Ski regions are often seen as places for high-calorie dishes that help skiers replenish and recharge after a long day of whooshing down seriously steep slopes. Yet, if you think ski towns are places for thrill-seekers and serious skiers only, think again. Alpine towns are now seen as culinary destinations with excellent food options.
1. Zermatt, Switzerland
Zermatt is one of the most popular ski areas in Europe which comes with some of the best restaurants in the region. There are over 40 slope-side restaurants to choose from with traditional Alpine foods like fondue and raclette on offer. Alpenrose (below) is a great choice with wonderful views, but if you are looking for gastronomic adventures to write home about, Cervo does fusion dishes well, while Alpine Gourmet Prato Borni (below) serves only dishes from the Valais region – a gourmet’s delight. Chez Vrony in Findeln, above Zermatt, is an organic restaurant with a strong focus on Alpine-fed livestock and homemade charcuterie – a nice spot with excellent food and breathtaking views of the Matterhorn.
Zermatt also offers occasional food tours and events for foodies, such as the Findeln Gourmet Pass, which takes gourmets to different award-winning restaurants, tasting all of their regional specialities – you also ride the funicular on this pass. Prices start at CHF 121 (US$122), but do check for seasonal availability.
During the winter, Iglu-Dorf (Igloo Village) is a lot of fun where you can enjoy home-made mulled wine and fondue in an igloo. The igloos pop up in seven different locations around Europe (five of them are in Switzerland) and are a great way to do something different if you are not an avid skier.
2. Courchevel, France
Accessible by a short drive from both Switzerland and Italy, Courchevel has some of the most luxurious ski resorts to cater to Europeans during their winter vacation. Known as the Alpine town with more Michelin-star restaurants than any other ski resort, this French town is the largest linked ski region in Europe, and the restaurants are worth seeking out, even if you do not ski. The Cheval Blanc Courchevel hotel is one of the oldest and most prestigious. If you are a foodie, you will know of chef Yannick Alléno at Le 1947 restaurant, which gained its third Michelin star in the 2017 Michelin Guide.
For something a little less extravagant, try Les Verdons which is right on the slopes but if you are in Courchevel to eat, Le Chabichou (above) has two Michelin stars and is considered a gastronomic destination by many. There are also cooking classes if you want to try your hand at being chef. Other notable restaurants include innovative French food at Azimut and L’Oeil de Boeuf for steaks.
Le Fornet village outside of the Val d’Isere city centre in France is a stylish village with great restaurants, and probably the most complete ski resort in France with excellent guaranteed ski-worthy slopes anytime during the ski season.
A few standouts include the two Michelin-star L’Atelier d’Edmond – the three-course lunch is quite elaborate, but you will not have a bad meal if you visit any of the luxury hotels and their restaurants like La Table de l’Ours (above) at the Les Barmes de l’Ours hotel. For something a little more affordable, check out La Grande Ourse or Ski Gallery & Fondue Factory serving traditional Savoyard specialities.
3. Cortina and San Cassiano, Italy
Located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Dolomites, Cortina offers the same warm Italian hospitality you can expect all over the country. Foodies and hungry skiers are welcomed at the door, despite being dressed in ski-wear and fed seriously great Italian food to warm the heart and soul. There are Michelin-star restaurants like Tivoli, but the more interesting dining experiences are those in mountain huts and converted old barns like El Toula (below) and Rifugio Capanna Tondi – rustic food with extensive wine lists.
San Cassiano is also located in the Dolomites and has become the unofficial food capital of the UNESCO site. Restaurant St Hubertus (below) may be in a hotel but it is one of the best restaurants you can visit – it gained its third star in the 2018 Michelin Guide. Local cuisine is heightened by talented chef Norbert Niederkofler, so be sure to splurge on the six-course tasting menu. Other restaurants in the area include La Siriola (get the suckling pig) and ask to visit the chocolate room where over 40 different types are on offer.
4. St Christoph and Kitzbuhel, Austria
With ski resorts that come attached with excellent restaurants, Austria has some of the lesser-known gourmet ski resorts worth checking into.
The Hospiz Alm Restaurant (below) in St Christoph has a wonderful terrace for sunny days and is well known for their internationally stocked wine cellar with vintage bottles.
Kitzbühel is a nice medieval town to visit – it sits in a valley with great restaurants. Although the best restaurants are far from the city centre, such as Kupferstube in the Hotel Tennerhof and also Schwedenkapell, they are definitely worth the drive over.
Innovative spins are constantly recreated in these award-winning restaurants, yet, with over 40 mountain restaurants, you do not have to only splash out at expensive ones. Ask locals to point you in the direction for the Panorama Alm – a Kitzbühel hut on the slopes of Jochberg. Rustic fare, but delicious.
– TEXT BY MICHELLE TCHEA
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This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.