Chefs at high altitude are getting creative with local ingredients. From the Alps to the Arctic, these sparkling snowy family breaks won’t leave foodies cold.
We’ve rounded up our favourite ski resorts for a quick break that guarantee great eating, too. Whether you want a luxury getaway in a spa hotel or a bargain chalet holiday, we’ve got you covered.
Best for… 5-star family spa
It sounds grand but Schlosshotel is no fussy five-star castle. This former hunting lodge delivers stylish sustenance with home-from-home understatement. Dinners – always five-courses – are served in the piste-view salon, with kids at liberty to dip in and out of à la carte, encouraging adventurous diners. The beautifully-presented buffet, far from a fall-back, has acres of fresh salad and crispy crudités, a hit-list of kids’ favourites, and a gallery of pungent cheeses. À la carte is defined by flavour-forward soups, local game, Alpine meats and lake fish, complimented by seasonal veg and superb Tyrolean wines. Save space for the daily-changing bonanza of puds, from macarons to a gelato bar and two chocolate fountains. Breakfast and lunch buffets are similarly proportioned.
Just as well the hotel is ski-in/out with the boot and kit hire room in the basement – waddling distance from guestrooms. A lift delivers to piste level where two ski schools and access to 212,000m of slopes topping out at 1,436m mean even in late-season, there’s plenty of snow. Pistes aren’t too challenging, punctuated by parks with ramps and jumps.
The hotel’s indoor/outdoor pool and hot tub has a soundproofed water slide curling down the side of the building. The adjoining spa – almost the hotel’s entire ground floor – has adult and family areas catering to both with dedicated saunas, steam rooms and a menu of treatments that almost tops the buffet for choice.
How to do it
Book at Schlosshotel from £175 per person per night, full-board, including kids’ and teens’ clubs, games rooms, cinema, and spa access. Lift pass (six days from £221) and equipment are extra. The nearest airport is Innsbruck.
Review by Sarah Barrell
Best for… an icy city break
Picture the most hauntingly beautiful scenery you can imagine, the low winter light that makes you contemplate life and the sound of fresh snow underfoot, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what winter in Iceland is like. Reykjavík, the small capital with a population of just over 122,000, is the ideal base for a few days on this awe-inspiring island where you can hike glaciers, visit black sand beaches and wander landscapes so fascinating, you’ll feel like you’re in an episode of Game of Thrones (some of which was filmed here).
Want to take your trip up a notch? Ice caving and snowmobiling are among the most exciting activities you just shouldn’t miss. Head to Iceland’s Langjökull Glacier (the long glacier) for such adventures with Extreme Iceland. Costing from around £250 per person it’s not cheap, but it is something you’ll likely remember forever.
After a day exploring in the cold, the very best way to warm up is with some of Reykjavík’s incredible food. Try Núðluskálin for tasty vegan noodle soups with a Thai twist or head to Braud & Co for sweet treats and the most delicious cinnamon buns that are perfect with a steaming cup of coffee after a day in the snow. Book a table at Apotek Kitchen & Bar, housed in the building of an old pharmacy, to indulge in dishes that look as good as they taste. The Icelandic lamb is fabulous and we’ve heard good reviews about the sea trout and lobster too when they’re in season – just make sure you save room for dessert. You’ll have earned those calories playing outside in the cold all day. Yes: Iceland is expensive but the place, and its food, make it well worth putting all other travel plans on ice.
You’d be forgiven for thinking South Tyrol buried its best vintages in the snow, so little are they known in the UK. Including grüner veltliner and schiava, this mountainous, German-speaking corner of Italy (also known as the Alto Adige), has 28 varieties of local wine, 98% of them DOC listed, most of them from small providers so very few are exported. A wine safari around the ritzy Alta Badia ski region (25 March 2018) is the best way to take a crash course in this unique viticultural word. And you don’t have to have the ski legs for it. Routes between the mountain rifugi (huts, albeit beautifully appointed ones) where tastings are held, are accessible on snowboard and snow shoe too – the latter requiring no experience or real instruction. Better still, book your own sommelier to travel hut to hut with (select dates during the season).
But you’ll want to keep somewhat sharp for the skiing. There are 1,200km of pistes included in the surrounding Dolomiti Superski Pass area, comprising no less than 12 linked resorts set around the region’s distinctive, panettone-shaped granite mountains. Worked up an appetite? In valley hamlets, gingerbread wooden chalets house Italy’s largest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants (20 at the latest count).
The bargain Gourmet Ski Safari offers starry taster dishes served on the mountain at participating rifugi (four courses with matching wines, from £36). Equally unique-yet-affordable: Maso Runch hof, a farmhouse just outside San Cassiano, serves local Ladin specialties in its centuries’ old wood-panelled stube (living/dining room): wafer thin schüttelbrot (flat bread) packed with caraway and fennel seeds; barley soups; golden tutres (fried spinach/ricotta turnovers); cajinci (oversized ravioli); and slow roasted meats with polenta. Six courses for £28.
It’s no secret: skiing is eye-wateringly expensive. Even more so for foodie families who aren’t prepared to drive the contents of their kitchen onto the Continent to budget self-cater. The answer? Trade hotel for hostel. Special Family Weeks with French hostel association UCPA offer three communal meals daily, après activities and group ski lessons plus clean, basic family rooms at piste-side hostels in some of the Alps’ best resorts.
Managed by British outfit Action Outdoors (including coach transfers if you really want to cut costs), almost all guests are UK families, so kids instantly find ski school pals who become meal buddies too. Mass catering rarely produces gourmet goods but hostel food is healthy, simple and varied – great for picky British eaters: a choice of salads and soups to start, followed by classic French meats, fish, and hearty, child-pleasing pasta dishes, plus French cheeses and ice cream. And with UCPA’s rates, you can even afford to ignore this bargain buffet and eat out at least once.
From the Serre Chevalier hostel in the southern Alps, for example, a free ski bus links the string of valley hamlets comprising the resort, where you’ll find affordable eats including atmospheric crêpe huts with extensive, kid-pleasing pancake menus. On the mountain, tucked beside a chapel near the Rochamout blue run, Le Peyra Juana (0033 785 279801) serves hearty Alpine salads and meaty plat-du-jour for around £14 in a cosy wooden cabin setting. For a treat, up valley from Le Monêtier, in Le Casset, Chez Finette (0033 492 244327) offers horse-drawn sleigh rides before good-value family dinners.
How to do it
A Family Week (in British school holidays) costs from £500 per person including accommodation in family rooms, full board, programmed entertainment, equipment, and ski pass. Coach transfers can be arranged. For more info, visit the Hautes Aples tourist site. The nearest airports are Grenoble and Turin.
Review by Sarah Barrell
Best for… value luxe chalets
Ritzy Courchevel’s more affordable neighbour, pretty little Méribel is making a name for its super smart yet comparatively affordable chalets. In the heart of the Three Valleys, it also has ski access to 600km of some of the Alps’ best pistes. If you want to stay somewhere that, after a hard day’s downhill, award-winning Crémant de Limoux and canapés are waiting for you fireside, followed by a four-course dinner, this is the place for you.
Chalet Kalliste (sleeps 10) is one of 11 similarly catered plush pads set across Méribel’s hamlets where hot tubs, a chauffeur service and personal chef come as standard. Don’t expect standard food. Chefs consult with guests as to preferences but the vibe is refined, not fill-you-up rustic. Delicate portions of slow-cooked ox cheeks and lamb, homemade pickles and chutneys plus feather-light panna cotta were standouts dreamt up by chef Richard Boggie.
For classic Savoyard comfort food, Les Crêtes serves exemplary diots (savoy sausage), rich cheesy tartiflette, and reviving glasses of kir in its 2,300m summit cabin (with cable car access for those who don’t want to ski for their supper). Once you’ve exhausted such classic on-piste apres spots as La Folie Douce and Le Rond Point, Méribel is all about at-home entertainment. But should you want to venture out (and make use of that chauffeur) try a porn star martini at L’Abreuvoir (in central Méribel), and the caveman-proportioned côte du boeuf at Le Clos Bernard, a postcard-perfect wooden hut in the woods.
How to do it
Méribel specialist Meriski offers luxury catered chalets from £8,883 per week; split bookings from £888 per person per week, including breakfast, afternoon tea and children’s high tea (if appropriate), fizz, canapés and a four-course dinner with drinks on six nights, and the services of a chalet host, driver and chef. Nearby Moûtiers rail station has direct service to the UK via Paris.
Review by Sarah Barrell
Best for… a tasty Arctic adventure
Dining at the Icehotel feels akin to a last supper. Exquisite cuts of salmon sashimi presented on a block of ice, Arctic chard dusted with dill powder, and cured fillet of elk with blueberry jelly (prepped by Michelin-trained head chef Alexander Meier) – are served in a cosy lodge opposite the imposing arty igloo in which most patrons have paid a packet to stay the night. Go easy on the Dutch (or Swedish) courage.
Not only is wine eye-wateringly expensive in Scandinavia, staggering around the hotel’s minus-5C corridors looking for the loo in your long johns in the small hours is not ideal. Upgrade to suites in the new Icehotel 365 (frozen year-round thanks to eco-insulation), for heated bathrooms accessed via an airlock. Save your alcohol intake for a must-selfie iridescent cocktail served in a glass carved from frozen river water, in the hotel’s much Instagrammed ice bar, before you bed down for the night on an ice-plinth bed, zipped into a four-season sleeping bag.
If you survive this, you may be game for a guided wilderness safari. Pilot your skidoo into the Arctic back-country, try ice fishing, learn some Arctic survival skills and, if you’re lucky, see the Northern Lights, before arriving at Enoks, a selection of smart wooden cabins, including a tidy little sauna, in view of Sweden’s superlative Mount Kebnekaise. Reward your adventurous spirit in its elegant restaurant, crafted out of wood to look like a giant Sami tent, where seared hunks of reindeer steak, delicately smoked salmon carpaccio and cloudberry panna cotta make for the ultimate off-grid dining experience.
How to do it
Scandinavia Only offers the three-night Icehotel & Overnight Wilderness Experience from £1,980 per person including return flights, transfers, two nights B&B at the Icehotel, one night full-board at Enoks, snowmobile safari and activities.
Review by Sarah Barrell
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All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of January 2018 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out-of-date information in this guide please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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