There’s more to consider when choosing a ski resort than the number of black-diamond runs it offers. Ski resorts in North America keep upping their restaurant game, but for adventurous food-lovers, how you get there is as exciting as what’s on the plate. This ski season, ditch the crowds and your car and aim high (as in 23,000 feet above sea level). From an open-air sleigh ride under the stars to a fondue dinner to a lantern-lit snowshoe trek ending in a wood-fired feast, check out these 7 sensational mountaintop food destinations.
1. Snowshoe to Your Supper at Solitude Mountain Resort, Utah
Getting to this snow-covered Mongolian-style yurt at the Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah requires hard work, but after a one-mile guided snowshoe trek through the woods, you’ll be rewarded with an intimate four-course, French-inspired mountain dinner. After all that bonding with nature, you, your guide and your trekking companions sit down at long communal tables while the chef prepares the meal tableside. There’s no electricity, but you’d be amazed what he pulls off (think salmon terrine with buerre blanc, and duck breast with cassis Sauce and Dauphinoise potato) with little more than a propane stove. The restaurant stocks a nice collection of wines and diners are welcome to schlepp in their own, but be careful not to overindulge: the only way home is the way you got here.
2. Ride a Snowcat to Epic at Okemo Mountain Resort, Vermont
Like a scene out of Polar Express, you'll climb aboard a fire-engine-red snowcat for a 20-minute starlit ride to Epic Restaurant, at Solitude Village at the Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont. By day, this slope-side Vermont restaurant is only reachable by skis, but nighttime guests swap their boots for Louboutins and ride in style in a heated grooming machine tricked out with comfortable seats and large windows that show off the fabulous mountain vistas. The real payoff? Digging into a five-course fireside prix fixe menu; the roster changes weekly, and includes ingredients like Vermont-raised pork. And of course, there's proper tableside service and (optional) wine pairings with each course.
3. Gondola Up to a Feast at Couloir in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
The journey to Couloir, an eco-friendly, glass-enclosed restaurant overlooking the Jackson Valley at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, begins with a 15-minute ride on the Bridger Gondola up to the summit stop. Once there, enjoy Rocky Mountain-inspired meals such as smoked elk tenderloin and a locavore pasta, and be sure to splurge for the optional wine pairing; after all, you’re not driving home. The restaurant’s deep connection to the land extends beyond its treetop location. Approximately 80 percent of the ingredients are sourced from a 250-mile radius, and the kitchen recycles 100 percent of its cooking oil to fuel four delivery and shuttle trucks at the resort.
4. Snowmobile to a Fondue Dinner at Crystal Hut in Whistler, British Columbia
Channel your own Apres Ski’s Jim Sced (minus the spills and hijinks) and set off on a snowmobiling dining adventure to Crystal Hut, a rustic cabin perched 6,000 feet above Whistler Village. After a short training session, you’re off and cruising across the snow-covered forested trails of Blackcomb Mountain, illuminated only by the stars and a headlamp in your own snow cruiser (better yet, share one with a friend). Park your wheels out front, then relax on the deck overlooking the panoramic views of the Coast Mountain Range and the snowcats grooming the runs for the next day. Then head inside to dip and swirl your way through a traditional candlelit fondue dinner accompanied by wine and live music. Be sure to polish off a piece of freshly baked pie before heading down the mountain.
5. Take a Sleigh Ride to Zach’s Cabin in Beaver Creek, Colorado
Take a 20-minute sleigh ride pulled by a snowcat, and you’ll arrive at Zach's Cabin, a historic elegant wood structure replete with a stone fireplace and antler chandeliers. It's nestled in an alpine meadow 9,000 feet above Beaver Creek, and serves ambitious a la carte Pacific Northwest-influenced American menu (elk tenderloin and grilled lobster tail). Perks such as wool blankets for the ride and fresh slippers to change into ensure that you’re pampered every step of the way.
6. Ski or Snowboard Into Manzanita at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe
Downhill skiers and snowboarders will want to make tracks to the tony ski-in, ski-out retaurant Manzanita at the Ritz-Carlton, located mid-mountain at Lake Tahoe. Warm your toes by the outdoor fire pit before ditching your gear at the ski valet and heading inside to Manzanita to refuel (with a prime-rib sandwich, for instance) before heading down for the final run of the day. If you don’t have a Northstar pass and aren’t staying at the hotel, you can still have lunch, dinner or an elaborate Sunday brunch buffet, but you’ll need to take the gondola from the base of The Village.
7. Ride a Funicular for a Michelin-Starred Meal at J&G Grill Park City, Utah
Star chef and avid skier Jean-Georges Vongerichten is known for taking his guests to new heights; but J&G Grill, his modern mountaintop lounge at the St. Regis, takes that goal literally. Guests staying at the hotel can valet their car, but everyone has to hop on the 20-minute public funicular that runs 24 hours a day. Once you’ve made it up there, drink in the slopeside views through the floor-to-ceiling windows while feasting on Vongerichten’s greatest hits, from tuna tartare to black truffle pizza. The swank dining room offers plenty to look at too, with its exhibition kitchen and double-sided wood-burning stove.
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