Taking Shots With the Ski Bros in Tahoe
PB&Js at The Slot Bar
“No Snow Talk” is printed on a flimsy sheet of paper and tacked up on the wall behind a blonde, dreadlocked bartender. That’s a hefty edict here at The Slot Bar in North Lake Tahoe, where snow is what’s on everyone’s mind all day, every day, and into the night.
The 500-square-foot dive bar in Olympic Valley, CA was named in honor of a ski run at Squaw Valley Ski Resort, the site of the 1960 Olympics. Roughly 30 people can squeeze in at once, even fewer when a pair of chilly hounds bound in off their leashes from the frigid outdoors across the carpeted floor.
True locals know to go here, including people like pro skier/avalanche-survivor JT Holmes, who is bellied up to the bar. It’s hard to see, but he likely has a “PB&J,” The Slot’s go-to order: a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon with a shot of any liquor beginning with “j.” The two 50-something skiers next to him are getting loud, and the bartender is into it. Like a momma bird, he obliging pours Jameson directly into one of the men’s grey-bearded mouth.
The Slot blessedly operates outside of the moneyed quarters of Tahoe, where the mighty San Francisco tech dollar subdues bar owners and restaurateurs into packaging up mini, snowy Silicon Valley experiences. But this bar is hidden in plain sight in a strip-mall of mediocre restaurants and shops at the base of the Squaw Valley ski hill.
A girl named Connie and I order up two PB&J’s and out comes a “shotski,” an actual ski with tiny boot-shaped shot glasses glued in a row. This way, two or more people can down their shots simultaneously, theatrically (and thematically). I’ve only had a few sips of the PBR so far and don’t know what to do with this thing. Connie does. We raise the ski to our chins and flip our heads back like two Pez dispensers. Everyone in the bar turns their attention to us, including the dogs, and sloppily cheers. It feels like a college basement party, in the best possible way.
Naughty By Nature’s old rap anthem “OPP” is playing. Nearly a quarter of a century after it topped the charts, I still know every word. I’m singing every word. That’s fine because we’re in Tahoe and everyone is a ski bro and can’t justly judge a 36-year-old white lady rapping along with a song from her youth.
The East Coast beats pulse through the dank western air while a professional ski video—a kind of ubiquitous athletic porn in every ski town—plays on loop next to the “No Snow Talk” warning sign. Go ahead and look. Just don’t talk about it.