A food lover is always on the prowl for good food. After a day spent gliding on an Alpine peak, the urge to chase an excellent meal only intensifies.
Comforting, robust meals and restorative drinks are essential for refueling after hitting the slopes. Here are six destinations where the dining experience is as worthwhile as the skiing.
Alta Badia, Italy
Italians are well-known for their love of food, so it’s no surprise that Alta Badia, a resort region in the Dolomites, hosts an annual A Taste for Skiing festival showcasing local food and wine. This season, the festival boasts Italian-American chef Joe Bastianich as the ambassador, while the 2015/2016 theme highlights the flavors of southern Italy and South Tyrol (the northernmost Italian province).
Fourteen Italian Michelin-starred chefs at 14 ski huts will create either a South Tyrolean dish paired with southern Italian wine, or vice versa. Diners can feast on Genoa-style tagliatelle with “puccia” bread and beef, topped with ricotta that has been matured in caves in Puglia (by chef Nicola Laera); barley from a mill in Villabassa with local suckling pig and marjoram (by chef Chris Oberhammer); and linguine with lemon, mussels, bottarga, and Agerola bread (by chef Alois Vanlangenaeker). Wine pairings include pinot bianco, Chardonnays, and Nerello Mascalese.
On Feb. 25, March 3 and March 10, sommeliers at select huts will guide guests through a wine tasting featuring South Tyrolean wines. The festival runs through March 20. altabadia.org/en
Located at the foot of the famed Matterhorn is the classic Swiss Alps resort Zermatt, with charming chalets, 180-plus restaurants, and no cars allowed into the village. Here you’ll find classic Swiss cuisine, which takes influences from its neighbors in Germany, Austria, France, and Italy.
A winter—or anytime—favorite is cheese fondue. Amadé Perrig, former president of the Zermatt tourism board, said the best fondue is made with Emmental and Gruyère cheeses, mixed with a little white wine or kirsch (cherry brandy). To dip, “use bread that’s a little older, not spongy—at least a day old,” he said.
Another classic is raclette cheese served with potatoes, pickles, and onions. The fun part is melting the cheese yourself over your own tabletop grill. Perrig said that depending on where the milking cows were raised, the taste of raclette can differ greatly. “The higher the cows, the more rich the grass [they eat], and the better the cheese,” he said. Raclette is best paired with Fendant, a dry white wine.
If enjoying all this cheese makes you curious to know how it’s made, you can tour Zermatt’s only local dairy producer, Horu-Käserei.
Another hearty Swiss dish is Zürcher geschnetzeltes, veal cooked with white wine, cream, mushrooms, and onions, and usually accompanied with rösti (Swiss hash browns). zermatt.ch/en
Lech am Arlberg, Sölden, and Saalbach, Austria
The Lech ski resort in the Arlberg mountain range is home to the highest number of Gault&Millau-rated establishments per capita (Gault&Millau is an influential restaurant guide in Europe). Among them is the rustic Rud-Alpe ski hut, first built around 1750. As Vorarlberg—the state where Lech is located—is known for its cheeses, Rud-Alpe’s cheese platter is a must-try. rud-alpe.com
At Schneggarei, another gourmet ski hut, you can sample regional specialties like beef tartare made with Arlberg almochsen (an Alpine mountain ox), or Lech rainbow trout served with parsley buttered potatoes and almond butter. Wash everything down with warm Austrian-style mulled red wine, glühwein, spiced with cinnamon and oranges. schneggarei.at
About a two-hour drive away, at the Sölden ski resort located in the Ötztal valley, the Gampe Thaya Almwirtschaft ski hut also runs its own family farm. The owners raise Tyrolean gray cattle to make fresh cheese, yogurt, and butter for guests. The hut’s most popular dishes are the kaiserschmarrn, fluffy shredded pancakes dusted with powder sugar and typically served with baked plums or apple compote; and Tiroler gröstel, a hearty fry-up with bacon, potatoes, and onions. gampethaya.riml.com
Further east, in the state of Salzburg, is Saalbach, one of the largest ski resorts in Austria. A culinary ski trail called Via Culinaria brings skiers to gourmet mountain huts throughout Salzburg. All use local ingredients to prepare classic Austrian dishes like the Wiener schnitzel, germknödel (a yeast dumpling filled with spicy plum jam), and a signature Salzburg soufflé dessert, pyramid-shaped and reminiscent of the snowy caps of Austria, called Salzburger nockerl. salzburgerland.com
Carrabassett Valley, Maine
If you want the experience of traveling European-style from ski hut to ski hut, but without leaving the country, head to western Maine. Maine Huts and Trails, a nonprofit organization, is building an 180-mile network of cross-country ski trails stretching from the Mahoosuc Range to Moosehead Lake. So far, 80 miles have been built, with four huts stationed along one section near Carrabassett Valley, totaling 8 miles. You can choose which trail to take based on difficulty level.
Guests stay overnight at each hut, then continue on the trail the next day. The staff serve a home-cooked dinner, breakfast the next morning, and a to-go lunch to enjoy on the trail. Produce, eggs, and meats are sourced from local farms as much as possible.
Count on hearty dishes like spiced braised beef with sweet potatoes, apricots, cumin, and ginger, served over couscous; gigli pasta with pumpkin sauce and chicken sausage; and baked beans with locally grown Marfax beans roasted in blackstrap molasses. mainehuts.org
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
At the Four Seasons Hotel in Jackson Hole, The Handle Bar, helmed by famed restaurateur Michael Mina, serves elevated pub food. Game meat is a big part of the food culture in this town, and one of The Handle Bar’s classic dishes is the elk and red bean chili, made with Guajillo peppers, bitter chocolate, and cumin crema.
“A big variety of people come here, local ski bums and tourists. So we designed a menu that’s recognizable,” said executive chef Ryan Schelling. “We try to use the best products, and raise the presentation.”
Bison bratwurst is another must-try, Schelling said. It’s served with black pepper spätzle (egg noodles), Brussels sprouts, and apricot mostarda. You can take it to-go on your way out or pick it up at the hot dog cart that The Handle Bar has set up on the slopes, “if you’re hungry and don’t want to miss the tram lap,” Schelling said.
The Handle Bar also serves crowd-favorite burgers, like the Handle Burger with truffle aioli, smoked blue cheese, mushrooms, and caramelized onions.
Jackson Hole is close to the Snake River by the Idaho border, where 20 different species of trout reside. In the winter, The Handle Bar serves red trout, simply pan-seared with some olive oil and lemon.
For libations, the bar has plenty of warming drinks to choose from, from a housemade Fireball (rye whiskey, cayenne pepper, cinnamon) that you can also order to-go, to the Hot Toddy with scotch, Earl Grey tea, honey, and lemon. And then, of course, there’s the beer, including eight craft brews sourced within 26 miles of Jackson Hole. thehandlebarjh.com
Japan’s northernmost island, Hokkaido, is a popular ski destination due to its snowy landscape throughout winter. It is also known for its fresh seafood, with a large variety of crabs residing in its coastal waters: queen crab, horsehair crab, red king crab, and blue king crab, among others. In the winter, a simmering hot pot called nabe, with meats, vegetables, and seafood cooked in broth, is a popular meal for warming up after a day on the slopes.
In the Kiroro ski resort in western Hokkaido, the Ishikari hot pot is a local specialty, made with seasonal vegetables and fresh seafood caught from nearby Ishikari Bay, cooked in crab broth with barley miso. You can try this dish at the Shunsai restaurant inside The Kiroro, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel, located at the base of the ski mountain. kiroro.co.jp/en