Level up your ski tailgate

Level up your ski tailgate - Aleck

Ski Resort Tailgate

When spring approaches at the end of each snow season, a couple of things happen. We look at the calendar and decide how many more days we can squeak in before the resorts close, and for seasoned (and frugal) resort goers, we look forward to adding more tailgates into the mix. Some of the Aleck team resides near the
Spring Skiing Capital of the US, so we have built experience and wisdom in doing it right.

Listen, there isn’t anything wrong with hitting up the resort restaurants, or bars for sustenance and fun. What I am suggesting though, is that tailgating, AKA ski-tailgate, AKA Snow-B-Q or SKI-B-Q is a superior experience. Let us explore the why:

  1. You Save Money - This one is easy. You can make Kobe Beef sliders behind your Subaru for the price of a Snickers and chips at the lodge. 
  2. Friends and Family and Dogs - What’s better than getting the whole clan together? Easier to find a seat if you brought them yourself.  And if the resort allows it, you can play with Fido too. 
  3. Better Food - In the battle between the ‘hot grill’ vs ‘heat lamp’, there is no contest. If you’re doing it right, you start with better ingredients, and are serving it up immediately. Mmmmmmmmmm. Extend that quality approach to a homemade salad, and/or desserts and you are winning the game.
  4. Better Drinks - When your beer costs $1-2 each versus $8 
  5. Lockers Suck - Finding a locker is usually a pain, and they are never big enough for you and your brood.
  6. Have Breakfast? - Yes… yes you can. Pack the night before, get up stupid early and nab that prime parking spot. Pop out that griddle for a hot breakfast before you get in the opening queue. Maybe some pancakes or breakfast burritos. 

By now it should be clear that you’ll be bringing extra gear to make it happen. Don’t worry, we got you. We know you spend more time thinking about gear (boots, or the next shred stick(s), so we wanted to give you some recommendations on proven ways to ‘level up’ your lunch and apres…

Below we have curated a Good / Better / Best of gear that can make you the queen or king of ski tailgating. We are not earning commissions here, so these are honest reviews based on our field use. 


First things first… don’t buy a cooler from Walmart unless you are in a bind. Yeah sure, you can save a few bucks, and there are some brand names you recognize, but they have spent decades cost-reducing to lower those prices which means the quality is sitting on the edge of unusability. Ice will melt, handles will break, and lids will spontaneously pop off. It just isn’t worth it. 

So here are the chosen winners in different price bands. Of course everyone has different needs for storage or vehicle space so we are offering up the mid-size (30-50qt):

Yeti Tundra 45

Affordable Quality

Coleman 48 qt Performance Cooler - No frills here, but for $35 you can’t beat the quality. Their classic handle design will last longer than your ski knees.


Igloo Ecocool Latitude 52qtAt $50 the classic cooler brand gives you space, durability and is made from recycled plastics!

Best of the Best

Yeti Tundra 45 - You get what you pay for… and it isn’t easy to drop $325 on a cooler, but believe me that you will never be sorry that you did. It’s bulky, rugged, but the upside is that the Tundra 45 can handle two if you’re in need of extra seating.


Stanley / Aeropress / Ember

Affordable Quality

Stanley Legacy Quadvac Thermal 1.5L - Make the coffee at home and then store in this low price ($30 USD) beast. Arrived late and don’t have time to drink it? It will be hot even the following day.


Aeropress - Step up the coffee game by making a fresh cup on the spot. For $40 you can pre-load the Aeropress, bring a Stanley full of hot water, and boom. Basically an amazing cup of instant coffee.

Best of the Best

Ember Travel Mug 2 - If you are ultra particular about coffee, and the temperature this thing is awesome. Sip your cup o’ joe on the drive up and the last sip will be the same temp as the first!


Okay this is for the “core” kids, who spend the night before packing and prepping. A morning breakfast made at the rockstar parking spot closest to the lift can really be an incredible start to your whole day. We recommend rolling out a griddle and making pancakes or breakfast tacos/burritos to keep the mess to a minimum. You can’t go wrong with the list below.


Blackstone 17” Griddle - There really is no low-price griddle but at just over $100 this unit rates high, isn’t too large, and will last forever.

Best of the Best

Cuisinart 36” Four Burner - You will need to be committed 


For a delicious hot meal, the grill is the best tool, but you really should select by size and convenience, as well as budget.

Charbroil Portable Gas Grill / Cuisinart Venture / Hitchfire Forge 15

Affordable Quality

Charbroil Portable Gas Grill - A mere $50 plus the propane, but you can fit dogs and burgers. If you are feeding more than 4, you may want to step up in size. Recommend you bag it, or get a carry case to keep the grease off the rest of your gear.

Mid Range

Cuisinart Venture - A little pricey, but great for people without a lot of space. The Cuisinart line is ideal for cold weather because the cooking chamber is compact. 

Best of the Best

Hitchfire Forge 15 - Pricey, and large, but there is no substitute for a full size grill if you are feeding a small army. If you have an open  tow hitch, this is the way.


Pizza oven

Hear me out before you scroll. We’re all used to chomping down sandwiches, salads, hot dogs and burgers, but have you ever had an oven fresh pizza in a parking lot? Okay sure it’s boujie but you should really be thinking "I can be ‘Goddess of the Parking Lot'…"

Ooni 12 Portable Pizza Oven

Affordable Quality

There are no quality low price options yet. If you know of one, let us know and we can add it!


Cuisinart Alfrescamore - $300 and it has a warming drawer so a pizza doesn’t get cold as you struggle getting your ski boots off.

Best of the Best

Ooni Koda 12 - Sleek and stylish, and cooks on a stone. Flip the legs down, hook up the gas, and 15 min later you're able to crank out a pizza in 60 seconds flat. $400 and you’re the envy of all.

Honorable mentions

Nemo Stargazer / Ignik Gas Growler / Sony SRS-XB33

Best Portable Chair

Nemo Stargazer - In today’s market, there is no better chair for tailgating or camping than this one. Lounge or sprawl, it does it all. You will be comfortable with an empty belly, or a stuffed one. You should pick up a cheap foldable footrest for a flawless experience.

Best Propane Tank

Ignik Gas Growler - This is a $150 investment but so awesome to have. Way better than the little green tanks where you are constantly playing the “do i have enough gas” game. Comes with an insulated case so your burners run hot even on the coldest of days.

Best Bluetooth Speaker

SonySRS-XB33 - In addition to great sound, some key features to look for: Waterproof, 100 ft wireless range and a Big Battery for recharging your devices This one checks all the boxes at $179

Best of all you can use the Aleck app to communicate with the remainder of your group still on the snow “gettin at it”

Final pro tips

  • Go Early! This one is obvious, but to get the best spots, you have to be the early bird. 
  • No Chairs? Use your shovels to make a free snow chaise lounge. Worth the effort.

  • See you in the parking lot!

    Snow Fight

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