Wisdom from a Bartender

Stowe's longtime barkeep Chris Strong on living—and tipping—well

This interview was originally published in the September 2015 (44.1) issue of POWDER. PHOTO: Brian Mohr

NAME: Chris Strong
AGE: 40
LOCATION: Stowe, Vermont
ROOTS: A longtime barkeep, Strong began dishwashing at The Shed at the age of 13, Stowe’s legendary bar that closed down in 2011. 

You can keep your finger on the pulse of the mountain at a good ski bar.

Good patrons always tip well on their first drink and don’t wait on the tab. Pay on the first drink then run a tab.

When I was younger, tree skiing was just getting to be cool. But ski patrol would chase your ass and bust you if they caught you off trail. I quickly learned how to be sneaky.

I never got so many questions from people following me in the backcountry as I did this past year. I scare folks off with stories on how I got lost a few times, rather than giving them lip. No one needs negativity, it’s best to keep things on the positive and help them realize maybe they’re not being safe.

A lot of people say I’m the first person they meet in town. I make it a point to not be standoffish. Stowe has a bit of a snobby reputation, but if you give off a cool vibe and show that people here are having a good time, then your town gets cooler.

Ski towns are transient. Say hi to the guy sitting alone at the bar; I met some of my best friends that way. And if you eavesdrop on some local’s insight, then buy that guy a beer.

In a ski town, rocking swagger is a faux pas. Be open-minded and not the boss, because someone next to you or in the bar probably did something 10 times more gnarly.

My father co-opened The Shed in 1965. It was the central hub for skiing in Stowe. We don’t have that now and it’s missed. For two years there was mass confusion on where to meet after skiing and share stories. You would be at one bar, but wonder who is at another. Today you have to make a more concerted effort, using Facebook or texting, and communicate rather than assume they’ll show up.

It’s easy to become jaded with The Shed closing, houses being bought up as second and third homes, or rules changing for the rich and not the locals. I think I’m so in love with skiing that that’s what lifts me above it. It’s my spiritual moment.