Winning tip: Strudel in the sun: Zermatt, Switzerland
If you are skiing or walking near Zermatt, a visit to the 2,130-metre-high Chez Vrony in Findeln is not to be missed. It is located next to an easy ski run and is easily accessible on foot in summer months too. It is like walking into someone’s beautiful house, cosy chairs, log fires, a sunny terrace and a view of the Matterhorn to die for. My favourite time is mid-afternoon when the lunch crowds have gone, and you can sit in the sun on the terrace and enjoy homemade apple strudel with vanilla sauce, washed down with the best glühwein you’ll find anywhere in the Alps. The only difficult part is motivating yourself to leave.
Skiing with sausages: La Plagne, France
If you’re looking for a morning coffee stop in the La Plagne ski area with super service, delicious coffee and a sun trap terrace, look no further than Carlina in Belle Plagne. Its central location and ski-on, ski-off access makes it the destination of choice on a relaxed “food-first” ski trip. It also has a superb lunch menu with a reasonably priced plat du jour and classic French mountain meals such as diot (sausage) and tartiflette (made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions). If you’re in the area it’s not one to miss. Coffee is about €7 for two and dishes €16-€25 each.
Beer and schnitzel on high: Kitzbühel, Austria
Refuel and refresh with a traditional schnitzel paired with a cold crisp beer while basking in the picturesque panoramic views of the Austrian Alps. Situated 1,800 metres up, in the heart of the Kitzbühel ski area is the Sonnenrast restaurant. Being just across from the Fleckalmbahn gondola means skiers of all abilities have access to this mountaintop eatery. The Sonnenrast offers traditional Austrian dishes along with hot and cold beverages, which can be enjoyed on the beautiful wooden terrace; this star attraction wraps around the building providing spectacular views of the mountain terrain. Dishes start at about €15.
A view to a hill: Hochgurgl, Austria
You can almost hear the James Bond theme tune playing as you reach the Top Mountain Star in Obergurgl-Hochgurgl. Perched on a narrow ridge of the Wurmkogel peak, this glass structure with a Swarovski studded bar on a ridge at 3,080 metres really is a cafe with a view – a 360-degree panorama across the Ötztal Alps. Truly breathtaking. There is a black run down but if you don’t fancy that there is a long blue track and failing that you can use the lifts to go on foot. Ice cool!
Barnstorming côte de boeuf: Samoëns, France
A slightly tricky but doable red piste downhill, or a 40-minute snowshoe up, and you arrive at Grand Crêt 17, the 300-year-old barn that Onno and his family have spent the past four years restoring. It’s beautiful inside and out, with a breathtaking view of the Giffre valley and the landmark Criou mountain above Samoëns in the Grand Massif. Expect a delightful warm tuna niçoise, super garlicky chicken or the massive côte de boeuf, all cooked on the barbecue in summer or winter. Leave space for great puds, too. Mains are €20ish.
Elephant in the room: Laax, Switzerland
We stumbled upon Das Elephant on a ski trip. Our snowboard crazy boys were blitzing the black runs and … well, their parents weren’t! In search of a hot drink and a radiator we were just blown away by the views from this restaurant at 2,475 metres above sea level on a mountain called Crap Masegn. The food is also superb (its signature dish is penne from the parmesan loaf but there’s also cream of rocket and wasabi soup with prawns, and slow cooked beef with polenta among menu favourites) and is mentioned by Michelin. There is also an intriguing backstory to the place: in 1992, as part of the Crap Art (a reference to the mountain’s name, not the art’s quality) cultural event, an elephant was a guest for four days on the mountain Crap Sogn Gion, leading to the restaurant being named after it.
Winter warmer in a white-out: Mürren, Switzerland
The restaurant at Sonnenberg will always feel like home. On one holiday to Mürren, all the ski lifts were closed due to a heavy snowfall. Undeterred, my family and I hiked up the mountain through the woods in a total white-out. After several chilly hours walking, we noticed the smell of wood smoke and spied some glowing lights through the fog. When we got to the door, the Sonnenberg’s proprietor welcomed us with warming bowls of gulaschsuppe in an otherwise empty dining room. Years later, we returned to the Sonnenberg to discover its fantastic views of the Jungfrau, something we had missed out on through all that snow. Charlotte
Chalet of chocolate: Three Valleys, France
A characterful 120-year-old chalet, hung with family photos, Le Corbeleys is unfailing in its warm welcome and hot, hot chocolate. Serving homemade Savoyard fare – diots €20 and blueberry tart €8.50 – this is great value in the Trois Vallées, where lunch can command silly money. Enjoy spectacular views from the large deck or cosy up inside in a nest of sheepskins and red gingham, hang your gloves to steam by the log burner and sip a vin chaud from the neat little bar. Fitting reward after burning down the rollers of epic blue run Jérusalem (formerly a red run but now reclassified). The chalet is on the plateau between Saint Martin 1 and 2 lifts, above Saint Martin de Belleville.
Doling out dumplings in the Dolomites: Val Gardena, Italy
The Dolomites are the most beautiful mountains in Europe, and I’m hugely looking forward to returning there very soon. Even though it’ll be four years since I last skied in the area, I feel sure of a warm welcome at Muliné above Selva Val Gardena. It’s just off the Saslong B red piste above the romantic, ski-in, ski-out Fischburg castle. The interior perfectly exemplifies the concept of gemütlichkeit (good cheer). The food is the marvellous mixture of north Italian and Austro-German that you get in the Alto Adige/Südtirol, with lots of meat and cheese and dumplings. If I’m skiing I’ll avoid the wine list, but if I go back in the evening…
Meat and gravy – yum! Near Innsbruck, Austria
Growing up in Birmingham, a mixed grill was the ultimate pub lunch. Every meat imaginable, egg and chips. So when I saw mixed grill on a menu at the Bärenwirth in Patsch, just south of Innsbruck, I thought, why not? Cosy timbered restaurant with Alpine views. Bring it on! But, ugh – potatoes, slimy vegetables (yuck) and gravy. Yes there was meat, but just one kind. To be polite and not to betray my ignorance, I had to at least have a crack. And on a month-long trip around Europe, it proved to be hands down the best meal I ate. I even mopped up the gravy with the bread. Added bonus of staying in the hotel above, balcony overlooking a Tirolean church backed by not one, but two stunning V-shaped valleys.