, odiferous with stale beer and god knows what else, wizened day
drinkers, obscene bovine murals on the walls) and Tourist Club (aka "T
Club;" mounted deer heads, miniscule stage in front window hosting
frequent live bands, stripper pole). At these local gems, count on your drinks being strong and the patrons being a large part of the entertainment factor.
↑Telluride: We have another tie. Die-hard locals, career alcoholics, and dirtbags tend to congregate at legendary O'Bannon's Irish Pub ("OB's), often during daylight hours. Located in the basement of a historic building on South Fir Street, this spot boasts a jukebox, pool table, and changing assortment of pinball or video games (We can never hear, "Youuuu shot a cooooow," again without being reminded of nights spent playing Big Game Hunter at OB's). While things will never be quite the same since owner Harry Force passed away a few years ago, the OB's tradition of affordable stiff drinks and debauchery lives on. One thing that doesn't: many of the patrons. You know a bar has a loyal clientele when its Facebook page is mostly comprised of obituaries. The second top Telluride dive bar is the Last Dollar Saloon, aka "The Buck," a truly historic dive on Colorado Ave, aka Main Street. Built in 1899, this quintessentially Coloradan mountain bar still retains its original stamped tin ceiling. While the large, open room isn't exactly cozy, the scuffed hardwood floor, fireplace, juke, surly longtime bartenders, and frequent live music make it a popular Happy Hour and late-night stop for locals and visitors alike. TGIF is epic: get there early so you can snag a window seat; part of The Buck's charm is the aquarium-like views of civilian life passing by outside.
↑Crested Butte: In this little ski town affectionately known for its big drinking problem, there's no shortage of dives in which to imbibe. Our pick, however, is Kochevars Saloon, located at the far end of Elk Avenue, in a deliciously decrepit nineteenth-century building. In true CB fashion, service is friendly and attentive, as are most of the patrons (note, this isn't always a good thing for the ladies). The décor is minimalist-Westernized-quasi-European, but the drinks are strong and the eavesdropping is always entertaining.
↑Jackson Hole: And it's the Village Café by a landslide. Established in 1993, this formerly "ratty" dive and snack bar in the Village Center building was much-mourned by locals after it was torn down to make way for a luxury condo (natch). Worry not, because the Café is back, now based out of the Inn at Jackson Hole. You may no longer be able to buy PBR tall boys from a walk-up window, but if you're looking to shoot some stick, quench your thirst with a shot ski, attend open-mic nights, hook up, or just get hammered, this is the place. In nearby Wilson, the Stagecoach Bar (The 'Coach) has been bringing them in for 70 years. Among its claims to fame are the "world-famous" Stagecoach Band, which has played over 2,500 nights over the past 44 years (we'd like to know the condition of their livers). There's also an ever-popular Disco Night, eight beers on tap, free pool and darts, a deck, "beach" volleyball, and—the clincher—a full-service liquor store with a drive-up window. Only in Wyoming.
↑Ketchum: All you really need to know is that The Pioneer Saloon (aka "The Pio") was the hang of Ernest Hemingway. This former casino and dry goods store has been around since the '40s, but its Old West vibe speaks of generations of Wood River Valley ranching folk. Part artifact museum, part old-school steakhouse, part dive, this is the kind of place where you want to settle in at the dark, cozy bar, order up a shot of whiskey and one of the epic prime rib sandwiches, and never leave. Expect to make friends.
-By Laurel Miller