Some people live to ski — or snowshoe — but I love to ski because there's no outdoor winter sport that makes food taste so good. On a recent trip to Whitefish, Montana, I swooshed downhill under bluebird skies, working up a powerful appetite. The charming town near Glacier National Park is packed with awesome options for fueling up after a day on the slopes, and as soon as I got back home, I started pulling together a collection of recipes to recreate this deeply satisfying fare. Of course, these preparations can be enjoyed after any kind of hiking, biking, inline skating, running, even couch surfing.

The big draw at the cozy Bonsai Brewing Project are the cleverly named, hand-crafted beers — pour me a Bee Czar, please! — but the teeny kitchen also makes an incredible gumbo that goes so well with what's in the glass. Slow simmering's the secret, and this chicken and sausage recipe nails it, coming really close to the bowl I devoured in the Treasure State!

Photo by Meredith Publishing

At Whitefish Handcrafted Spirits, the brilliant cocktails are made using Montana Wheat vodka and Botanical Gin created in-house, but it was the family recipe for incredible Beef Stroganoff that prompted me to return for a second helping during my short stay. It was the ultimate comfort food for refueling, with tender chunks of steak, meaty mushrooms and a velvety cream sauce. The slow cooker version takes the cream of mushroom soup shortcut, but the pay off is pretty darned delicious.

Photo by Meredith Publishing

In Montana, most restaurant menus feature bison or elk, and the lounge the stylish Firebrand Hotel is no exception on the game front. The slow-cooked bison short ribs were as thrilling as getting down an expert run without crashing. The bone-in beef recipe works on the same principle, making for a fork-tender experience that beats plain old pot roast any day of the week, but especially after a day outside.

Photo by Meredith Publishing

The perfectly named Last Chair Kitchen and Bar is on the road back down from the Big Mountain, and the lineup begs for the I'll-have-one-of-everything kind of order. My absolute fave, though, were the Totchos topped with carnitas. Think nachos with crispy Tater Tots instead of tortilla chips. This dish is a huge crowd pleaser, and if you don't want to go the Totchos route, it couldn't be easier to turn carnitas into tacos.

Slow Cooker Carnitas
Slow Cooker Carnitas | Photo by mommyluvs2cook

The bar at Tupelo Grille is packed most evenings, with the post-ski crowd devouring hearty fare like Elk Meatloaf Sliders, baked Macaroni and Cheese as well as Bison Meatballs, some of the best meatballs I've ever tasted. Make a version of the latter in the slow cooker and they'll be primed for your return from the great outdoors to be served with pasta, tucked into a crusty dinner roll, or eaten straight out of the pot.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and Meatballs | Photo by Meredith

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