Something about crisp winter air, rosy cheeks and snow matted hair inevitably results in a belly-rumbling hunger and a thirst of the après variety. These are best satiated while still in ski boots and bibbed snow pants – ideally with a spectacular view of the jagged peaks and snow-frosted, slumping trees recently mastered. Each of the local resorts have a variety of options, whether you’re in the mood for a bustling, low-key cafeteria or more lavish dining, the good news is: the dress code is always the same!
At Mount Norquay
Executive Chef Morne Burger joined the team at Mount Norquay last year, bringing his culinary talents honed as the driving force in the kitchen of the renowned The Maple Leaf in Banff. His vision was straight forward: to revolutionize on-hill dinning by focusing on good, simple food. The result is new, overhauled menus at all three of Norquay’s eateries but more importantly a shift in how this food is sourced, prepped and cooked.
The Cascade Lodge located at the base of the resort, offers two options: a cafeteria on the main floor features the traditional ski-favorites of burgers and other quick eats but everything is made to order so you can expect surprisingly fresh fare; The Lone Pine Pub upstairs is the place to be for an après drink or a more sit-down-and-relax meal. Chef Burger’s selection of giant, hardy salads with lavish toppings, all served in bowls bigger than the average human head, gives those looking for a healthy meal a myriad of options. On the other end of the spectrum, gourmet burgers dressed with everything from kimchi to basil aioli are bound to satiate those looking for a bit of indulgence. Pair meals with a local Village Brewery Cloudy Amber Beer or one of many ski-teamed cocktails like the Yard Sale or T-bar and you are bound to relax and enjoy the spectacular mountain views.
At the top of the North American Chair, you will find The Cliffhouse Bistro where a fine dining menu is served up with arguably the best view of Banff in the entire Bow Valley. Built in the 1950s by painstakingly hauling all materials up the chairlift and building into the mountain face to create an avalanche-proof structure, The Cliffhouse looks as much like a Bond villain’s lair as it does a restaurant. If the structure itself wows, the menu is the icing on the cake. Featuring a charcuterie platter of locally-sourced Valbella meats from a well-known Canmore-based deli, a beef tartare plate with an Asian twist and a quinoa salad with maple roasted butternut squash, the menu can only be described as decadent. To add just a touch more drama to the experience, once a month during the moonlight ski, a $69 ticket will get you a two course meal at the Cliffhouse and a run down to the base escorted by Norquay’s ski patrol.
At Lake Louise Ski Resort
Square in the base area of the resort, The Lodge of Ten Peaks is a spectacular construction of giant windows, river rock fireplaces and vaulted ceilings all built from logs taken directly off the property. Its quintessential Rocky Mountain lodge atmosphere is instantly inviting and, with three eateries on-site, it offers a variety of food options at different price points. The Ten Peaks Food Court will satisfy any craving for a grab-n-go breakfast or lunch, serving the usual suspects: burgers and fries, salads, sandwiches and baked goods. Head over to The Slopeside Coffee Bar to get your Starbucks fix, smoothies, muffins or a quick pizza by the slice. Either way you have access to wraparound decks, ample seating and great views of the area.
If you feel like really settling in, head upstairs to the Powderkeg Lounge (and the Great Bear Room). Aptly named, this lounge is where you want to sink into to an oversized leather couch, order a pint and pick from some classic pub fare with a decadent twist or opt for one of their healthier choices like the mini ahi-tuna tacos. Our pick: the Powder Keg Nachos are such a healthy serving you could feed four and never get shafted with a cheese-less chip.
Attached to The Lodge of Ten Peaks via a windowed walkway is the Whiskyjack Lodge which contains a few hidden gems. It tends to be a bit quieter than the main lodge and offers both quick, grab-and-go meals in the Whiskyjack Cafe as well as sit-down service in the Northface Bistro. The café offers both hot and cold items as well as a few specialty items like stirfry, if you aren’t in the mood for a burger or sandwhich. The Northface Bistro is our top pick for breakfast. At just $12.95, the morning buffet has everything hot and cold you can imagine for breakfast. At lunch time, it’s swapped out for a soup and salad station, a carving station and a pasta station and you can select access to a single station or all three depending on how ferocious your appetite.
If an elevated dining experience is more your style, the recently renovated Whitehorn Bistro is the ultimate way to go. Sitting mid-mountain at an elevation of 2042m (6700’) and a breathtaking backdrop of Mount Temple, one of the highest peaks in Banff National Park, you can enjoy an upscale menu featuring cheese fondue, a signature seafood chowder or a house made bison burger. If indulgence is what you are after, the baked Camembert followed by the braised bison short ribs is sure to please any palate.
Once you have made it up and over the mountain, you gain access to the backside where Temple Lodge offers both a cafeteria for a quick refuel and Sawyer’s Nook, a rustic restaurant with a selection of gourmet sandwiches including a lamb burger and a grilled vegetable panini as well as pizzas of all varieties. If you are in need of a mid-day espresso or latte, head upstairs for a custom coffee warm-up.
Looking for an après drink before heading home, the Kokanee Kabin, a beer garden of sorts at the base of the mountain, is the perfect place to grab a pint and wait for the last of your crew to cruise in. Often featuring live music, particularly in the spring months, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a pint alfresco before calling it a day.
At Sunshine Village
If quick eats is what you are after, Sunshine Village has a number of options. Upon arrival at the parking lot and base area, Creekside Bar & Grill provides quick options for all-day breakfast or lunch before heading up the gondola for a day on the slopes. At the end of the day, this same area offers a great space for après relaxation while waiting for stragglers and your transportation home.
Located square in the Village area near the top of the gondola, the Daylodge contains two cafeteria style venues; The Sunshine Burger Co. serves exactly what the title suggests and a few other fast-food goodies ideal for a quick midday refuel. If you are after a bit more variety, head to the second floor of the Daylodge to the Alpine Grill. In its cafeteria style queue you will pass a selection of everything from salads, soups, pastas, burgers and heaping bowls of chili. Perhaps the best value for your dollar is a Vietnamese-style noodle soup that will warm and satisfy even the ‘hangry’ members of your group. Also in the Daylodge, the Lookout Lounge & Bar on the third floor offers sit-down service with panoramic views overlooking the village.
Searching for something a little quieter or just in need of a ride break, The Java Lift Coffee Bar on the main floor of Sunshine Mountain Lodge is your go-to for specialty coffees with a bit of atmosphere and the made-to-order sweet or salty crepes are often hard to resist.
When table service and cloth napkins are more your style, head up the stairs to the second floor of Sunshine Mountain Lodge where you will find the Chimney Corner. Perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner, featuring a number of vegetarian and gluten free options, this place is perfect for anyone not wanting the typical pub fare available elsewhere. For the best seat in the house, make sure you snag a table in the corner overlooking the Village action and Lookout Mountain.
Adjacent to the Chimney Corner is the Eagle’s Nest, open strictly for dinner this fine dining establishment will impress any foodie. The seared sea scallop appetizer and the pesto panko-encrusted rack of lamb are sure to please even the most distinguishing palate.
Après at Sunshine Village is all about Mad Trapper’s Saloon and if the name conjures cartoon images of a wooden bar with swinging doors and rustic written all over it – well, the name fits. The building hasn’t changed much since the 1930s; a fact made evident by an impressive collection of photos and other memorabilia on the walls. It’s the perfect place to grab a snack and a pint on the patio or to belt out ‘Ullr” after a shot ski. Just remember to keep enough in the legs for the ski out or catch the gondola before 5:30pm.