You just have to wonder what kind of an establishment puts a sign right in the middle of its front door that reads, "Please use other door" — especially when the place only has one door. I'd argue the best kind. The kind of place you have to have a history with to understand. The kind of place that had to have a history to even exist. The kind of place that could be named the Wang Shack, and have that name actually make sense, without anyone really knowing what it means.
Some great ideas are born in an instant, like the moment Archimedes stepped into a bath and noticing the water rise exclaimed — Eureka! — realizing that he suddenly understood how water displacement works. Similarly, Newton understood gravity the moment the apple fell upon his head. Other great ideas aren't born but rather grown into over time and through a perhaps unlikely series of events. The tiny, funky, cheerful and crusty-around-the-edges Wang Shack definitely falls into this latter category.
Originally born as a small shack — essentially, a storage shed — the first incarnation of what would become the "Wang" was a ski demo facility. It was an extension of the village retail store located at the highest point on Schweitzer Mountain, where adventurous skiers could pay a fee to take the latest skis out for a few laps and then conveniently make a change of equipment and head out on a different set-up without having to venture into the hustle and bustle of the regular retail zone often packed with skiers looking for a regular rental set-up.
Somewhere along the line, likely after so many inquiries from thirsty shredders, a decision was made to add selling beer into the equation, beginning phase two of its development into one of the coolest little ski bars ever. In the immortal words of the Dude, what really "tied the room together," so to speak, was a final decision to transfer management of this tiny mountain-top gem out of retail and into food and beverage. Once that move was made, what followed was accidental genius. Rental skis moved out and a couple of small tables with stools, a bit of refrigeration, a few bags of chips and a bartender moved in, and with that, the true Wang Shack that so many remember was born.
I'd been stopping by this quirky little shack from time to time, getting to know it pretty well, but the experience that made me a regular is about as typical Wang Shack as it can get. The bartender and I were discussing music, as we often did, and I professed my love for Hall & Oates. Without missing a beat, he pointed to a number written on the wall — the walls of the Wang were covered in modern-day Sharpie cave paintings — and directed me to dial it immediately.
After some light protesting, because really who knew what I was getting into, I made the call and had my mind blown. Who knew there was a Hall & Oates hotline? Well, now you do, too.
It was experiences like this that eventually built a tribe of kindred spirits. Some of the best times, best cheers, best powder day high-fives ever had at a ski hill happened right there at an unlikely storage shed turned ski bar with a really strange name. I mean how many ski bars are there where, from time to time, a regular customer might actually ski right into the bar?
Sadly, we're all too familiar with the expression, "It's too good to last." And the Wang Shack was no exception.
Just as the trusted old double chairs made way for high-speed quads and 205cm GS skis made way for fat skis, this fringe-worthy and sometimes even a bit cringe-worthy little piece of ski history gave way to bigger things. However, if you ever hoisted a shotzski, watched a confused first-timer spin around after reading the sign on the door, swept a semiconscious fly off a table to make room for your beverage or shared a conversation about something random with the ever-fabulous bartender within those hallowed and heavily adorned walls, the Wang Shack will live on forever in your memory.
If you were never lucky enough to pay a visit, then keep an eye out for the gal or guy with the #savethewang coozie on their beer and ask them to tell you a story, I guarantee you will not regret it. ♦