For its recent report on family skiing, entitled Skiing Together: Generation Ski, Club Med commissioned some research on "the most important decision-making factors for families when choosing where to ski". Oddly, skiing didn't make the podium. The top three essentials comprised "good value", "being able to relax" and a "good selection of restaurants". For 51 per cent of respondents food was the most important thing in a ski resort.
Of course eating is important on a ski holiday. But since the advent of triple-layer Gore-Tex and Polar fleeces, it isn't a matter of life and death: skiers don't have to develop a layer of fat to keep out the cold. A day on the slopes, however, does still build an appetite.
Skiers on chalet holidays can normally rely on a varied selection of meals; having spent the best part of a day in the test kitchens of tour operator Inghams, I know how much effort goes into creating a week's-worth of dinner menus. I normally recommend Italian resorts for the quality of their food; but Italy's cuisine is very conservative.
So which resorts have an interesting and wide selection of restaurants for both lunch and evening meals?
I can recall some unusual, short-lived places which pushed the envelope, such as a pizzeria in Winter Park, Colorado, that – in pre-mobile days – had a phone at the top of a piste on which skiers could order freshly-cooked pizzas to be served in the restaurant at the bottom. What I can't do is answer the question that 51 per cent of skiers are likely to ask about a resort.
In mid-December, however, barely a week after the publication of Club Med's report, Whistler Blackcomb in Canada – the most popular North American resort among UK skiers – sent news of its food and beverage offer for this season.
Long renowned for Pacific-Rim fine dining and the handful of sushi restaurants in its village, the resort has broadened the range of its on-mountain catering this season. Executive chef Wolfgang Sterr, a 46-year-old who arrived in Whistler from his Bavarian homeland in 2011, has developed new menus for two of the main mountain restaurants.
Last season, Raven's Nest was characterised by the resort as "the perfect place to grab a fresh sandwich, soup or stew, or a quick drink from the cappuccino bar". Now it is an "all-vegetarian restaurant with some specialty vegan dishes". Actually, that is an exaggeration: Sterr (who is a vegetarian, for environmental and animal-welfare reasons) still makes a small selection of meat options available "for those who ask".
Also on Whistler Mountain is the Roundhouse Lodge, whose new departure for this season is a selection of curries devised by Vancouver-based chef Vikram Vij.
Vegan dishes, Indian curries: whatever else? Sushi is already available at the Rendezvous restaurant on Blackcomb Mountain and at the Roundhouse, but it is prepared in the village; from next season, however, the resort plans to have a sushi chef in the mountains. A good selection of restaurants? I believe so.Reuse content