Back in the day, I skied with a sandwich and candy bar in my pocket for a chairlift lunch on the go. Good times, if not the most elevated culinary experience. Two things have changed, I prefer the romance and rest of a sit down lunch (too many squished cold sandwiches perhaps), and ski resorts have stepped up their on-mountain dining to make lunch a nice respite from laps and lifelines.
Valentine's Day, or your next ski weekend, is a great opportunity to show your loved one that you love their company and quality cuisine as much as you love attaining 30,000' of vertical in a day. Here are my top choices for haute cuisine at a ski resort near you, often for not much more lunch money than a cafeteria tray of burgers, fries and a soda.
The Cliff House at Stowe, Vermont
Ride the Gondola to the top of Mt Mansfield, and enter this high alpine environment at 3,625' with an awesome view amongst Austrian chalet décor. The Cliff House is open for lunch 11-2:30. The Alpine Fondue is fantastic, so is the Cliff House Burger with Cheddar and onion beer sauce. Then go ski Gondolier to burn it off.
Epic at Okemo, Vermont
Epic sounds like the latest accolade to describe Nemo snow, but it's the epicurean treat that awaits at Okemo's Solitude Lodge, open 11-3 daily. Enjoy chef creations of duck quesadilla or smoked salmon Carpaccio with no cafeteria trays, just cordial table service. Okemo has raised the bar for ski resort food all over the mountain. Pre-purchase your Valentine's Day lift ticket at Okemo.com for $44 and get lunch and a kiss - a $15 lunch voucher redeemable at Okemo's restaurants including Epic, and a Hershey kiss. Sweet deal!
Timbers at Sugarbush, Vermont
This Round Barn restaurant right in the center of Sugarbush's Lincoln Peak Village serves Vermont organic local cuisine in an upscale country setting. Get a seat by the window, a grilled flatbread and a Vermont microbrew. The bumps on Stein's will wait. Timbers is open weekends and holidays for lunch 11:30-2.
The Bag at Sugarloaf, Maine
While the Bag is not fancy, it is the stuff of legends at the Loaf. Their big juicy Bag Burgers are served in this classic, casual atmosphere steps from Sugarloaf's slopes. The Bag and Kettle opens at 11 daily, best enjoyed after you bash the bumps of Bubblecuffer. You have to say you’ve been in The Bag at least once in your life.
See you on the slopes!
Photos by Greg Burke of Sugarbush and Okemo's Epic