In seeking memorable mountaintop or midmountain dining opportunities, we headed straight for ski resorts. While there are many great options at ski area bases, we wanted something higher and harder to get to, where the views are more outrageous and the experiences really special. Four fi replace meals, private dining on a gondola, winemaker après ski, First Tracks breakfasts, and Last Tracks wine and beer tastings are just a few of the many options available.
Deer Valley Resort’s three day lodges, Snow Park, Silver Lake and Empire Canyon, provide beautiful vistas and classic mountain décor and are available in snowy and fairweather months. Empire Canyon Lodge stands apart for its remote setting at the base of Daly Chutes (elevation of 8,300 feet), 7,000 square feet of function space, cedar walls, vaulted ceilings and slate and granite fixtures. During winter, groups shouldn’t miss the European Alps-style Fireside Dining with four courses—raclette cheese, alpine favorites, roasted leg of lamb and dessert fondue—served from four grand stone fireplaces. Salads, side dishes and fresh-baked bread are part of the meal. Wine and beer flights and all sorts of adult beverages are available. The lodge can be accessed by vehicle or consider horsedrawn sleigh rides or an adventurous trek on snowshoes before dinner.
Nearby, at Park City Mountain Resort, groups can board the Orange Bubble Express chairlift with heated seats for a scenic ride to Lookout Cabin, situated atop Lookout Peak and offering 360-degree views of the Wasatch Mountains. This secluded venue with a 1,400-square-foot deck is available in winter, summer and fall for private events and perfect for an evening of drinks and dinner for 40 to 80 guests. Lookout Cabin also is open for lunch during the ski season.
Imagine enjoying a meal and experience of a lifetime in private gondola cabins set with chandeliers and a table for 10 on Whistler Blackcomb’s iconic PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola. The gondola is the venue for Sky High – A Dinner with Altitude, held most recently on June 25 to benefit The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation and featuring a six-course tasting menu prepared by the Bearfoot Bistro and paired with extraordinary wines. Each course is cleared and served within the 82 seconds that the gondolas are moving through the terminals at both Whistler and Blackcomb. Dinner is preceded by a cocktail reception at the top of Blackcomb mountain in the newly renovated Christine’s fine-dining restaurant and followed by a party in the valley at Bearfoot Bistro. Groups can reserve a gondola for $8,500 (Canadian dollars), which includes the entire evening, even little touches like champagne while waiting in line to board the gondola.
“The logistics for producing this event are astronomical as not only are we completely dismantling the PEAK 2 PEAK gondolas, but we are also putting everything back together again for regular operations the next day. We are also essentially building two commercial kitchens at both the Whistler and Blackcomb terminal stations in the afternoon after the gondola closes for the day,” says Mei McCurdy, executive director of the foundation. “The PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola has the longest unsupported span in the world, and the views are absolutely breathtaking. It’s truly a dinner above the clouds that can’t be replicated anywhere else.”
A popular on-the-ground venue that groups can use almost year-round is Roundhouse Lodge, located at just over 6,000 feet at the top of Whistler Mountain and able to accommodate up to 800 for buffets or seated and 1,200 for receptions. Fun options that groups can plug into are the on-site Steeps Grill & Wine Bar’s Winemaker Après Series in the winter and Winemaker Dinner Series in the summer. Being the first to lay down a run on fresh powder or corduroy is sheer bliss and possible daily with Fresh Tracks Mountain Top Breakfast, boarding the Village Gondola between 7:15-8 a.m. and dining at Roundhouse Lodge.
Seven Glaciers Restaurant, Alyeska Resort’s luxury mountaintop restaurant located at 2,300 feet with views of seven glaciers and the ocean, is accessible by a 60-passenger tram and is open for dinner seven days a week from mid-May to mid-September and Friday through Sunday for lunch and dinner during the winter season. Chef Aaron Apling-Gilman, an avid hunter and fisherman, creates menus featuring signature Alaska entrées, purchasing from as many local purveyors and farmers from Kenai to the Mat-Su Valley as possible. Every table features glacier and water views for a truly unique Alaskan dining experience that can include fresh Alaska seafood and should end with Baked Alyeska or other sweet treats. The restaurant is available for buyout and has semiprivate options, including up to 22 seated at the main table on the terrace.
At Telluride Ski Resort in southwestern Colorado, there are two terrific options for on-mountain dining. During summer and winter, groups can take the free gondola and exit midway to savor outlandish views and gourmet après ski and a dinner menus featuring contemporary American Cuisine at Allred’s. Located at more than 10,000 feet above sea level, Allred’s can accommodate buyouts for groups up to 130, and its private dining room that features a fireplace and mountain views is available for groups of up to 25.
For an even higher altitude experience, take a 20-minute snow coach ride to Alpino Vino, a quaint European hütte that is the highest elevation fine-dining restaurant in North America at 11,966 feet. With handhewn beams, a wood-burning fireplace and furniture crafted from reclaimed wine barrels, Alpino Vino serves a five-course, Italian-themed menu with an optional wine pairing and nonoptional views of the Wilson Range. Alpino Vino has a seating capacity of 28 indoors and can be booked for private nighttime events. During daytime hours, reach Alpino Vino by taking the Gold Hill Express and skiing the See Forever run to the front door.
Aarti Kanodia, co-founder of the travel startup Your Local Cousin that connects travelers looking for customized advice with locals in more than 80 countries, recommends Der Fondue Chessel. Located in Outpost Lodge atop Keystone Resort’s North Peak, the restaurant is open in winter and summer.
“The restaurant is so high up a mountain that it takes two gondola rides to get up there, but the ride is fun and the restaurant is amazing for groups. I went with 15 of my ‘cousins’ on a fun weekend trip and had some of the best cheese fondue, including the traditional swiss gruyere and emmental cheese and even a special chef blend of smoked and imported gouda cheeses. The raclette is also excellent, and dessert is to die for with several types of chocolate fondue,” he says. “Der Fondue Chessel is a large space that feels like a real Swiss chalet.”
Snowflake Lodge, the midmountain lodge of Diamond Peak Ski Resort on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, is accessible via the Lakeview chairlift. Snowflake has earned a following for its panoramic views of Lake Tahoe, tasty house-smoked Wild Bill’s BBQ and ability to host groups of up to 50. Groups can tap into popular Last Tracks Beer & Wine Tasting events held every Saturday from February through April, when fine wines or craft brews are paired with appetizers. Private Last Tracks events can be booked on different days for groups of up to 50.
Hosting an event at Snowflake Lodge means all attendees must be able to ski or board down an intermediate run. However, new for the 2016/2017 ski season is the option to snowshoe down from Last Tracks. In addition, Snowflake currently is only open during the ski season but that may soon change with potential planned upgrades at Diamond Peak.
It’s hard to find a hotel situated midmountain, but The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe at Northstar California Resort has just such a location and offers a first-class dining experience at Manzanita, which focuses on “artfully crafted cuisine” and seasonal fare. In addition to floor-to-ceiling windows that capitalize on Tahoe views, there is an open kitchen setting that is inviting and makes an interactive chef’s table and tasting counter possible. A private dining space seats up to 25.
For a more casual option, check out Heavenly Mountain Resort’s newest onmountain option, Booyah’s Exotic Burgers and Brews, a sit-down sports bar and restaurant inside Lakeview Lodge at the top of the Aerial Tram. Satisfy a wide range of tastes with a menu featuring homemade soups and chili, several exotic burgers combinations and build-your-own selections from the eight types of burgers (ranging from Angus, buffalo and elk to veggie and salmon). To wash it all down there are 97 beers, which is the number of runs at the ski area. Booyah’s group space can accommodate up to 90 total or 45 in the upper-level dining section.
This is just a sampling of amazing mountain dining experiences available in the U.S. Mountain West and British Columbia. The real bonus is that ski resort staff can take care of all the details, just kick back and enjoy.