Warm your heart on a cold day: Ridgelines Hot Chocolate Tour
The wind was raging as I pulled up the zipper on my coat, protecting my face for the ride up Wasatch at Deer Valley. A storm was coming in strong. Somehow the wind found every tiny opening like freezing needles.
It was hot chocolate time!
This week we’ll take you on our first Ridgelines Hot Chocolate Tour, sampling rich cacao in town and around the mountain.
I slid off Wasatch and glided down to Snowshoe Tommy’s, already anticipating the smooth chocolate and the lusciousness of the marshmallows and whipped cream melding together. Snowshoe Tommy was a legendary 19th century character, climbing around through the aspens on his homemade snowshoes.
The tiny log cabin at the top of Bald Mountain wins on atmosphere, especially when seeking refuge from a storm. It’s a bit of machine-served hot chocolate, but has a richer texture than most. It’s served at a temperature that melts the marshmallows and cream into a palate pleasing texture. It warms your soul and prepares you to rip another run down Nabob.
My mind wandered, envisioning that perfect cup with deep, rich cacao. I needed a wingman. Someone who has traveled the globe in search of the ultimate chocolatey dream.
Please meet Alex Lewis, the visionary behind the Instagram channel bigalreviews. From the mountain slopes of China to bump runs of Ruka and the charm of Zermatt, Big Al has seen it all – circling the globe to find that perfect cup of chocolate goodness.
Lewis, 20, a Massachusetts native, is an up-and-coming moguls star coming out of the Killington Mountain School in Vermont. He got his nickname, Big Al, from coach Kris Pepe for his ability to launch himself. The Junior Worlds medalist will be living his own dream this week at the Intermountain Healthcare Freestyle International Ski World Cup.
Big Al and I hit the road to sample some fine chocolate around town and on the mountain at Deer Valley.
It’s not often a mountain town has the likes of Ritual, home of some of the purest hot chocolate you can find, processing raw cacao from around the world right here.
Alex and I grabbed a seat overlooking the roasters. We opted for the Ritual S’Mores Hot Chocolate, made with its Mid Mountain blend. Big Al was immediately captivated with the presentation – crumbled graham crackers set on a bed of whipped cream with marshmallows tucked in underneath. It was pleasing on the palate with a light chocolate taste.
“The homemade chocolate was something different than I’ve ever experienced before,” he said. “The temperature was just right, maybe a touch cool.”
We were off and running. On to the next stop.
Deer Valley Grocery Cafe
Having loved our first taste of Ritual, we looked for more, heading to the Grocery Cafe, opting for a simpler version from the local chocolatier. The premier hot chocolate at Grocery Cafe utilizes a very dark cacao from Ritual. It was a very simple drink compared to our elegant S’Mores earlier. What set it apart was the deep richness of the chocolate and the toasty feel of the warm, textured mug.
You could see Alex’ eyes get big as he raised the glass to his lips, grasping it with both hands. It was comforting. “It had this great temperature,” he said. “And the mug gave it a ‘made in home’ vibe.”
I was captivated by the depth of flavor. Where the S’Mores was light and subtle, this dark version had amazing depth. It wasn’t so much that it was rich, but the flavor just penetrated with a very pleasant taste.
St. Regis Deer Valley
I love sliding down to the firepit patio outside St. Regis. The views are breathtaking and the fire exudes a coziness. As we made our way, Alex looked up at the moguls run on Champion, standing transfixed for a moment. While he’s lived in Park City to train in the summer, he had never skied at Deer Valley. In just two days, he would be in the starting gate ready to send it down one of the steepest runs on the tour.
But that would come later. It was time for our hot chocolate finale.
“Two hot chocolates,” I said to the waiter. Soon, we were staring at cups of chocolate and cream. The insulated paper cups didn’t make for the most elegant presentation of the day, but you could see the creaminess as the whipped cream melted into the chocolate.
“It had a great richness and creaminess, which I like,” said Alex. “The whipped cream was light and fresh. The temperature was also just right.”
We were now pushing close to 36 ounces of rich chocolate on the morning tour. But we soldiered on.
The recipe for the signature St. Regis is a closely held secret, passed on from chef to chef. We sought to pry out the details, but the staff is well trained. I had heard once that it’s a combination of Dutch chocolates, but no one will say. While our dark Ritual at Grocery Cafe had this tantalizing thread of a taste, this one was almost overwhelming with its richness.
Big Al furiously typed notes into his phone, evaluating everything from presentation, to temperature to taste. As an acclaimed reviewer, he prides himself on detail.
As we headed down the funicular, he took another look out at Champion. It was almost like he was plotting his line for Thursday night. If you’re there, offer him a hot chocolate in the finish!
Want to learn more? Check out Big Al at instagram.com/bigalreviews.
Wisconsin native Tom Kelly landed in Park City in 1988 (still working on becoming an official local). A recently inducted member of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, he is most known for his role as lead spokesperson for Olympic skiing and snowboarding for over 30 years until his retirement in 2018. This will be his 50th season on skis, typically logging 60 days in recent years.
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Columnist Tom Clyde writes that other states forcing people who’ve been in Utah to quarantine could complicate ski season: “Come and enjoy a long holiday weekend in Utah, and, as an added bonus, you get to take an additional two weeks off work.”