Following a boost in local farming and foraging, chefs are crafting menus of regionally inspired meals that are just as popular in the ski season as they are in the summer.

Few things work up an appetite as much as a day spent on the slopes. Luckily for skiers and snowboarders who are sick of snacking at standard pizza and burger joints, several North American resort towns have become come flush with high-end culinary options in recent years that reflect the local region.  

“Our visitors know and appreciate good food and are looking for an experience,” said James Walt, executive chef at Araxi restaurant and bar in Whistler, British Columbia. “Resort communities tend to have a high concentration of restaurants and hotels, which creates an opportunity to reach quality suppliers, giving us access to the best product.”

Mountain towns have also seen a boost in local farming and foraging thanks to the continent’s wide-spread farm-to-table movement, which has given chefs a supply of fresh ingredients to work with. Even in the cold winter months, restaurants rely on a mix of root vegetables and locally-canned produce to ensure the plates have a strong regional component as well as a variety of flavours.

The result is a food scene that is just as strong in the busy ski season as it is in the summer, with top chefs working to create innovative menus for diverse crowds all year long. So when it comes to what to eat après-ski or even pre-ski, skip the lodge cafeteria and try one of these spots, where the dishes are executed with double-black diamond skill.

Whistler, British Columbia
You do not have to be a skier to reach Christine’s, located within the 1,860m-high Rendezvous Lodge on Blackcomb Mountain, but you will have to take Whistler-Blackcomb’s Peak 2 Peak gondola to get there. The 11-minute ride is well worth it for the snow-capped mountain views (from both the lift and the restaurant) and the comfort food brunch-  and lunch-only menu, which includes a wild Pacific salmon sampler, prepared tartare, smoked and candied, and eggs Benedict on toasted brioche topped with avocado hollandaise.

Start your après-ski drinks at Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler Village, where you can learn to sabre a champagne bottle in the cellar (home to more than 20,000 bottles of wine) or take a few shots of one of 50 vodkas in the Belvedere ice room. Chef Melissa Craig’s food menu shows similar ambition and creativity; try the heirloom tomato salad with charred tomato gazpacho and fresh mozzarella pearls, or the seared fois gras with plum puree and spruce oil.   

At Araxi, also in Whistler Village, the dining room decorated with fresh flowers and original paintings sets a romantic background for a dinner of freshly caught Pacific seafood like halibut or white prawn risotto served alongside local tomatoes, beetroot or mushrooms. On the other hand, if a fresh steak is just what the ski school instructor ordered, sneak into Sidecut in the Four Seasons hotel, where hefty cuts of meat are accompanied by an incredible range of spice blends and specialty sauces.

Vail, Colorado
The Bavarian-inspired building facades of this Colorado town belie the diversity of high-end dining options like Matsuhisa, by chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, known for the eponymous Nobu restaurants around the world, in the recently-opened Solaris condo and retail complex in the centre of town. Start with a large carafe-sized serving of sake served in a hollow bamboo branch, order a round of tempura rock shrimp with butter ponzu as an appetiser, and as an entree, try the black cod with miso sauce or the Colorado lamb with wasabi pepper sauce.

For European cuisine that matches Vail’s exterior ambiance, the Swiss Chalet within the Sonnenalp Hotel (one of the area’s original resorts, founded by a German immigrant) specialises in European alpine cuisine. Order the Colorado goat cheese fondue or the classic wiener schnitzel with lingonberries and parsley potatoes.

After a long day cruising Vail Mountain, ski down to Larkspur at the mountain’s Golden Peak base for the decadent truffled beef larkburger served with truffle aioli and truffle fries, and finish off with a slice of goat cheesecake topped with liquor-infused cherries. Grab seat in the bar area for views of the mountain, or cosy up in the wine room, decorated with a stone fireplace and elegant light fixtures.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Restaurant and bar Local opened in June in the Jackson Hole Town Square, and specialises in the type of local cuisine that Wyoming does best: fresh meat. The chefs make the sausages and charcuterie on site, dry age the steaks in house, and always have at least one locally-sourced steak on the menu. Even though the menu features game meat like elk, bison and pheasant, the clean white walls and dark, straight-lined furniture give the interior an ambience that feels more modern than old Western. Order the raw buffalo tartare with black truffle vinaigrette as an appetiser; the wild game pasta or the cast iron-seared rib eye as an entree; and finish the meal with the fried mini blueberry pies. Though the restaurant does not offer any vegetarian mains, the cheese plate served with triple cream brie, sheep’s milk cheese and cave-aged gruyere could be a meal in itself.

Café Genevieve also brings the rugged Wyoming environment to life in its historic log cabin location a block east of Town Square. Comfort food like candied bacon, biscuits and Cajun sausage gravy, and fried chicken and waffles make for a hearty brunch before heading out on the powder. 

Mont Tremblant, Quebec
Situated at the top of a triangle between Ottawa and Montreal, Mont Tremblant has food options that combine classic French cooking styles with Canadian ingredients.

Taste a bit of this authentic French flavour at Restaurant La Savoie, housed in a converted ski chalet in the middle of the base village. The cosy restaurant resembles an Alps chalet with wooden walls and tables, and stays true to its southeastern France namesake, serving red wine broth and raclette cheese fondue alongside Parma ham, duck, shrimp and roast potatoes.

For French dishes with a bit of Asian and Mediterranean fusion flair, a greater amount of, try tapas at L’Avalanche, located in the oldest ski chalet building in the resort, and order a la carte items like escargot or chorizo tempura. The VIP platter includes tastes of sake-marinated filet mignon, curry shrimp tempura and bacon-wrapped chicken.

Best known for its pan-seared duck fois gras, Aux Truffes, located in the centre of Mont Tremblant’s pedestrian village, serves Quebec specialties like guinea fowl stuffed with basil butter and goat’s cheese, and red deer fillet and other game meats, as well as a selection of hard Quebec cheeses like tomme de demoiselles and soft varieties like pont-blanc. Large windows, white linen tablecloths and red-shaded chandeliers give the interior a warm elegance, made for a romantic end to a ski vacation.