Hunger is a great sauce and there’s nothing quite like a day on the slopes to work up an appetite. In the North Italian ski resort of Alta Badia, guests can sate that appetite with haute cuisine that’s a cut above most high-altitude fare. In recent years, many a visitor wondered how a valley with less than 6,000 inhabitants became home to three Michelin starred chefs. The answer lies in the equally stellar surrounding scenery and, come winter, the sprawling slopes on its doorstep.
The self-contained Alta Badia ski region – all wide, well-groomed pistes, modern, comfortable lifts and breathtaking vistas – is an El Dorado for beginners, cruisers and carvers. Beyond the jagged peaks of the Sella massif lies the interconnected, larger Dolomiti Superski extravaganza with its 450 lifts, 1,200 kilometres of slopes and the famous Sellaronda ski circuit. Here, skiers of all abilities will find the perfect slopes to savour, from meandering blue and red runs to black pistes and freeride adventures.
The Gourmet Ski Safari sees Michelin starred chefs serve up slope side snacks at six alpine huts, inviting skiers to swing from one course to the next,
taking brief degustation stops between runs.
For centuries, Alta Badia and its neighbouring valleys were home to isolated communities, making do with what nature offered and braving long, hard winters. What once made for a life of hardship, now provides ideal conditions for a winter break, attracting visitors for more than just a skiing holiday. Alta Badia has long been known for wholesome, hearty mountain fare served at over 1,500 metres, but gourmet acclaim reached new heady heights with the arrival of the first Michelin star.
In this small pocket of South Tyrol, three cultures – Austrian, Italian and Ladin (an ancient culture unique to the Dolomites) – meet, each bringing with it a distinct culinary tradition. Three world-class restaurants, totalling four Michelin stars, located less than 10 kilometres apart within Alta Badia, all honour those traditions in different ways. At St. Hubertus at Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa in San Cassiano, executive chef Norbert Niederkofler leads the way with his Mountain Menu, inspired by and prepared with ingredients from the region.
The menu reads like a polyglot symphony, featuring duck liver, escargots and caviar, but also pücia (a home-baked flatbread specialty), graukäse (low-fat sour milk cheese) and marzuoli (rare early-season mushrooms). Ninety per cent of ingredients come from the region. Niederkofler, who cut his teeth in the kitchen of his parents’ hotel less than an hour north of his current workplace then set out to work with some of the world’s best chefs between Munich and New York before returning to South Tyrol, would like to raise that number to 100 per cent. He buys whole animals, rather than cuts of meat, sources his vegetables from a local farmer and uses traditional methods of preservation to tide his pantry over the winter season.