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Downhill slope: Top 10 ski-town bars in the West

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Why is it that booze goes down so much smoother after a day on the hill?

And why does all that smooth booze go down even smoother when you're at the right mountain bar? Sometimes the right atmosphere makes it go down so silky smooth that getting up the next morning -- or even afternoon -- is sandpaper rough.

So if last call is more your style than first lift, after the fold is yours truly's favorite ski-town bars in the West...

10. Canyon Inn, Salt Lake City, Utah
Not that there's a grand variety of apres-ski/'board places on Salt Lake City's east side, but the Canyon Inn fits the bill nicely. The longstanding bar has a little something for everybody: cheap beer, good pizza, college nights ("Muscles 'n' Mascara"), cougar nights, pool tables, a big dance floor, and solid happy hour specials. 3200 E. 7200 S., Salt Lake City, UT; 801-942-9801.

9. Gold Pan Saloon, Breckenridge, Colorado
Said to be the longest continuously operating tavern west of the Mississippi -- they apparently ignored Prohibition in Breck, setting a nice precedent for today's legal weed -- the Gold Pan is hard to beat to get started on your post-slope carousing in the Kingdom. The place opened in 1979 as the Herman Strauss Saloon and has served the masses under several different monikers in the time since, but other than the name, not much has changed at this whiskey-drenched locals' watering hole, old school in every regard. 103 N. Main St., Breckenridge, CO; 970-453-5499.8. Tourist Club, Truckee, California
There are both animal heads and pictures of naked people on the walls at the venerable Tourist Club, which compels me to drink in ways the wine bars and casinos ringing Lake Tahoe simply can't fathom. (Namely, on Tuesday nights PBR drafts start at 50 cents at 9 p.m. and edge up 50 cents every hal-hour thereafter.) The T Club is now a diamond in the rough, featuring a rough but friendly vibe, pool tables, live music and of course animal heads and naked people on the wall. 10010 Donner Pass Rd., Truckee, CA; 530-587-7775.

7. Silver Moon Brewing, Bend, Oregon

This is former Bend mayor Bob Woodward's favorite bar (no, not that Bob Woodward), and as usual Bob is right on the mark. One of only two brewpubs on my list, the Silver Moon offers good beer, tasty grub, live music, pool, and a cozy, friendly atmosphere that is somewhere near the opposite pole of chichi. 24 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend, OR; 541-388-8331; www.silvermoonbrewing.com.
6. The Goat Soup & Whiskey Tavern, Keystone, Colorado
Mentioning both soup and whiskey in its name is an awesome start, sure, but the Goat is a near-perfect ski-town bar for several other reasons. Chief among them: the $1 PBR pints and a stage known for jammy and bluesy musical entertainment as well as open-mic nights. Then there's the $4 PBR pitchers if you're exceptionally thirsty, or else with a group of similarly thirsty individuals. What's not to like? While the menu does not have goat's head soup, the jukebox probably does, and a location near the lifts doesn't hurt one bit either. 22954 U.S. 6, Keystone, CO; 970-513-9344; www.thegoattavern.com. 5. Mangy Moose Saloon, Teton Village, Wyoming
Not unlike the Goat, the Mangy Moose is another legendary ski-village bar with all of the fixings: booze, grub, live music, and a name based on a local horned animal. But the Moose, a Jackson Hole tradition since 1969, gets the next spot up the list for going further, with a sit-down restaurant and a cafe to temper its rowdier barroom. Plus, it's got all manner of junk stuck on the walls -- including a moose head or three. 1395 Teton Village Dr., Teton Village, WY; 307-733-4913; www.mangymoose.net.

4. The Eldo, Crested Butte, CO
"A sunny place for shady people," the venerable Eldo brews its own beer and has its own in-house BBQ joint, so you won't go home sober or hungry. Happy hour is 3 to 8 p.m. daily, with $3.50 pints of such tasty libations as Snowblind Maibock or Abominable Strong Ale, and he stage features DJs and live music Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Best of all are Tuesday "Bad Beer Nights" when cheap swill is even cheaper. 215 Elk Ave., Crested Butte, CO; 970-349-6125;  www.eldobrewpub.com.

3. Minturn Saloon, Minturn, Colorado


Dating to the 1901, the Minturn Saloon is one of the oldest things in Minturn, which pretty much burned to the ground in 1899. Nonetheless, the building has always been home to a bar in the century since. It's seen plenty of gambling and prostitution and fighting over the years, but the place cleaned up for the ski crowd in the '70s. Today the longstanding watering hole is especially popular with the out-of-bounders who ski up to its doors for the quail and enchiladas and margs before catching a lift back to Vail. 146 Main St., Minturn, CO; 970-827-5954;

2. Woody Creek Tavern, Woody Creek, Colorado
Like quite a few before me, I'll take the Woody Creek Tavern over any of the swanky joints in Aspen proper.  (I get too self-conscious around the rich and beautiful to enjoy myself.) I love the tavern's vibe, its strong blue-agave margaritas, and its spicy tamales. It doesn't hurt that Hunter S. Thompson spent a fair number of evenings perched at the bar and the walls are something of a museum of memorabilia relating to the good doctor. 2858 Upper River Rd., Woody Creek; 970-923-4585; www.woodycreektavern.com.
1. Shooting Star Saloon, Huntsville, Utah
At the top of the list is that rare animal: a great Utah bar. And the Shooting Star Saloon in the Ogden Valley is exactly that. Hokem Olsen opened the place around 1880 -- it's Utah's oldest bar -- and then moonshined his way through Prohibition. Today Hokem's old place is the perfect place to drink, play pool, and listen to old country 45s on the jukebox after a day on the slopes at nearby Snowbasin, Wolf Creek, or Powder Mountain. The Shooting Star is known for Star Burgers (burgers topped with hot dogs), cold beer, and the stuffed head of a departed 300-pound St. Bernard named Buck (pictured atop this post). 7350 S. 200 W., Huntsville, UT, 801-745-2002.

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