The skiers and snowboarders have taken their last runs, and the mountain now sits tall, somber, and empty…with the exception of 30 or so guests waiting to dine at the Ledgewood Yurt. A select few have snagged a reservation at Killington’s exclusive dining room for the night. We sit among them, sipping on spiced cider in the Snowshed Lodge as we wait for our snowcat to arrive and take us up the mountain. This is the beginning of what executive chef, Greg Lang, calls a truly unique dining experience.
Up and up we go. The snowcat’s lights illuminate the slopes enough to see the outline of chairlifts and treetops. The twinkling lights of Killington village grow smaller and smaller as we ascend. A brief 20-minute ride up the mountain takes us to the entrance of the yurt – an old world structure in the most idyllic wintery setting. We can’t imagine how cool it must be to ski along and suddenly come upon this massive yurt beside you. While Ledgewood is open to lunchtime skiers looking for a little grub and libation in the afternoon, the yurt’s dinner service is meant for only a select few. As Greg puts it, “Thousands of people could be skiing on the mountain that day, but only 30 people will be eating dinner in the yurt.”
White lights lead us up the stairs and into the the main entrance. Inside, we “ooh and aah” with our other fellow diners admiring the large tent made of wooden frame and heavy canvas – an authentic Mongolian yurt. Servers know us by name and escort us to a communal table with six other guests. A tablescape of heavy pewter plates, goblets, and tall candles only add to the yurt’s ambiance. We eagerly await the five-course experience on which we are about to embark.
Head chef for all of Killington’s dining, Greg Lang, takes pride in his work at Ledgewood Yurt. “It’s meant to be an experience. For some, a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he says. Beyond the impressive atmosphere of the place, Lang points to another important aspect of the experience: the food. “I change the menu every year. I try to make sure that I accommodate people looking for something different, but balance that with food that is still approachable.” The duck, for instance, is served with a delicious “nori paint” that brings a welcomed saltiness to the dish. Other unexpected ingredients on the menu include emu. “Emu as an experience is pretty cool,” he notes. With as unique a menu as the yurt’s, Greg pays close attention to the reactions of his guests. He has no issue changing out a menu item such as emu for a more approachable bison filet, for example. “I want to be sure the guests get what they want as well. I want everyone to walk away happy.”
As a native Vermonter, Greg stretches his culinary muscles with some home state pride. He uses as many local ingredients as possible. Along with his education at the New England Culinary Institute, Greg remembers traveling to Virginia, Tennessee, Newfoundland, Malaysia, and Singapore in his youth. “I’ve seen a lot of different cultures,” he says, “and as I’ve gotten older, I remember a lot and it resonates with me now.” These experiences have helped build Greg to the chef he is today. Upon returning to his Vermont roots, these memories have contributed to the fun Greg has planning and executing the menu for Ledgewood Yurt.
Greg loves to support Vermont in its rapid and well-deserved growth. He enjoys showing his guests that Vermont can be known for so much more than maple syrup! “Vermont itself has done a phenomenal job marketing itself with regard to farming habits, raising meat, tending land, and making cheese and butter. There are so many incredible products here, and it’s fun to share with guests.”
Mid-dinner, we see Greg making his way around the dining room. He’s checking in on the diners, seeing what they like and don’t like, what he can tweak or improve. He’s very keen in this way. “Getting out on the floor and talking to folks in the yurt allows me to see what their feedback is and what they enjoy. It drives me to find new ingredients, to try different things.” The Ledgewood Yurt is an experience, beginning even before the snowcat arrives. “Guests are excited as they roll up and see the lights outside, they walk into the yurt with a rustic feel, and then it’s my turn to put on the food show,” says Greg. Those 30 or so guests in the yurt are bound to have a good evening from the get-go, and Greg ensures this excitement carries throughout dinner.
Ledgewood Yurt revolves around a cozy atmosphere with communal seating, and lasts anywhere from two to three hours – a great option for those who like a relaxed meal while striking up conversation with new or old friends. Taking in the yurt’s warm, rustic feel is juxtaposed by the brisk air that greets us as we step outside to return in the snowcat. We look around to find absolute silence among freshly groomed trails and swaying trees. It is completely peaceful on the mountain.
Interested in the yurt experience on top of Killington Mountain? Ledgewood Yurt suggests making your dinner reservation at least two weeks in advance. For those of you who are under 21, or have little ones in your family, the yurt also hosts family nights – a shorter, more approachable dinner option for ages 7 and above! See the mountain in a whole new way, and enjoy a dinner excursion in one of the coolest venues we can imagine!