Alta Badia, Italy
With mountains that resemble icing sugar-dusted panettone and centuries-old wooden lodges, Alta Badia is Italy’s cosiest ski region. Once part of Austria, regional menus favour rich Tyrolean roasts and dumpling soups. But tradition doesn’t sit heavy here. South Tyrol is the most Michelin-awarded Italian province, with 22 stars spread across 19 restaurants. And thanks to Alta Badia’s Taste for Skiing initiative, starry menus are served on piste, at a fraction of the usual cost. This Gourmet Skisafari (or, if you prefer, snowboarding; you can snowshoe your way round it, too) links seven mountain rifugio (huts), where such seasoned Italian chefs as Norbert Neiderkofler and Matteo Metullio serve regional Italian specialities paired with local wines. The pistes in between are the perfect place to work up
a mountainous appetite.
What to pack A semi-smart outfit. The Gourmet Skisafari is a bargain but it’s worth dishing out some dosh at the region’s Michelin-starred venues, often set in the elegant old lodges of Alta Badia’s mountainside hamlets. Don’t miss the exemplary wild boar strigoli at La Stüa de Michil whose wood panelled 15th-century rooms make for supremely cosy dining.
On piste At rifugio Bamby chef Nicola Laera’s organic beef carpaccio with preserved artichokes is both hearty and delicate, while salt cod with prosecco and polenta, plus a buzzing sun terrace, is just a shush away at rifugio Tabla (00 39 333 288 4417); just two of the seven lunch offerings that comprise the Gourmet Skisafari.
Off-piste Got family in tow? How about going on a bear hunt? The mountains around the village of San Cassiano are home to the thrillingly well-preserved cave of the prehistoric bear Ursus ladinicus. Take a tour then visit the village’s bear museum. Top it off with fun at the Foram: a natural toboggan run that makes a hair-raising 7.2 km downhill run into the village.
Don’t miss Hit the piste-side après-scene at landmark Club Moritzino where DJ Luca Noale starts spinning from 2pm. Order a drink from the snow-crafted Ice Bar (a glass of Ferrari rosé, sparkling wine from nearby Trento) and get up on those tables; it’s the done thing.
Three nights half-board at Hotel Gran Paradiso, in San Cassiano, costs from £849pp including return flights from Gatwick to Innsbruck and private transfers (powderbyrne.com). The Gourmet Skisafari costs from €40 for four courses, with matching wines.
Once upon a time, lunch on the slopes meant a bowl of chips and a Mars bar. But now a gastronomic ski holiday is far from unusual; and in the Austrian resort of Sölden it’s almost mandatory. Base yourself at five-star hotel Das Central. Despite its 100 rooms, the space remains cosy and family-run, with good food a priority. Its best restaurant (of four) is Ötztaler Stube, a romantic, Alpine-themed parlour made beautiful with wooden panelling and carved chairs. Try the seven-course tasting menu and you’ll get a sophisticated sampling of Tyrolean cooking, including delicate pike fillets spiked with horseradish.
What to pack Pyjamas. They love their heavy red wine here, so it’s wise to plan for the odd lie-in. Book one of Das Central’s charmingly rustic standard rooms but ask for one with a view of the slopes.
On piste No trip to Sölden is complete without lunch at IceQ. At an air-thinning altitude of 3,048 metres, only accessible by cable car, eating here is other-worldy: the wine (try a glass of the in-house Pino 3000, made with pinot noirs from Germany, Italy and Austria) tastes stronger and climbing the stairs to the outside viewing platform is a real effort. Start with prettily presented tartare of trout with a spiced cream, before impossibly rich fillet of beef with braised oxtail. A white chocolate coconut snowball matches the pristine panorama.
Off-piste After a hard day’s skiing, book a muscle-soothing massage with Alpienne oils in Das Central’s luxurious spa.
Don’t miss The hotel’s candlelit wine cellar, next to the cheese fondue bar, bulges with over 30,000 bottles, the largest range of Austrian wines in the country.
Double rooms at Das Central start from €271, b&b. Return flights from various UK airports to Innsbruck start from £75 return (easyjet.com). Return fares for the airport shuttle bus between Innsbruck and Sölden cost from €90 (oetztaler.at).
More info: soelden.com
The Middle Atlas, Morocco
Although not comparable to the alpine pistes of Europe, the Middle Atlas near Fès has it’s own special magic. Friendly Barbary apes, for example, swing through the branches of the giant cedars of Azrou and pluck peanuts from your hands, a delightful contrast to the main resort of Ifrane, 20 minutes away, which goes by the moniker ‘Little Switzerland’. Here, life on the slopes is somewhat surreal, but that’s all part of the charm. Check into the historic Michlifen Hotel and you can sip a single malt by the fire, and also tuck into some of the best fine dining in Morocco.
What to pack Skiing is a new industry here so the pistes are not terribly well managed. Getting to the top involves being dragged up by a donkey, and locals wear woollen djellaba rather than state-of-the-art North Face. If this all seems a bit too gung-ho, rent a sled or pack a pair of snowshoes and a thermos flask filled with hot tea, coffee or chocolate, and gently venture out to take in the views.
On piste At the Michlifen’s Almaz restaurant, the focus is on classic Moroccan cooking. Many of its dishes (harira soup, chicken, prune and walnut tagine and cinnamon pastries) are made with homegrown fruit and veg.
Off piste Take a long swim in the Michlifen’s vast indoor-outdoor pool, complete with open fire, then follow it with a dreamy scrub-down and steam in the hammam. Or drive back down the mountain towards Fès for about 45 minutes to the Domaine de la Pommeraie (route Imouzer Kandar, Ait Sebaa Lajrouf; 00 212 5359 30499), an organic goat’s cheese farm, to stock up on exceptional farmhouse cheese to eat with fresh-baked bread and fruit on the slopes.
Don’t miss Lunch at Les Truites in the little town of Imouzzer. It looks like a scene from the 1950s but the kitchen is always ready with superb Atlas river trout meunière, nicely filleted at the table with a big pile of crunchy potatoes. Wine stocks are a bit more hit-and-miss, but they always rustle something up.
Double rooms at the Michlifen start from £185, b&b. Return flights from Stansted to Fez cost from £70 (ryanair.com).
More info: visitmorocco.com
Les Carroz d’Arrachés, France
French ski resorts, as a rule, are not as chocolate-box pretty as those in Austria or Switzerland. But there are exceptions, of course, and Alpine chalets that fall the right side of cowbell chic. Les Servages d’Armelle is one of them. In the little resort of Les Carroz d’Araches near Flaine, at the foot of the slopes of the Haute-Savoie, this hotel and restaurant is built with timber from an old farm. It has an authentic log-cabin vibe, the creak and reek of wood, with the odd nod (pony-skin stools in the bar) to the 21st century.
What to pack A wide-angle lens. There are 10 bedrooms split between the farmhouse and a nearby chalet. The rooms and suites in the farmhouse feature carved fireplaces or designer wood-burners and open onto balconies with panoramic views of the Aravis mountains, while split-level two-bedroom suites have private spa and steam rooms. The chalet rooms are simpler – and cheaper – but still pretty.
On piste Chef Pascal Flécheau, originally from the Loire, trained with two of the country’s best chefs: Jean-Claude Garzia and Eric Pras. The menu veers towards hearty mountain cuisine, albeit with an inventively modern twist. This isn’t fondue and tartiflette territory. Think French charolais fillet steak with onion compote, carrot and parsnip mousse and dauphinoise potato, sweetbreads with risotto, cream, parmesan and truffle oil or roast Aveyron lamb with thyme polenta and green asparagus. The rustic restaurant, with chunky wooden tables, roaring fire and spit roast, spills out onto a sunny terrace laid out with designer deckchairs in the snow.
Off-piste Booze here stretches a little further than vin chaud. Cosy up at the bar and sample some Savoie wines. The local grapes are little known but worth discovering; altesse and jacquère produce aromatic and dry whites and the mondeuse grape fragrantly peppery reds.
Don’t miss Simple, mountain-style breakfasts are the ideal fuel for a day of skiing or skijoring (think waterskiing with a horse instead of a boat on snow obviously; it’s quite big in these parts) – eggs, freshly-baked bread, homemade jam, local yogurt and coffee served with jugs of hot milk.
Doubles start from €245, room only. Return flights from various UK airports to Geneva start from around £80 (flybe.com). Transfers between Geneva and Les Carroz cost from around €85pp return (gomassif.com).
More info: winter.lescarroz.com
The 26-room Hotel Rosengarten, in Austria’s Tirol region, is all about food. Yes, it offers lifts to Kitzbühel’s famous ski slopes; yes, it exudes a relaxed modern charm with warm woods, fur throws, and contemporary fireplaces; and yes, it has a womblike underground spa – but Rosengarten’s main attraction is food. Chef and co-owner Simon Taxacher has more awards than you can shake a spatula at, and the 39-year-old’s wine-paired tasting menu is worth the journey alone. Star dishes include a tender hunk of wagyu beef with barberries and a theatrical Heston Blumenthalesque dessert of exploding mandarin filled with candy floss, plus lychee and hibiscus foam, and ice cream shaped like a monkey nut but tasting of chestnut and ginger.
What to pack A large suitcase so you’ve got enough room to take home a leg of Tyrolean speck, a local cured and smoked ham, flavoured with juniper.
On piste Stop at any mountain restaurant (try Ochsalm) for kaiserschmarrn, a fat, puffy pancake, torn into bite-size pieces, sprinkled with icing sugar and served with plum compote. If you insist on going savoury, order gröstl, a comforting jumble of chopped fried potatoes, bacon, onion, and egg, or kasspressknödel, crisp golden dumplings filled with melted cheese served in clear beef broth.
Off-piste Visit pretty Kitzbühel for cake – sachertorte, apfelstrudel, or topfen, a cheesecake strudel at Panocafé. Or people-watch the gold-jewelled, perma-tanned 50+ set at Hotel zur Tenne. Action junkies can ice skate or curl on the town’s frozen lake.
Don’t miss Sampling the Rosengarten’s bar’s selection of fruit schnapps – apricot is best. Cookery classes in Simon Taxacher’s sleek mini cookery school are worth booking, too.
Doubles start from €240, b&b. Or book a seven-night ski break from £1,109pp, including flights and transfers (inghams.co.uk).
More info: kitzbueheler-alpen.com
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