Planning The Perfect Ski Tailgate Lunch

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Last March when ski resorts across the world shut down early because of COVID, our family was absolutely crushed.  To be clear, we weren’t crushed because a global pandemic was looming, we were upset that we had just had our favorite month of family skiing taken from us without any warning.

Now that we are headed into the 2020-21 ski season, we know that things are going to look a whole lot different on the ski hill this year as we adapt to a new normal.  And while with every new resort announcement, I get a tinge of sadness, I’ve learned that some of these changes in the ski industry are actually a really great thing for our family (and will give me an excuse to get some awesome new gear too!).  

This winter, just like the previous two, our family has chosen to ski at Solitude Resort here in Utah.  Our kids absolutely love it there, and as parents, we feel like the setup of the resort gives us a lot more confidence to let our older kids ski without us.  It’s become our “home” resort where all the kids know the ins and outs, and where all the top secret tree trails and jumps are.

When Solitude announced that they were removing the tables and chairs in the Moonbeam Lodge at the base of the beginner area in favor of cocktail height tables, I was a bit stumped and knew that we needed to come up with a new plan for our family ski lunches.  With 5 small kids, breaks are a natural part of our ski day (especially with our 3-year-old).   We rely on them to help our kids be able to ski a full day, and often use them as bribes to get our kids to try something hard.  

Combine the change in the lodge situation with the fact that we’d rather avoid indoor crowds whenever possible, and we’ve come up with what we feels to be a brilliant solution for skiing families during COVID. 

Instead of eating lunch in the ski lodge, we’ll be parking lot tailgating this ski season.

We’re not just talking PB&J, we’re going to take our parking lot ski tailgating to the next level.  Not only will we save huge amounts of money over eating in the lodge, but I think our kids will have more fun with it (and I’ll stress less about them all getting sick).

Check out our list of 20 incredible ski lunch ideas.

While many people associate tailgating with sports games and grilling, at the ski hill, we’re all about warm food and fueling up (and getting it FAST, so we can ski more) Here is the gear that you’ll want to pick up so that your family can have an awesome tailgating lunch while skiing.

Hydroflask 64 Oz Wide Mouth Jug

This has been a go-to winter essential in our family.  Whenever we’re headed out the door on a snowy adventure, one of the kids is responsible for filling the Hydroflask up with hot cocoa, and grabbing cups for everyone.  Actually, they just fill it with hot water, add powdered cocoa mix, and then dance around the house to shake it up.  It keeps things hot for an entire day, and I love that it’s big enough for our entire large family.  

Last year, we also started using our Hydroflask for ski lunches as well for warm soups during lunchtime tailgating.  We’d add boiling water, mix in our favorite dehydrated soup mix, and by lunch, we’d have thick hot soup waiting for us in the car.  This mix and this mix have been our favorites since they tend to fill the kids up more and are less spill able.  Also, to prevent spills, I’m considering getting this giant insulated bottle with an easy pour handle.

Pro Tip: Have your kids eat their soup out of cups instead of bowls since they can fit in chair cup holders and are less likely to spill.

Car Slow Cooker 12V

This one is new to me and I can’t wait to try it out.  Did you know that they make crock pots that plug into your cigarette lighter?  MIND BLOWN!  I feel like tailgating just got taken to the next level.  Make your lunch at home and plug it in to cook while you’re driving and while you’re skiing.  You could easily make large batches of soup, but I’m thinking that loaded down pastas, casseroles, and maybe even a big pot of shredded pork would be amazing.  

This crock pot has a spill proof lid (so you can really cook while driving, and a cool touch outside so you don’t melt things in your car.  The best part about it? It’s got a 6qt capacity so it can feed a big group!

Tip: make sure that you plug it into a cigarette lighter that has power even when you’re not driving so that it still cooks while your skiing.

12V Car Electric Blanket

My biggest hesitation to car tailgating in the past was that my kids often really needed to go inside the lodge to get warm.  Cold days, especially when the snow is really coming down like it does in Utah, make for kids that often resembled popsicles.  While I’m so excited about Solitude is installing outdoor heaters and umbrellas to keep the snow away, I feel like my little ones need just a bit more heat.  

I’m crazy excited to try out this electric car blanket.  I already have visions of the kids piled into the back of our SUV all snuggled together under the electric blanket.  I love that this blanket is the perfect width to stretch across the back of our car and tuck around the kids at the ends, so I only will need to get one.

Roll Up Table

We’ve had a table like this for the last 15 years and it’s one of our most used pieces of gear.  We take it on picnics, camping trips, river runs, and regularly bring it out when we have company over for dinner.  This year we’re adding it to our ski trip checklist.  I love that they roll up small and have a large area where we can serve food and eat without making a giant mess in the car.  

Camping Chairs

A must have for any tailgating experience.  While we won’t be taking chairs for the whole family and blocking the road at Solitude, we will always have a few chairs in the back of the car to sit in during our lunch tailgating (3-4 of the kids can easily sit in the back of our SUV under their heated blanket).

While many people will try and convince you that you need fancy camping chairs, we’ve had the best luck with buying them at Walmart, and the price is so low you really can’t beat it.  


Although most of our ski tailgating will be warm, ready to eat meals, I know that once spring hits and the weather warms up a bit, we’ll be ready to mix it up with a bit of grilling.  We’ve used this grill before and I love that it’s got a good grilling area, so we can grill for a crowd, but folds up small and is self contained.  

Plan to a tailgate lunch with friends

Skiing and food are both better when you’ve got friends to enjoy them with. Plan ahead so that you can enjoy your ski lunch in the parking lot with friends and make it a party.

Drive up to the resort with friends, so you can park together.  At Solitude and most other ski resorts, you can’t save parking spaces, so if you want to do lunch tailgating with friends, you really must arrive at the same time. We also love to ski tailgate at Arapahoe Basin ski resort in Colorado.

Parking lot family lunches are great since kids can feel like they’re being social, but each family can stay by their own car and space out.  

Ski Resort Tailgating FAQ

Do all ski resorts allow ski tailgating?

Most ski resorts do, and especially during 2020-21, many family ski resorts are encouraging eating lunch at your car.  If you’re worried about it, check with your local resort.

How early do I need to be at the ski resort if I plan on tailgating?

It’s no fun to tailgate if you have to walk ½ mile to and from your car at lunch time.  Plan on getting to your resort early.  If you want to park in the front row, you will typically need to be there at least an hour before chairlifts open, but if you just want to be within good walking distance, you can get to the ski resort for tailgating about 30 minutes early.

Any safety considerations to know about while tailgating at a ski resort with kids?

Yes! Make sure to stay off to the side of the road.  Most ski area parking lots are covered in snow so cars can’t stop quickly if a child darts out in front of them.  Just like with all road crossings, make sure your children look both ways, and remind them to save their wild play for while they’re on the mountain.  

What are the easiest meals to take on a ski trip?

The easiest meal is always a PB&J sandwich stuffed in your coat pocket, just like I used to do in college.  If you want a warm meal that will warm you up, we typically opt for soups or crock pot meals, using a car slow cooker.  If you have an insulated food jar, the sky is the limit for having a warm and filling meal on the ski hill. 

Like we mentioned, tailgate lunch parties are always more fun with friends. If you plan on skiing at Solitude this winter with us, send us a message so we can meet up!

About Jessica Averett

Hi, I’m Jessica, a mom of 5 kids and married to my favorite adventure partner. I love to bike, ski, camp and hike. We've visited over 40 countries with our kids, but are equally happy on the road as we are exploring our home state of Utah.

5 thoughts on “Planning The Perfect Ski Tailgate Lunch”

  1. THANK YOU! This information is great, idea on the Presto Nomad 12V Car Slow cooker! We ski at Breckenridge and Wolf Creek CO (which is very tailgater-Friendly) A Press pot for Coffee is great. I wish all the best for your family! Much Love and stay Safe! ⛷

    • This is great! Did not know there was a car powered slow cooker and blankets. We use our jetboil to make Mac n cheese and other ready camp meals. Also bring a entry floor mat. You can take your boots of and walk on something dry. I have seen others put down later blanket on the ground. To spread out. All this not in the parking lots but in the green space.

  2. Yes! Nice tip on the Stanley growler. I’ve got my camp chairs, camp stove, and ramen ready for tomorrow. I have a 32 oz thermos, but I’m wanting a bigger one so that I can share with other kids.


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