With mean winds whistling through Manhattan’s streets, it’s time for some saucy, ski-lodge action. Not the kind that involves spending half a week’s pay to lug cinderblock boots and other oddly shaped, but equally ill-fitting, gear up and down steep inclines. We’re talking tight pants, rosy cheeks, toasty fires, and all the tawdry activities—hookups, hot tubs, cold beers—in between.
What better place to begin than the oh-so-Euro-trashy Alps? MONT BLANC (306 West 48th Street, 582-9648) is more Swiss Family Robinson than Diana and Dodi in Davos, but worth it alone for the pungent cheese fondue ($39 for two). Order up a bottle of Beck’s ($4.50) and join the older crowd of import-exporters that fills the smoky, wood-paneled bar. The yellowed Swiss K pics that plaster the walls fall short of an authentic Sound of Music scene, but an enthusiastic airing of the Winter Olympics ski-jump competition lent this ’50s throwback an incomparable international flair.
Throw irony into the wintry mix and you get the CABIN CLUB AT THE PINE TREE LODGE (326 East 35th Street, 481-5490), an installation-like setting reproducing some Colorado stoner’s basement. Big bins of old sports equipment (skis, football helmets) seem set to spill over while plastic deer and moose heads, disco balls, and banks of TVs airing punk-rock skate movies muddle the walls. And that’s not all: The boxes of junk that fill the side room obscure a secret sectional sofa; a rear door leads down to a multilevel courtyard complete with comfy Adirondack deck furniture; and the Boy Scout bathroom houses mallard ducks and medicated body powder. Sip one of the many brandy offerings or chug a cold, strong Saranac Pale Ale ($5; two-for-one happy hour from 5 to 8). The bar’s saving/losing grace is the Murray Hill location—the only hipster in the joint is the mod bartender who likes to blare America’s Greatest Hits.
If Alpine racing proves too perilous, try the Nordic cross-country variety. At elegant CHRISTER’S (145 West 55th Street, 974-7224), there’s no kitsch, just a warm and enchanting lodge set to sea. The Lincoln Log-like front room houses a rustic plank bar while a shimmering hall leads to the belly of this Swedish fish—a dining area beside a huge stone hearth. Be it bar- or tableside, you’ll stay cozy and dry. An icy, crisp bottle of Stella Artois ($5.50) deliciously pairs with a gravlax, herring, and smoked fish plate ($17) or an oyster assortment ($16). Top it all off with that most potent of Swedish delights—smooth, chilled Aquavit. A shot of the licorice liqueur is guaranteed to make you all warm and fuzzy. And isn’t that what heading for the mountains is all about?