Give your next ski adventure a gourmet twist with this taster of some of the best mountaintop restaurants across the world.
When it comes to planning your next ski holiday, there are obvious things to think about: snow conditions, slopes and terrain, a cosy chalet or luxurious resort and, of course, where to après ski in style. But what about the food? Thankfully the days when skiing was synonymous with mediocre menus catered purely to get you back on the slopes as quickly as possible are, like flared neoprene salopettes, a distant memory. Where once it was packed lunches cobbled together from breakfast leftovers and mountaintop buffets serving rubbery schnitzels and wilted salads, we’re now spoilt for choice – be it fine dining or fresh fast food we crave. From Champagne and fresh oysters at Falls Creek to banana bread French toast at Whistler, here’s where we go to ski and savour.
It could be said there’s a time and a place for true fine dining, but, happily, more and more chefs are taking that to be halfway up a mountain after a hard day on the slopes.
“The main principle is following nature, respecting the seasons and the mountainous terrain,” says Norbert Niederkofler, Michelin-starred executive chef at St Hubertus in the grand dame Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa, hidden away in Italy’s Dolomites. “It’s very important to us to avoid waste, use everything up and respect the old traditions to preserve mountain culture.”
And it doesn’t just stop with Chef Niederkofler’s own restaurant; he recently started working with local rifugi (mountain huts) to bring in great chefs who can raise the quality and creativity of the food on offer across the entire Südtirol region. Fine dining for everyone without the price tag to match.
Where to get it
- Don’t miss chef-owner Rolf Gunther’s incredibly hearty yet refined menu at Whistler’s Rimrock Café. The Duck Two Ways of thinly sliced breast and crispy confit ladled with caramelised onion jam is a signature classic.
- Whether it’s breakfast eggs and short-rib hash pre-ski or the indulgent five-course tasting menu with wine later on, avid skier and chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s J&G Grill Park City at The St Regis Deer Valley is worth the visit, snow or not.
- Norbert Niederkofler lives up to his word with an extraordinary array of creative classics offering a mountainous twist at St Hubertus. We loved the beef tenderloin cooked in salt crust with meadow hay, and the risotto with pine needles and smoked organic chicken.
Whether it’s dancing to Euro pop on tabletops and spilling the ‘willy’ (the eye-watering Austrian pear schnapps pronounced ‘vili’) or relaxing in front of a fire with fine wines and civilised friends, evening entertainment on the mountains is a serious business. More and more restaurants are blurring the borders between the two, serving great gourmet food set to a convivial, relaxed party atmosphere.
Where to get it
- What better way to get in a party mood than with tasty share plates and delicious drinks? Book a table at Feathertop Restaurant + Tapas Bar, featuring dishes by French-Canadian chef Brian Ritchot and world-class service by his wife, maître d’ and wine expert Erin.
- Regional Savoyard delicacies get an international twist thanks to globetrotting head chef Frank Mischler at Fruitière, set to one of the biggest après-ski parties on the planet in La Folie Douce. Wash down a pungent cheese platter with a fresh Sancerre before diving head first into the après-ski melee next door (don’t forget your goggles to protect you from all the Champagne spray!).
- Queenstown is renowned as the southern hemisphere’s biggest post-ski party. Head for Bardeaux to kickstart the cocktails, or, for something more relaxed, jump on the gondola for a sumptuous buffet set to jaw-dropping views over Lake Wakatipu at Skyline’s Stratosfare Restaurant & Bar.
“There’s no heading to a McDonald’s after a meal here,” says owner Kathi Jazic of Whistler’s Wild Wood Pacific Bistro. “We pride ourselves on home-cooked meals and large portions, with gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options.”
Variety combined with quality is the key to successful family catering, and while ski restaurants once used their remote settings as an excuse to limit menus, nowadays that just doesn’t cut the proverbial mustard.
“Wild Wood was created by locals for locals,” explains Kathi, whose returning clientele are permanent residents rather than seasonal skiers. “But people say the most memorable thing about us is the amazing staff – some of them have been with us for 10 years and families come back as much for them as our food!”
Where to get it
- For the best egg bennies (or wild bennies, as they’re locally known) in town, washed down with a cold, fresh Caesar cocktail, Whistler’s Wild Wood Pacific Bistro can’t be beat. Bring the kids and treat them to the homemade banana bread French toast – the breakfasts of champions.
- Street food, mountain style, from the roving burrito snowcat patrolling California’s Bear Mountain. Treat the kids to a breakfast burrito with green chilli, eggs, beans and salsa from this souped-up bright-yellow snowcat created by a 40-year snow-grooming veteran. Don’t do burritos? No problem – there’s now a calzone cat too!
- Ski in and out for family-friendly Italian classics at Queenstown’s Heidi’s Hut. Pizzas are fresh-made with flair – don’t miss the Pacifica with Champagne ham, caramelised pineapple and tomato salsa – and served with stunning views over The Remarkables mountain range from a vast sundeck where the kids can roam free.
Who wants to stick to the mainstream all the time? Often, the best skiing is found down hidden trails, off piste, and it’s no different when it comes to eating. Mountain ranges around the world have become a hotbed of creativity – mad locations, eccentric constructions and creative culinary twists on established classics. In such amazing settings, a dollop of adventure and a side of mystery can really add an extra dimension to the dining experience. Andrew Fletcher of Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah is a case in point with the resort’s extraordinary Mongolian Yurt. “Yurts tend to be traditional, remote mountain structures. Ours is very scenic, in a remote area of the resort that guests snowshoe to get to. We decided to combine this with a fine-dining experience.”
Where to get it
- Bring your own wine to sup with mountain-themed classics at Solitude Mountain Resort’s The Yurt. Stuffed Duroc pork loin and roasted pheasant with chasseur sauce are good, but the bison tenderloin with locally foraged huckleberry sauce is king of the hill.
- Family run madness is the rule of thumb at tiny Chez Merie tucked away in Sainte-Foy in the Tarentaise region of the French Alps. Snuggle up on the animal skin-covered sofa and watch as grandma grills huge chateaubriands on the open communal fire. Magic.
- Hidden in the treeline of Holiday Pair Lift #1 above Hirafu Niseko in Japan, atmospheric and traditional Boyo-so serves the best ramen around. If noodle soup doesn’t do it for you, warm your bones with a tempura or katsu curry, and don’t miss the awesome views over Mount Yōtei.