There’s something about mountains that urge you to seize the day. Instead of lounging about, they expect you to grasp life by the horns and find your adventure. And for us, the only way to start the day off right is with a nice big cup of coffee. Instead of hitting up a corporate joint like Starbucks, we love finding the local spots to get a scoop of local culture alongside our caffeine fix. Here’s eight of the coolest coffee shops we’ve found in ski towns throughout our travels.
Free Bird Café
South Lake Tahoe, CA
We can’t start this list of coolest coffee shops without talking about our favorite go-to spot in Lake Tahoe when we’re NOT traveling. Ever since we first stepped into the little shack next to Red Hut Café, we felt welcomed. Besides the off-the-hook customer service, they also serve legit coffee from local roasters such as:
- Refuge Coffee Company (So. Lake Tahoe)
- Insight Coffee Roasters (Sacramento)
- Hub Coffee Roasters (Reno)
Not into coffee but need a pick me up? Well, their traditional Indian Chai made from scratch with REAL whole ingredients is the best Chai we’ve EVER tasted.
As of 2020, they’ve expanded to THREE locations. The original is a little “hut” next to the Red Hut by Meek’s Lumber in Mid-town. The one called Free Bird West Side has an outdoor seating area to let you enjoy your refreshments while catching up with friends. With all that extra space, they now can serve breakfast items like Bagels & Lox made with local ingredients from Don’s Cakes by the Lake & Overland Meats. And the newest location is called Free Bird Chai and is in the same building as Red Hut at Ski Run and Lake Tahoe Boulevard.
Original Free Bird
Address: 2753 Lake Tahoe Blvd
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 7:30am – 2pm
Free Bird West Side
Address: 2229 Lake Tahoe Blvd
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 7:30 am – 2 pm
Free Bird Chai
Address: 3660 Lake Tahoe Blvd
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 7:00 am – 2 pm
When traveling the Powder Highway or heading to Shambhala, this is a must stop in Nelson, BC. With its light colored wood décor, dark roasted brew, and inviting staff, this place is perfect to relax and work your way through the day. Or better yet, just enjoy one of their nice pastries and a cup of fantastic coffee which they roast themselves.
For more about Oso Negro and other places around town, check out our Ultimate Guide to Nelson.
Address: 604 Ward St
Nelson, BC V1L 7B1, Canada
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 7 am – 5 pm Sunday: 8 am – 4 pm
Moguls Coffee House
To be one of the coolest coffee shops we’ve visited isn’t just about the coffee. A lot of times it’s about the culture, the community, and the atmosphere. Moguls is the best example of this. Located literally steps from the base of the Whistler gondola, this coffee shop is a great place to people watch, discuss the snow pack, or talk about that ridiculous air you got in the mountain bike park. In addition to the vibe, this place also serves fantastic pastries, epic coffee, and awesome wraps. If you are looking for something affordable in Whistler that also has a great environment, this is your place.
Address: 4208 Village Square #202
Whistler, BC V0N 1B4
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 6:30 am – 2:30 am
Flight of Fancy Bakery
As soon as we ordered the cappuccino and Susan, the owner, asked us if we wanted it “Dry or wet?”, we knew we were in for a treat. This homey café just down the road from Tamarack resort is a MUST for anyone near McCall, Idaho. Besides the best cappuccino we’ve had in a LONG time, the baked goods are beyond description. For example, the Huckleberry Almond Croissant is crunchy and flaky outside yet jam packed with almond paste inside. You can taste how fresh the ingredients are! Looking for something a bit more filling? The Baked Oatmeal is where it’s at. It’s not your typical oats in a bowl. First, it NEVER touches the stove. Second, the oats soak for an entire day before cooking. And finally, the oats bake in the oven! It’s hearty, crunchy AND healthy.
Address: 282 Main St
Donnelly, ID 83615
Hours: Wednesday – Monday: 7 am — 3 pm Tuesday: CLOSED
Montana Coffee Traders
Whitefish, MT (and various other locations)
What makes Montana Coffee Traders different than any other place you’ve been? For starters, their impressive array of single-origin coffees and tried & true blends along with the best tasting flavored coffees in the world truly set them apart. Once you purchase a bag of Flathead cherry coffee and open it, the aroma of freshly baked biscotti will hit your senses. For those coffee purists out there, don’t worry about the additional flavor… it will NOT overpower the actual coffee itself. Even if flavored coffee isn’t your thing, try it at least once. It might just surprise you.
Roastery on Hwy 93
Address: 5810 Hwy 93 South
Whitefish, MT 59937
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM; Saturday 9 AM – 5 PM
Address: 110 Central Ave
Whitefish, MT 5993
Hours: Monday – Saturday 7 AM – 6 PM; Sunday 8 AM – 3 PM
Address: 328 W Center St
Kalispell, MT 59901
Hours: Monday – Saturday 7 AM – 3 PM
Columbia Falls Café
Address: 30 9th Street West
Columbia Falls, MT 59912
Hours: 7am to 2pm
World Cup Coffee
Taos, New Mexico
Coffee shops are at their soul a place of philosophical discussion. Where ideas are challenged. Thoughts are created. World Cup Coffee is the local’s coffee shop that personifies Taos’ culture. Edgy yet refined. Old school but at the same time applying new ideas where it fits. Saying that the owner pours a great cup of coffee doesn’t do him justice. He isn’t a barista… he’s the Georgia O’Keefe with Arabica beans. For example, when you think of an Americano, a watered down bitter leather concoction comes to mind. His well-trained hand creates one that is silky and velvety that you honestly think it has milk in it. Do yourself a favor when visiting Taos New Mexico and go here. You won’t regret it.
Address: 102 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte A
Taos, NM 87571
Hours: Monday-Sunday 7:00 am – 6:00 pm
Jackson Hole, WY
The town of Jackson Hole is almost totally surrounded by National Parks and is arguably the most scenic place in North America. With the massive Grand Tetons standing head and shoulders above everything else in the area, you better have a cup of coffee that can get you ready for such an adventuresome place. Cowboy Coffee fits that bill. It may not be the largest roaster in the area, but it is definitely our favorite when we head into town. Their cowboy original blend is perfect for a crisp winter’s morning or a warm summer’s sunrise as you head out for a beautiful day in the wilderness.
Address: 125 N Cache St
Jackson, WY 83001
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 6:00 am – 6:00 pm; Sunday/Monday 6:00 am – 1:00 pm
The famed blues singer Robert Johnson was rumored that he once stood at a Mississippi crossroads and sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his unique musical gifts. Luckily you don’t have to do anything of the sort to get a great cup of coffee at this cozy coffee shack. Fairfield is the gateway to the hidden gem known as Soldier Mountain, and Musher’s Mug is the perfect pitstop before heading up. Inside you’ll find a handful of bench seats that all face the kitchen/serving area. As the owners whip up orders and coffee, the breakfast nook-like atmosphere invites customers to spark a conversation where you’ll feel more like family than a stranger.
Address: 101 2nd St E
Fairfield, ID 83327
Hours: Tuesday-Friday 7:00 am – 4:00 pm; Saturday 7:00 am – 2:00 pm; Sunday/Monday closed