Attack of the Backcountry Foodies

Post by blogger | March 22, 2007      

When you get an invitation like this you have to accept: “Join us for a night climb and ski of Buttermilk ski area, with dinner at the warming hut catered by renowned chef/owner Mark Fischer of restaurant Six89 and Phat Thai…”

Six89 is one of the best restaurants in Colorado, if not North America (Phat Thai is no slouch either). That’s no exaggeration. The place (here in Carbondale, Colorado) has received heaps of accolades including coverage in everything from Gourmet Magazine to Skiing Magazine. Every time we eat there we’re stunned. On top of that, chef Fisher is a backcountry skier so what’s not to love!

Backcountry skiing food trip.
I spotted these two attractive females on the way up (we started at dusk). After exchanging phone numbers I realized they were already taken and just wanted to call me for fourteener route beta. Even so, I figured I might be able to get a date from the one on the left.

Backcountry skiing food trip.
Once at the warming hut Mark laid out the prelim. He cooked like a champ using a Brunton propane cooktop they’d hauled up there earlier (that thing looks like the ultimate car camping stove). This trip was part of an Aspen area media junket that was being run for a group of ski writers. The group had hiked and skied Highland Bowl that day but they didn’t attack the food like I thought they would. Turned out they’d gorged on raclette cheese for lunch up at Cloud Nine restaurant at Highlands. I’m glad I wasn’t there, as after a gut bomb like that I probably couldn’t have skinned up the ski area, let alone eaten anything. As it were, my appetite was totally adequate.

Backcountry skiing food trip.
Fisher exposits the menu.





Backcountry skiing food trip.
The media guys were touting these cool folding chopsticks that Brunton makes (shown here grabbing a “fresh spring roll of crisp tofu with sweet chile sauce”). I used a pair of the sticks and they work well. Very cool. Perhaps bordering on hip? You keep them in your wallet and whip out when a utensil is required.

I like eating with chopsticks. It somehow makes the dining more focused and elegant than shoveling food with a fork and spoon. The sticks brought back fond memories of an Outward Bound course I worked years ago, with only chopsticks and a Swiss army knife for utensils. Why? I had this vision of myself as some kind of mountain monk climbing ascetic and the sticks seemed to complete the picture. But after the course and back at basecamp, the 6-pack I consumed in one sitting blew my cover. Even so I did keep using the sticks — and folding ones would have come in handy.


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17 Responses to “Attack of the Backcountry Foodies”

  1. Clyde March 22nd, 2007 11:44 am

    Afraid I have to disagree with you about Six89. We ate there in December and found the food to be mediocre, the fish overcooked, and the service absolutely terrible. At least it wasn’t cheap. Our group of six was so disappointed after hearing much hype that we all agreed we’d never go back or recommend it to anyone. Mark probably takes good care of his friends and media, but regular paying customers should avoid Six89. By contrast, there is an infinitely better restaurant up the road in Basalt but if I told you….

  2. Lou March 22nd, 2007 12:09 pm

    Hi Clyde,
    Mark probably does take good care of his friends and the media. What business owner in their right mind would not? The thing that shatters your theory about uneven quality, however, is that most times I’ve eaten at Six89 Mark has not even known I’m there (if he was even there himself), as I don’t like bothering people who are trying to work, and to top that off I wouldn’t call us “friends” as I’ve never skied with Mark nor spent any time with him other than meeting him a few times at his restaurant. And since I’ve eaten there about a zillion more times than you, and always had a good meal, I’d say that my opinion has some good basis in experience.

    That said, I don’t see how a restaurant could be perfect, so perhaps you did get a meal where everything was wrong. If so, that’s too bad and I’m sorry to hear that.

    As for your veiled and unsubstantiated accusation of some sort of media or friend bias on Mark’s part, why do you resort to such petty negative stuff Clyde? I don’t understand where you’re coming from… lighten up!

  3. erica March 22nd, 2007 1:09 pm

    i am laughing my ass off right now. i live in carbondale. i have eaten at both 689 and phat, more than once i will add. 689 is good. i would not go so far to call it one of the best restaurants in north america. phat thai is mediocre at best. growing up in an area that is predominately asian, i have had phenomenal thai food. phat thai falls very short of that standard. i still have not figured out what all the hype is for that place. i have given them the benefit of the doubt more than six times, and have been seriously disappointed each of those times. i guess there is an air of pretension that supersedes all good taste in this valley when it comes to picking a place to eat.

  4. erica March 22nd, 2007 1:12 pm

    by the way, the person in the picture with the chopsticks needs to take a lesson on how to use a pair of chopsticks with more efficiency.

  5. Lou March 22nd, 2007 1:30 pm

    Wow, I thought telemarkers were sensitive, bring in the foodies and look what happens, we get lectured about how to use chopsticks! You should see how I use a napkin (when I’m not using my shirt, that is).

    Erica, all I said about Phat is that it’s “no slouch” and I stand by that. But my post was really not about Phat so enough of that.

    As for 689, I stand by my opinion that it’s one of the best. If you think it’s good, then we agree to some extent so once you stop laughing perhaps we’ll see you over there some time (grin).

  6. Lou March 22nd, 2007 1:34 pm


  7. Dave Field March 22nd, 2007 1:49 pm

    I read a piece recently which stated that our society is dominated by people with some kind of psychosis which demands that they always be right. I’m not sure if that’s the case here but it sure would explain all the intolerant types who thrive on putting others down and correcting minutia inthe efforts of others.

  8. Lou March 22nd, 2007 1:59 pm

    Dave, I hope I don’t do that! I’ll watch out for it…

  9. Cory March 22nd, 2007 4:28 pm

    I’d eat a hole in a rat’s behind if you cook it right. I’m pretty sure both phat thai and 689 would keep me happy. (But then again what do I know…I’m down valley trash and I have nothing on the sophisticated upvalley types.)

  10. Chris March 22nd, 2007 6:30 pm

    Lou, you only do that when those dastardly enviro-hippies get your dander up.

  11. Mark Worley March 22nd, 2007 7:11 pm

    Alright naysayers, nitpickers, and greasy gourmands I say if some chef wants to serve most anything at a hut, I’d eat thankfully after a good skin in. By the way, my wife is a chopsticks ace, while I sheepishly ask for silverware at the Asian spots.

  12. Clyde March 23rd, 2007 8:17 am

    Lou, when a meal for six people costs over $400, it’s reasonable to expect it to be truly outstanding, no excuses. Sadly that wasn’t the case at 689 and none of us are food snobs. You left comments open and I thought it fair to warn others the claim “one of the best restaurants in Colorado” was far from a consensus. If you don’t want opinions other than your own, just turn off comments.

  13. Craig March 23rd, 2007 9:50 am

    Wow, and I thought we were restaurant snobs out here in California. Even the greatest of places can have a bad night, a less tasteful item (always a personal choice) , or a poor server that can ruin any meal. We have many “great” places to eat here in the bay and there are times when one of the many variables falls out of place and the meal is “sub-standard” for the venue. C’est la vie.

    Could you drill out the chopstiks to reduce weight???

  14. Mark March 23rd, 2007 10:32 am

    As a cook who genuinly cares about things like food and service it would be remiss of me to not respond.

    I‘m lucky to be involved at both restaurants with good people who share these feelings and work hard to convey same. It is our profound hope that people who come to our restaurants (to spend their hard-earned money and precious time) will leave feeling better about life than when they first arrived. Whether it be because of the food and the service or the opportunity to share the table with friends.

    I warranty our work just as Black Diamond would theirs. And just as you might let Black Diamond know about faulty product and allow them the opportunity to make things right, i would ask that you do the same with us. Please return as my guest or conversy (as life is short and money and time valuable) permit me to offer that money back guarantee (but please keep the product).

    Hype often manufactures expectation. When we fail to live up to those expectations then we’e failed in some respect. But we don’t manufacture that hype and we are anything but pretentious. I would happily include myself in the demographic that is “downvalley trash”.

    While the court of public opinion is a very valuable one, wildsnow isn’t (and shouldn’t be) what this is about. Please contact me directly at or

    And Lou, thanks very much for the props.

    And I will offer that people should be free to operate chopsticks in any manner they deem fit, efficiency be damned.

  15. Lou March 23rd, 2007 11:08 am

    Clyde, you had a bad meal. Fine. I indeed appreciate you leaving a comment to that effect.

    However, I take issue with your comment that implies that my opinion of 689 is somehow skewed by favoritism from Mark, or that Mark somehow has a special treatment reserved for his friends and that everyone else gets shorted. That’s a pretty strong accusation…

    When you imply something like that I have a right to defend.

    Lastly, what was the restaurant’s response when you complained to them about the meal? That would seem important….

  16. erica March 23rd, 2007 4:10 pm

    who would have thunk it…… one unimportant playful jab on how one should use chopsticks. i guess my sense of humor needs some work! cheers!

  17. greg p March 28th, 2007 9:39 pm

    As a walk-in guest to the Buttermilk haute route experience the other night, I’ll happily say that I would jump at another chance to walk up a mountain at sunset for chef Mark’s good food. I hope his crusade to elevate hut trip cuisine wins over even the most critical foodie ski bums. (I didn’t know there was such an animal…) That night was haute food meets haute ski and I will remember it for a long time. Imagine a world populated by free heals and refined palates, all making turns in harmony. Right on Mark! Right on Lou!

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