The early March snow dump was a reminder that winter at mountain resorts along the Wasatch is far from over, and that there's still plenty of time for skiers and snowboarders to hit the nearby slopes. But, once you're out there enjoying the Utah powder, where do you refuel? Well, here are my can't-miss on-mountain and slopeside recommendations for eating on the go and on the snow, from down & dirty to devilishly decadent dining.
Alta: When I'm skiing the spectacular terrain that Alta offers, I usually don't take a lot of time out for eating; it's just too damned much fun on the mountain. However, when things get gnarly, and I'm looking to escape high winds and white-out conditions, I do so at Collins Grill, located 9,300 feet up mid-mountain at Collins Gulch. This is where Executive Chef Jude Rubadue tempts guests with upscale bistro cuisine such as mesquite-grilled salmon sliders, a Moroccan vegetable saute, and my favorite dish: the organic arugula salad with crispy bacon, red onion slices, grape tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil, plus two perfectly poached eggs on top.
Brighton: The slopeside A-frame chalet that houses Molly Green's Restaurant & Bar is a slam-dunk when it comes to noshing at Brighton Resort. The vibe is friendly and mellow, and the food—from housemade Philly cheesesteaks to hand-tossed fresh-made pizzas—is excellent. My favorite lunch these days is the Italian Snowball: a big, toasted hoagie stuffed with housemade Italian meatballs, smothered with hearty tomato gravy and melted mozzarella cheese.
Canyons: A dizzying array of dining options faces the hungry skier or boarder at Canyons Resort, from top-notch barbecue at Tombstone Grill and Belgian-style waffles at Red Pine Waffle House, to the elevated cuisine offered at The Farm. My favorite on-mountain eatery is Cloud Dine, where general manager Christian Peyrin runs a tight ship, and Chef Greg Hansen delivers gourmet-quality cuisine, the ingredients of which all must be snowmobiled in. Highlights include from-scratch donuts and bagels, a bodacious Kobe beef hot dog with a pretzel "wrap," flatbread pizzas and even salmon potpie. But my favorite menu item is the Salad Niçoise, with ever-so-slightly seared sushi-grade tuna, greens, hard-cooked eggs, anchovies, olives, potatoes, red onion and more.
Deer Valley: The first-class skiing, amenities and cuisine at Deer Valley Resort have garnered so many Best of Utah awards that I don't need to belabor the point here. I will say that, through the years, I've eaten more than my fair share of the excellent grilled-cheese sandwiches and brats served up at Silver Lake Lodge, as well as gourmet fare at restaurants like Mariposa, Seafood Buffet and Fireside Dining.
But, if you're feeling flush and famished on the hill, I'd highly recommend the skiers lunch buffet at Apex restaurant in the Montage. It almost seems sacrilegious to call the superb spread offered at Apex during lunch a mere "buffet," even though it is an all-you-can-eat affair. This smorgasbord gives new meaning to "buffet" with choices such as an Asian noodle bar with housemade pho and assorted garnishes; a cheese and charcuterie section highlighting Gold Creek cheeses and Creminelli meats; a kebab station with meaty temptations like merguez lamb sausage, achiote-rubbed beef and chimichurri-marinated chicken; comfort foods such as smoked-cheddar macaroni & cheese, turkey potpie, and chipotle-blackberry glazed salmon; a wide range of desserts; and a "kids corner" with chicken tenders, corn dogs, rigatoni & marinara and more. It's one bodacious buffet.
Park City Mountain Resort: As Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons meld into one, the dining options at PCMR will morph as well. This is the final season that you'll be able to enjoy the simplicity of a grilled burger and a beer on the deck at the Snow Hut, which has always been my go-to lunch spot at PCMR. It'll be torn down at the end of this ski season, to be replaced by an all-new Snow Hut Restaurant. So, get it while you still can.
Powder Mountain: This ski & snowboard paradise is one of Utah's best-kept secrets for powder hounds, and you won't want to spend too much time off the mountain. However, you will want to drop into the Powder Keg for cold brews and an eclectic menu that ranges from ramen and Asian smoked salmon to Prime-rib subs and turkey burgers.
Snowbasin: I look forward to only one thing at Snowbasin as much as I look forward to its endless trails and powder: the Bomber Burger at Needles Lodge. It's a half-pound of grilled, all-natural, grass-fed Idaho beef, 6 ounces of grilled corned beef, Swiss cheese, pickles, Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut on a toasted brioche bun.
Snowbird: There's a lot to love about eating at Snowbird, with venues like The Aerie, Lodge Bistro, Wildflower, Mid-Gad and more. But I like to get in as much skiing as I can and then enjoy a late lunch/early supper at El Chanate, where the food has evolved immensely this season. The pork empanadas with Chihuahua cheese and habanero salsa are sensational, and the pollo en rajas con crema is pure heaven.
Solitude: I don't have to think too hard about lunch at Solitude. For me, there's one option that rises above the rest: the spaghetti carbonara with house-cured guanciale, housemade pasta, fresh eggs, cracked pepper and Parmesan at Honeycomb Grill. It's a no-brainer.
Wolf Mountain: Wolf Mountain, which was called Nordic Valley until 2005, is morphing again back into Nordic Valley. Whatever you call it, the mountain is closed for the season due to lack of snow. As an alternative, kick back at nearby North Fork Table & Tavern in Eden (3900 N. Wolf Creek Drive, 801-648-7173) for wood-fired pizzas and rib-stickers such as the prosciutto & burrata panini and short-rib pot roast.