Thursday, December 7, 2017

Tales from the T-Bar

Dick's Tea Bar Val d'Isere, France
The T-Bar lift may be almost extinct but the name is immortal: 

While most resorts have replaced their old T-Bar lifts, others ‘hang on’ to the nostalgic vibe with bars and nightspots named after them. I've been checking out T Bar memorabilia around North American resorts over the past few seasons.

Morph back to 1973 and I actually remember very clearly riding my first T-Bar lift in Seefeld, Austria, shared with my sister, Jo. I can even remember what we were wearing - coordinating all-in-one ski suits, mine lime green from head to foot, Jo’s bright yellow. 

Couldn't find a pic from the 70s but here I am circa 1990 on the climb up to the Grand St Bernard Hospice
on the border between Switzerland and Italy (still have the hat and only got rid of the suit this year!)
Coincidentally (and without my knowledge), it was also the first time I was ever captured on the film on the slopes (cine film back then). And unfortunately, at the tender age of 12, it was also the first time I was caught out swearing when what I considered Jo's ineptitude caused us to fall off! In retrospect, it might have been me as I have never felt comfortable sharing a T-Bar and typically choose to go it alone these days. 

In the 80s I was also a regular at Dick’s Tea Bar, Val d’Isère, when I was working at ski resorts in France. That Tea Bar has really stood the test of time – it is still there now, and my nieces (sister Jo’s daughters) managed to jump the New Year’s line last season when they used my name to convince the bouncer of their elite status! 

Champagne train at Dick's Tea Bar Val d'Isere, France
Val d’Isère still has an actual T-Bar lift - on the Montet Glacier. That was where I first appreciated the need for really good ski mitts. It was a frigid January day in 1984 and the T-Bar kept stopping, by the end of it my badly-gloved fingers were literally stuck to the bar and I had difficulty getting off! Later that day I skied down to the ski shop and bought my first pair of mitts (white leather) and I have always worn mitts rather than gloves since. 

Dick Yate-Smith opened Dick’s Tea Bar in 1979 and had turned the one time game hall into a winter jet set and celebrity hang out by the mid 80s when I visited. From 1997 onwards Dick's was taken over by a host of UK tour operators and has only just recently gone back to independent owners. Entrepreneurs Seb Hall and Alex Fateh acquired the business in summer 2010 when they embarked on the rebuilding of the once famous name. It's open everyday from 4pm for the après ski session with live bands and DJs and has its own shuttle bus. Decadent drinks include mulled wine, homemade hot chocolate and draught Bombadier along with bacon butties for the peckish. Plus furry slippers for the foot sore! From 10pm, there's live music for the 'After Supper Set', transforming into a full nightclub at around 12:30. 

Fernie's Haul Back T-Bar (Courtesy of Resorts of the Canadian Rockies; Photographer Matt Kuhn)
Fernie, BC, Canada: There's just one T-bar left at Fernie Alpine Resort. Now called the Haul Back T-Bar, it was originally named the Deer T-Bar when it was installed in 1975 - back then it accessed the present Deer Run which since then has had a lift upgrade. 

Castle Mountain T-Bar 
Everyone goes to the T-Bar
Pub at Castle Mountain
Castle Mountain, AB, Canada:

"We have two fantastic T-Bars," says Jason Crawford, Sales & Marketing Manager for Castle. "T-Rex which is a 50-plus-year-old beast of a T-Bar. We still use it on storm days and busy days. It services over 1730 vertical feet and it’s a real thigh burner, but the amount of terrain it accesses is totally worth it." 

Infamous in a different way is Castle's T-Bar Pub and Grub. "Originally our maintenance shop, it has since been transformed into our local watering hole," says Jason. "The walls are decorated with memorabilia from the past 50-plus years. If those walls could talk…oh the stories they could tell: from tall tales about steep and deep lines, to raunchy parties, table traverses, to legendary mouth-watering thin crust pizza, to our signature Give’r Lager. The T-Bar’s been there, done that, night after night after night."

Cosy camaraderie at the T-Bar Pub & Grill, Castle Mountain

View over the town from Breckenridge's T-Bar  
T Bar, Breckenridge
Breckenridge T-Bar: As well as the mountaintop T-Bar which accesses the highest terrain at Breck, the resort sports The T-Bar après ski venue at the base of Peak 8 inside One Ski Hill Place. Located slopeside with great views from the patio, the T-Bar restaurant seats up to 150, with amazing food and topnotch service. There are après ski food specials and a fun, friendly atmosphere. And with the BreckConnect Gondola located right outside, no need to stagger home! 
Panorama's T-Bar
Panorama's T-Bar is THE après ski spot, always hopping and often hosting bands. I always go there when visiting and had many an evening there in the past, sipping wine, gorging on nachos while filing stories to the Calgary Sun when I was their SnowScene writer for three winters. This season they are featuring icy cold, craft beer from the Arrowhead Brewing Company (based in nearby Invermere) on tap.

Tempting stop off on the way home - Steamboat's T-Bar
Steamboat: At the foot of the slopes on the BC Ski Way everyone skis past - and many visit - the 'five-star dive bar', known as the T-Bar Steamboat. Specializing in stiff drinks, bountiful beer, and amazing après appies, the laid-back environment and great views scream out authentic ski culture. It was also included on the Elevated Après Tour set up by Freeskier last year. Owner Tres Holloway creates amazing flavors from the tiny kitchen. A few favorites: Empanadas, Chicken Ramen Noodle Soup and Crawfish Mac & Cheese. This cute, almost European-looking T-Bar hosts events, private parties, Taco Tuesdays and Happy Hours, selling gift certificates, too, so you can share the signature experience with friends and family. Bit more fun than when it was a Ski Patrol trailer!

North Face T-Bar Lift at Crested Butte
It's always tea time at the T-Bar International Tea House at Crested Butte
From Tea-Bar to T-Bar Terrain at Crested Butte: The T-Bar International Tea House celebrates T-Bar culture at Crested Butte with tea and tiffin (food). It's downtown on Elk Ave, offering dozens of drinks and teas from around the globe.  Stemming from a true passion for providing excellent teas and a ritual of preparation for each cup or pot, the T Bar individually measures and weighs tea leaves according to the size cup or pot that is ordered. It's also a great place to grab a healthy bite to eat for breakfast or lunch before heading off to the hill. The resort has two skiing T-Bars, North Face and High Lift, accessing 542 acres of Extreme Limits Terrain. To help tackle this tricky terrain, CBMR has CB Steep Guides and also Butte Camps, providing technical and tactical coaching on the resort’s heralded Double Black Diamond T-Bar territory.  

Teas, tonics and tiffins at the T-Bar International Tea House Crested Butte - courtesy of Andrew Sandstrom
T-Bar Trivia: In my research, I've discovered that T-Bar is used to name a wide range of products and places. For example, the T-Bar Market in the Granite Peak Lodge at Stevens Pass; the T-Bar gourmet restaurant at Lake Como in the ritzy Grand Hotel Tremezzo; the T-Bar M summer camp in Texas; the Bar T-Bar Ranch, Arizona; the T-Bar Steak Lounge, New York; the T-Bar shoe (low cut shoe with two or more straps forming a T); the T-Bar Dairy in California; T-Bar Airport, Tahoka, Texas; T Bar T Ranch Vineyard, Napa Valley; T Bar Films, specializing in outdoor movies; T-Bar rows, a type of bent-over row done on a T-bar gym machine; the T-Bar lock for shelving; the T-Bar visualization exercise; and the T Bar LED smart light. Looks like there's a T-Bar for everyone!

Snowbasin, UT - opened today with top-to-bottom skiing!
News Today!

Snowbasin, UT is opening today (Dec 7). With the recent snowfall combined with extensive snowmaking, it will offer trails accessed by three lifts: Needles Gondola, Littlecat Express and Middle Bowl Triple. The open runs include Sweet Revenge, Porky Traverse, Middle Bowl Traverse, Bear Hollow, Snowshoe, School Hill, Powder Puff and a small terrain park. The Grizzly Center will be open from 8:00am 5:00pm for tuning, shopping and rental needs. This past summer, Snowbasin Resort upgraded the Wildcat triple chair to a high speed 6-pack now known as Wildcat Express. This historic improvement will be formally celebrated on Dec 16 with a ribbon cutting ceremony.