As I make my way down the powder-filled slopes of Jay Peak in Northern Vermont, I certainly work up an appetite. It’s about 11:30 a.m., and I have been awake, and skiing, for almost four hours. There’s nothing better than clicking out of my skis and un-strapping my boots to release the pressure that’s built up around my feet to a near suffocating level at lunchtime. For those who enjoy skiing or snowboarding, lunchtime is one of the most social parts of the day; well, aside from striking up conversation with a stranger on the chairlift with you. So, I made my way through the trees and down to the base of the mountain. I see a long line of people waiting outside of a small cabin. It smells delicious, so I glide over to check it out. What they’re all waiting for? Waffles.
“Even in Belgium, you can’t find a waffle that is quite as good as ours,” according to Richard Adkins, part owner and operations manager of Waffle Cabin. Formerly known as “Leo’s – Gaufres de Liege”, or “Belgium Waffles” in French, the folks at Waffle Cabin got their start as a pushcart in Boston during the summer of 1998. Adkins, along with Ingrid Heyrman and Peter Creyf, worked tirelessly to produce a waffle that would soon become famous slopeside. They decided to bring their waffle off of the streets of Boston and into the mountain scene in 1999. Okemo Mountain, Vermont, is where it became a hit.
Since their first Waffle Cabin opened at Okemo, it has grown to be a tradition on mountains across the country, stretching from the east coast to the west. After twenty years of hustling, Adkins and his partners have forty franchises to date. Their waffle was even featured on an episode of the Travel Channel’s show, “Travel Channel Extreme.”
It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s wildly successful. Their menu consists of only about ten items. “Real Belgian Sugar Waffle” for $4.25. To add a chocolate topping it’s $1.00 extra. Then they have an assortment of hot beverages, cold beverages, and candy. While most people would think that an Eggo frozen waffle is good enough, for the Waffle Cabin it’s their livelihood to make the best waffle they can. Each waffle is made by hand using a special recipe which was developed by Creyf, from a traditional style Belgian waffle that Creyf modified. “He’s a really hands-on type of guy,” Adkins says, “and this whole process of making the product, which really sells itself, speaks to why the waffle is so special.”
Based in Rutland, Vermont, the Waffle Cabin production is a six day a week operation. “Made by hand, you see the end result, but so much work goes into these waffles behind the scenes. The waffles are not made with a batter, it’s a dough, so you have to proof the dough, put it into a hot box… long story short, it’s a very difficult product to produce, it has to be the right size and taste. There’s a lot of marginal error with this product.” With three or four drivers, the frozen based yeast product is delivered to each cabin all across the country.
Like any small business, the Waffle Cabin has seen their fair share of adversity, with a great deal of trial and error. “We don’t do this for our health, we do this because it’s a livelihood, and we want to get it big enough,” said Adkins, “Starting a small business seems glamorous, but when you get to the nuts and bolts of it, you have to have a lot of tenacity. People always take for granted, the toil that goes into that.”
So, next time you find yourself hurling down the slopes of a mountain, with the trees flying past you, the wind in your goggles, and the snow in your face, stop at the Waffle Cabin for the ultimate slope-side treat. I recommend splurging and paying the extra $1.00 for the chocolate drizzle topping—it’s delicious.