After a day tearing up the slopes and taking in amazing views, you slice into a juicy Alberta steak, noting its rich taste, while your partner samples the flavorful, just-caught Arctic char. It all comes paired with delicious wine and a stunning mountain view. It’s truly a taste of Canada.
Unique menu items like these are just the start of a culinary adventure in Western Canada—an area that has served farm-to-table cuisine long before it was a trend. Unlike most of the world’s ski towns, the ones in Western Canada reap the bounties of the nearby ocean, wide-open pastureland, and sandy vineyard soil, making the dining as unforgettable as the uncrowded slopes. Plus, the exchange rate makes splurge-worthy meals even more tempting.
You’ll notice the difference first at the resorts, where on-mountain restaurants skip the soggy burgers and focus on innovative, hearty dishes. And when you’re done for the day, you can enjoy sophisticated dining that rivals the best cuisine anywhere, or retire to a backcountry lodge where locally sourced, chef-made meals come with more than a touch of romance.
The great thing about dining in Banff—besides its abundance of creative, Canadian-centric cuisine—is that wherever you go, the meal always comes with a gorgeous mountain view. And it’s all just 90 minutes west of Calgary. At Chuck’s Steakhouse, that famous Alberta beef is grilled over hardwood and mesquite, and an extensive wine list gives you endless options for a perfect pairing. Sample even more local Alberta flavors at Bison Restaurant, where the seasonal menu offers the best of what’s in season. And at Sky Bistro, atop Sulphur Mountain, chef Scott Hergott’s “farm-to-summit” menu includes salmon with steamed Pacific clams and leek and celeriac velouté, and pork tenderloin with cipollini.
Over in the tiny hamlet of Lake Louise, dining is totally chill. When skiing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort—part of SkiBig3–make a mid-day stop at the Whitehorn Bistro for delicious cheese fondue, seafood chowder, and a house-made Bison burger. Everything is served with a stunning view across the valley of glistening glaciers and endless mountain peaks. Wrap up your day at Deer Lodge, known for its stylishly presented Rocky Mountain cuisine in a historic hotel (many of its original hand-hewn logs are still in place). Considered one of the top restaurants in the region, Deer Lodge specialties include bison, elk, and award-winning B.C. and Niagara peninsula wines.
From Canadian Rockies to the coastal mountains, here are some of the top tables in Western Canada’s foodiest ski towns, and what to order when you go.
Small but mighty, the town of Fernie, three hours south of Calgary, has some serious chops in the dining department—food often comes with imaginative twists. At the Latin tapas bar Nevados, for example, besides traditional arepas and patacones, you’ll find pork ribs glazed with tamarind and ceviche spiked with ginger. For fine dining, head to Lizard Creek Lodge’s Cirque, where the halibut’s baked in a banana leaf and served with pineapple chili salsa, and the PEI mussels are submerged in a green curry and coconut sauce. And at Smokehouse, dishes are slow-cooked, smoked, and Cajun-inspired. Try the beer-brined, applewood-smoked rack of ribs; hush puppies with smoked jalapeño ginger honey; and smoked pork belly with house pickled melon.
In the tiny river town of Golden and surrounding mountains, three hours west of Calgary, dining is contemporary and stylish, using Canada-sourced ingredients. Downtown, there’s the casual, elegant Whitetooth Mountain Bistro, with thoughtfully crafted dishes like Canada’s famed poutine made with parsnips and a mushroom demi, and with duck confit added if you want. And at Eagle’s Eye Restaurant at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Chef Nassim Meddane’s menu is as elevated as the location itself, atop the stunning 7,700-foot mountain. Grilled half boar tenderloin comes with a red wine reduction, accented with blueberries, rosemary, and thyme; wild halibut is served with a smoked tomato jam. Only open on Friday and Saturday nights, so plan accordingly. Bonus: Your dinner reservation here comes with a gondola ride.
When you’re done skiing for the day, Big White Resort, in between Calgary and Vancouver, offers tons of great dining options, from hearty to hyper-local haute cuisine. Enjoy an upscale diner at the Kettle Valley Steakhouse, where the beef is from nearby ranches and the wine list includes award-winning pinot noirs and syrahs from the Okanagan Valley. And for brunch, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride to a cozy cabin in the woods where your eggs and pancakes (with unlimited Canadian maple syrup, of course) awaits.
At Western Canada’s hideaway from the crowds, SilverStar—set between Vancouver and Calgary—the resort and its dining scene are casual, local, and super-creative. At The Den Bar and Bistro, order up dishes like wild B.C. Chinook salmon and an all-B.C. seafood cioppino, made with local seafoods like mussels, whitefish, and shrimp in a saffron-tomato stew. Or head to the intimate, chic, 40-seat Silver Grill, where you’ll find imaginative yet un-fussy dishes like B.C. beetroot salad with house-made ricotta, and Johnstone Pork Tenderloin and Belly served with farm squash and purple kale.
There’s so much amazing food to try in Whistler, 90 minutes outside Vancouver, that you might just want to extend your stay. Not to miss is the Araxi Restaurant and Oyster Bar, where executive chef James Walt began creating fresh, farm-to-table dishes long before it was trendy. He works with local farms to offer dishes like duck breast from nearby Yarrow Meadow served with beets, roasted onion peels, and kale. Sample modern French-Canadian cuisine at Alta Bistro, with dishes like elk tartare and venison cassoulet. And while the iconic Rimrock Café is well-loved for its seafood dishes, such as half-lobster with seared scallops or the grilled calamari with hummus appetizer, Chef Rolf Gunter puts his classic touch on meats, too—the rare elk loin with bacon-onion dumpling is a favorite. Or for something different, take a nighttime snowmobile ride up the mountain for a cooked-just-for-you candlelit dinner that may be fondue or a three-course steak dinner. Getting there and back is half the fun.