Ski destinations where the food's as good as the slopes

Story highlights

  • Many ski resorts have Michelin-starred restaurants, but eating well can sometimes be tricky
  • France's Courchevel and Switzerland's St. Moritz both have great dining options

(CNN)Dollops of healthy exercise, lungfuls of fresh mountain air and sparkling peaks make the ideal ingredients for a hearty alpine appetite.

But sometimes the recipe for a perfect mountain meal needs to run to champagne and caviar rather than more rustic refreshments.
    The ski-resort constellation might be liberally sprinkled with Michelin stars, but eating well can sometimes be an off-piste slog.
    For those wanting more from their haute cuisine than altitude alone, we've compiled a list of the best fine-dining destinations.

    St. Marcel, France

    La Bouitte: The highest three-star Michelin restaurant in Europe.
    Forty years ago Rene Meilleur built a modest restaurant on a potato field in the farming hamlet of St. Marcel near St. Martin de Belleville on the edge of the vast Trois Vallees ski area in France.
    Now, Rene and son Maxime preside over the highest three-star Michelin restaurant in Europe, a cozy alpine chalet with rooms and a spa, and a place of pilgrimage for skiing gourmets with deep pockets.
    The pair draw on the culinary heritage of the old Savoie region, taking inspiration from the terroir of the valleys, lakes and mountains.
    The signature foie gras on a sweetcorn pancake with St. Marcel honey and balsamic vinegar has been on the menu since the early days.
    "Lunch here has a habit of stretching into a luxurious, lengthy affair," says Simon Hooper, owner of WhiteStorm ski rental in neighboring Courchevel.
    "If you're feeling a bit full -- and a bit flash -- you can get a chopper home from the helipad next door."
    Where else? The two Michelin-starred Restaurant Jean Sulpice up the road in Val Thorens offers a sleek, modern take on the alpine dining experience.
    La Bouitte, Hameau de St Marcel, St. Martin de Belleville, France; +33 (0)4 79 08 96 77

    St. Moritz, Switzerland

    Swish St. Moritz is the jewel in the jet-set crown and offers a rich choice of stomach-stuffing options.
    La Marmite, named after the traditional cooking pot, is situated at 2,486 meters on the Corviglia mountain, high above the glitz of St. Moritz.
    Part of chef Reto Mathis's culinary empire, the exterior is a bold yellow modernist cube with vast views of the peaks and lakes of the Engadine valley.
    Inside is a treasure-trove of caviar and truffle-inspired fine dining.
    Reached on skis or via the cog railway, the sharp ski-suited brigade flocks here for treats such as truffle pizza or beef carpaccio with truffles Robespierre followed by pine tree ice cream with caramelized walnuts and red currant compote.
    On a sunny day, the outdoors ice bar, complete with full size motor boat, makes for a yacht club scene on the side of a mountain.
    Where else? Mathis' the Fat Monk in the same yellow establishment offers more affordable goodies with a gastro-lounge vibe, while Ecco St. Moritz in the five-star Giardino Mountain hotel is a two-starred Michelin masterpiece.
    La Marmite, Mathis Food Affairs, Corviglia, St. Moritz, Switzerland; +41 (0)81 833 63 55

    Courchevel, France

    Michel Rochedy and Stephane Buron of Chabichou open their kitchen twice a week for lessons.
    Gourmets are spoilt for choice in classy Courchevel, with seven Michelin-starred restaurants glittering like fine-dining diamonds.
    Among them, the venerable Chabichou stands out.
    The wedding cake-style hotel at the foot of the slopes houses a classic two Michelin-starred affair under the direction of head chef Michel Rochedy and right-hand man Stephane Buron.
    The décor is elegant and the cooking refined -- think fried fillets of Lake Leman perch with a cold herb emulsion, or Pornic pigeon stuffed with a truffle gratin.
    The celebrated chefs even throw open the kitchen for lessons twice a week.
    "The Chabichou offers classic Michelin-starred food with exceptional, although not oppressive, standards of service with an old-world charm and atmosphere," says Neal Manuel, owner of luxury Courchevel travel specialist Green to Black.
    Where else? This end of the Three Valleys offers rich pickings for skiing gastronomes. Le 1947 and Pierre Gagnaire pour Les Airelles are also two-star joints, while Le Chabotte, La Saulire, or the rejuventated Bistro du Praz offer quality spreads. On the slopes, Bel Air in Courchevel Moriond is a smart option.
    Le Chabichou Hôtel, restaurants & Spa, 90 Route des Chenus, Courchevel, Saint Bon Tarentaise, Savoie, France; +33 (0)4 79 08 00 55

    Le Fornet, Val d'Isere, France

    Clued-up skiers have long headed to isolated Le Fornet on the edge of the huge L'Espace Killy ski area, but now Val d'Isere's little neighbor is becoming a culinary hotspot.
    L'Atelier d'Edmond, a cosy chalet created from an old farm building, won a second Michelin star for chef Benoit Vidal in 2015.
    Vidal's authentic cooking is a nod to the old Savoyard ways, infused with Mediterranean style.
    Specialities include lamb saddle noisette from the Tarentaise flavored with wild thyme, a cake of potatoes and ewe cheese from the Bergerie Saint Pierre. Or confit of duck foie gras with a Mondeuse grape reduction with blueberry and pepper.
    The old-fashioned atmosphere is maintained with rooms dressed as a carpenter's workshop (atelier means "workshop") or a mountain refuge, with furniture, tools and trinkets to match.
    "The three-course lunch is way more than just that - with amuse bouches and pallet cleansers, it is a real treat," says Colin Tanner, founder of The Development Centre ski school in Val d'Isere.
    Where else? At the top of the Fornet cable car is Le Signal, a homely, high-quality joint, while lower down the blue Mangard piste is the impressive L'Edelweiss. La Grand Ourse and La Table de l'Ours are Val's fine-dining emporiums.
    L'Atelier d'Edmond, Le Fornet, Val d'Isère, France; +33 (0)4 79 00 00 82

    Zermatt, Switzerland

    One of the attractions of Switzerland's Zermatt.
    Zermatt has risen from remote mountain village to world-class ski resort, and the dining options have followed suit.
    With more than 50 restaurants on the mountain and 100 more in town, foodies can have a field day. On most bucket lists would be the institution that is now Chez Vrony.
    With origins as a simple farmhouse on the slopes high above Zermatt, this alpine chalet with killer views of the Matterhorn has become a highly prized table for skiers who take lunch seriously.
    Hosts Vrony and Max Cotting-Julen insist on the best organic local ingredients, with animals fed on alpine grass and recipes passed down from generation to generation.
    The menu boasts dishes such as pink-roasted entrecôte of Swiss lamb served with a port-steeped fig and hazelnut potato purée, or pan-fried slices of duck's liver on a bed of Calvados-glazed apples, toasted almonds and crispy butter rösti.
    Where else? Findlerhof just below Chez Vrony is another chic shack, while the black-timbered Zum See offers an authentic blast from the past.
    In town the smart set favors the Omnia or the Michelin-starred pair of After Seven or Le Capri at the Grand Hotel Mont Cervin Palace, a haven for Italian seafood cooking.
    Chez Vrony, Vrony and Max Cotting-Julen, Findeln, Zermatt, Switzerland; +41 (0)27 967 25 52

    St Christoph, Austria

    In the heart of Austria's famous Arlberg ski area lies a haven that has been welcoming weary travelers since the 13th century.
    The Hospiz Alm restaurant in St. Christoph offers a sunny terrace for those bluebird days, or a toasty table snug by the fire indoors when the weather shuts down.
    The internationally renowned wine cellar, housing precious vintages in large bottles, is reached by a slide -- which also takes you down to the toilets to avoid ski-boot tumbles.
    "The food is reliably good and the atmosphere is great," says Richard Lumb, co-director of upmarket ski specialists Kaluma Travel.
    "It's one of those places when you just get comfy and stay the whole afternoon, occasionally morphing into dinner.
    "The sommelier is a master of wine and of banter. Suddenly you've doubled your budget and bought a bottle that takes two to carry. A banging red wine and an enormous shared T-bone steak cooked on the roaring fire. Mountain food bliss."
    Where else? The Hotel Tannenhof in St. Anton is where ambitious new head chef James Baron is pushing hard for a Michelin star with dishes such as duck liver with quince and Perigord truffle.
    Arlberg Hospiz Hotel, Werner Gesellschaft m.b.H. KG, St. Christoph 1, St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria; +43 (0) 5446 2611

    Megeve, France

    Epicureans can take a stroll in the mountains without leaving their seats in the celebrated Flocons de Sel in the chic ski resort of Megeve near Mont Blanc.
    The adventurous tasting menu, dubbed "Randonee en Montagne," takes diners on a virtual ramble out into the garden and up onto the Alps.
    Chef Emmanuel Renault puts his own visionary twist on regional specialties, from Rapunzel root dumplings and smoked-milk fritters to lake perch with green tea powder and filet of deer with blueberry and shallot puree.
    Renault is both craftsman and forager, with heavy use of herbs from his garden and wild flowers such as marigolds, nasturtiums, violets and gentians.
    This alpine altar to seasonal fine dining won its third Michelin star in 2012, two years after moving from the center of Megeve to the heights on the outskirts of town.
    Where else? Renault runs a more traditional bistro, Flocons Villages, in his old premises in Megeve, while Ideal 1850 is a sophisticated mountain affair. Le 1920 and La Table de Alpaga have also caught the eyes of the Michelin men and women.
    Hôtel-Restaurant Flocons de Sel, 1775 Route du Leutaz, Megeve, France; +33 4 50 21 49 99

    St Hubertus, San Cassiano, Italy

    The most elaborated petits fours -- served on an antler at St. Hubertus.
    San Cassiano has become the foodie capital of the Dolomites, and the St Hubertus restaurant in the hotel Rosa Alpina is at the epicenter.
    Head chef Norbert Niederkofler's stated mission for the two Michelin-starred venue is to "add a touch of elegance to the local cuisine."
    He does it with dishes such as young veal carpaccio, root vegetables, birch fondue and Swiss chard.
    "I have eaten in some really great restaurants in the Alps over the years but the St. Hubertus is the best that I know of in Italy," says Simon Hoskyns, partner of ski travel experts Alpine Answers.
    The Alta Badia ski area -- part of the famous Sella Ronda circuit -- is pushing itself as a culinary destination with the Gourmet Ski Safari, a lap of the mountain stopping at various chalets for high-end treats cooked by internationally renowned chefs.
    Where else? Nearby La Siriola and La Stua de Michil in Corvara both have one Michelin star, while the blue-shuttered Refuge Emilio Comici above Val Gardena on the opposite side of the Sella Ronda is a celebrated mountain-top rendezvous.
    St. Hubertus, Hotel & SPA Rosa Alpina, Strada Micurá de Rü, 20, San Cassiano in Badia, Italy; +39 0471 849 500

    Gstaad, Switzerland

    Heaps of history, bags of charm and simply lashings of aristos and celebs. Gastronomic Gstaad could add piles of restaurants, too -- more than 100 in fact, from gourmet shrines to atmospheric alpine lodges.
    Gstaad's motto is "Come up, slow down" but you'll need to get your skis on to sample its best.
    One of the highlights is the Chesery, which is what the name suggests, an old cheese dairy, pimped up by Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan in 1962 into an elegant chalet.
    Robert Speth has been behind the stoves since 1984 and is still knocking out his Michelin-starred grub to discerning punters, keen to savor morsels such as tataki of tuna on Japanese herb sauce, chamois with cranberries, brie de Meaux filled with truffles and macaron with almonds, blueberries and cinnamon ice cream.
    Where else? Leonard's, Sommet and Megu are also Michelin-starred spots, while the Sonnenhof provides a refined experience, the Wasserngrat offers stunning views and the affordable PostHotel Rossli restaurant is a TripAdvisor favorite.
    Restaurant Chesery, Robert Speth, Alte Lauenenstrasse 6, Gstaad, Switzerland; +41 33 744 24 51