Over the past decade, Colorado has become something of a Mecca for small food businesses. From energy bars and jams to pickles, gluten-free snacks and granola, artisans and entrepreneurs choose our state to launch their products because we’re a populace of outdoorsy, health-conscious, adventure-loving folk. Our family farms and ranches also produce some of the nation’s best sustainably-grown fruit and humanely raised, grassfed meat- much of it from the Roaring Fork Valley.
The Aspen area is also home to a clutch of boutique food companies; the following are my favorite local and regional producers making delicious, healthy treats for satisfying on-slope (or trail) snacking.
Avalanche Cheese Company
This award-winning, Basalt-based creamery already has a national reputation for its cheeses- owner Wendy Mitchell sources her milk from the goats at her Paonia dairy. As much as I love cheese, it doesn’t hold up well in a pocket for on-slope snacking, which is why I love Avalanche’s handcrafted goat-and-pork (from pastured pigs) salumi. It’s cured, so no need to worry about spoilage while you’re out and about for the day. I especially love the delicately-spiced finocchiona; enjoy it with dried fruit and toasted nuts for a hearty snack or light lunch; you’ll find it at local retailers including Mitchell’s Aspen restaurant/farm shop, Meat & Cheese.
I’m one of those people who think a bowl of granola makes a fine dinner, but even if you’re more of a traditionalist, it’s hard to dispute the snackability of toasted nuts and grains mixed with dried fruit.
Aspen Crunch’s Grizzly Lake Granola combines gluten-free oats with almonds, pecans, macadamia and coconut with fragrant vanilla and cinnamon sweetened with a touch of maple syrup and brown sugar. Still not convinced? Try one of their trail mixes, like Mountain Munch (Spanish almonds, macadamias, pistachios and dried ginger, mango, strawberries, apples, mulberries, goji berries, Turkish figs, dates, and pineapple-whew!) and coconut. Order online or look for Aspen Crunch at the seasonal Aspen Farmers Market.
Commercial jerky (the modern incarnation refers to marinated or seasoned, salted, dried, dehydrated or smoked meat) is notoriously loaded with nitrates, preservatives, and MSG. That’s why the founders of Greenwood Village-based Perky Jerky decided to get back to basics and make a product free of the fake crap and big on bold flavors and prime cuts of meat (it’s also gluten-free, meaning no wheat-based soy sauce).
Available in beef and turkey, you’ll find flavors like Tasty Teriyaki, Brewmaster’s Pale Ale and BBQ with Seoul. Look for it at Whole Foods and other local retailers, and in the grab-and-go section at the Aspen area’s on-mountain restaurants.
What’s not to love about honey-sweetened energy chews, gels, wafer-like waffles, energy and protein bars, and kid-specific snacks free of gluten, GMO’s and artificial everything? The biggest selling point for this Steamboat Springs-based company’s snacks, however, are that they taste great. The squishy, gumdrop-like chews are my favorite restorative when I’m flagging on a hike or Nordic activity. (truth be told, I have a hard time not devouring an entire packet of 10 in one go, but just a few will do the trick). Made with organic tapioca syrup, organic evaporated cane juice, organic honey, and pectin, they come in lush, fruity flavors like Cherry Blossom, Grapefruit and Pomegranate Passion Fruit and put Gatorade to shame when it comes to replenishing electrolytes. As for that honey- it’s sourced from a fourth-generation beekeeping operation that was established in 1917. You’ll find Honey Stinger products throughout the Aspen area.
What do you get when you combine pureed Colorado Plateau-grown fruit (some of it certified organic) with no more than three other ingredients (vanilla extract, spices, fruit juice)? You get Froodles– fruit leather strips made by a small Grand Junction-based company focused on supporting regional family farms. Free of added sugar and GMO’s, these sweet, satisfying strips- made from whole fruit, peels and all, leave your pockets free for other stuff.
Want to make your own snacks? Here’s a recipe for the Limelight’s signature Trail Mix.