There's nothing quite like a tailgate party in the mountains. Sunburned faces, thin-clad celebrants and endless supplies of grilled meats and beer set the scene for the closing weeks of the ski and snowboard season.
SnoCountry looked around the West for resorts with close-to-the-lift parking so it's just a short walk to the food. We found a few resorts that formalize tailgating, but most that let it happen organically in the parking lots.
Up north, Tailgate Alaska settles into the parking lot of the Chugach Mountains for 10 days in early April. Skiers and riders hit the backcountry during the day – hiking, skinning, snowmobile and helicopter tours – then hunker down for evenings of partying and games.
Can't get much closer to the slopes than the upper parking lot at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe. Hit Dragon's Tail off the Wizard chair, and veer through the trees for a mid-day braut and brew.
C-Lot at Mary Jane is within spittin' distance of Challenger chair – and the center of spring wildness at the Winter Park neighbor. One reviewer said the the former Utah Junction lot is “always full of lawn chairs and grills and music blaring and booze and dogs running around.” Sounds about right for springtime in the Colorado Rockies.
Mt. Bachelor has designated tailgate lot with its own name: Great Skyliner Tailgate Springtacular. Join the party at the base of Skyliner Lift in mid-May and win prizes for best setup, best food and BBQ setup, theme and enviro conscious setup. Whenever weather agrees, set up a ski-in ski-out tailgate.
As the sun gets higher in the sky, the tailgaters in the lower parking lot at Solitude come out to play. Skiers and riders unclick right at the edge of the parking lot, camp chairs and tables are set up, and the smell of meat cooking and beer cans poppin' fill the Utah air.
The grandaddy of all spring tailgate parties happens on The Beach at Arapahoe Basin. Parking spots are few, require reservations, and they cost, so it's the early birds that actually can open their own tailgates. However, many of those on the hill gravitate to hub-bub on The Beach, which backs up to the base of A-Basin's three primary lifts. A great way to end the season at one of the last resorts to close in North America.