Every skier loves a good lunch: and one of the glories of the Austrian Tirol is how easy it is to find a mountain restaurant serving hearty, rejuvenating meals. Some of these “huts” are ancient and creaky. Others are brand-new, but built with richly-textured wood and stone. In both you’ll find local ingredients, expertly cooked – and a friendly, upbeat atmosphere. You’ll also be pleasantly surprised by the prices. Here, Christine Silbergberger of the Wildschönau asks the locals where they love to eat.
Bergrestaurant Gipfö Hit, Auffach
My own favourite is the Gipfö Hit. It’s near the top of the slopes above Auffach in the Ski Juwel ski area, in an area of wide-open pistes and big mountain views. It’s the perfect place to refuel after some high-speed carving on the morning snow, before you plunge down the far side of the ridge, into the Alpbachtal.
The food is great, too. Gipfö Hit is owned by the Thaler family, from nearby Thierbach. (It’s one of the prettiest villages in the Alps, and even though it has no ski lifts, every skier should pay it a visit.) Some of the food they serve comes from their own farm, such as the beef for their goulash, they bake their own bread too. My own favourite dish there is the Tiroler Gröstl, which they serve in its own small pan. I love it with a salad. But not a lettuce salad: what you want is finely-sliced cabbage, topped with small cubes of bacon.
Tirolerhaus, Tiroler Zugspitz Arena
Can’t decide what kind of lunch you want? Then ski down to the Tirolerhaus, in the Ehrwald Alm – part of the alliance of ski resorts known as the Tiroler Zugspitz Arena. The Tirolerhaus offers three different dinning rooms – a self-service canteen, and two different wood-panelled stuben, both waiter-serviced. There’s also a coffee bar, several open fires and – hallelujah – escalators down to the loos, which saves the typical slippery walk that’s a feature of so many restaurants.
The Tirolerhaus is a big favourite of Peter Larcher of the Total Ski School – partly because of the variety, but also because of the food. The standout dish? “The special Tirolerhaus Burger,” he says. And no wonder: it’s a sandwich of crusty vinschgerl bread, a schnitzel, lettuce, tomato, tyrolian bacon and a tomato salsa. YUM.
Restaurant Seegrube, Innsbruck
There are so many reasons to love the Nordkette: the ride up the mountain from the middle of Innsbruck; the sudden transition from Hapsburg palaces to snow-drenched wilderness; the plunging powder runs – to name a few. There’s nothing else quite like it in the Alps.
Then, when you’ve skied your legs to jelly, you can pull up a chair at the Restaurant Seegrube, and get stuck into a memorable lunch. Michi Freymann of local ski manufacturers SpurArt is a big fan. “It’s so good to be able to get up there without a car,” says Freymann. “And the view is fantastic, with the city spread out below you, and the Stubai mountains beyond.” Order the cheesy dumplings with sauerkraut if you can: and then ski down to the Hitt und Söhne coffee bar at the bottom of the gondola below. “It’s modern and stylish and the perfect place to hang out in the sun,” says Freymann. “And they serve the best cakes.”
Gampenalpe Ski Lodge, Ischgl
Paznaun-Ischgl Tourist Director Andreas Steibl’s favourite mountain restaurant is the Gampenalpe Ski Lodge. It’s new to Ischgl this winter, and sits next to the pistes just 400m from the bottom station of the new Gampen chairlift.
“We’re very proud of it,” he says. “It has table service and can accommodate up to 100 people but still has a rustic feel and lots of character.” He’s not wrong about the décor: diners sit beneath giant furry lampshades that look a bit like scoops of vanilla ice cream.
The menu is thoroughly modern too, with lots of snacks and sharing plates as well as bigger dishes. “The Gampenalpe Ski Lodge serves everything from delicious soups and snacks such as Alpine cheese with pickles, to Tirolean specialities like venison stew, mixed grills and brown trout – and of course Wiener schnitzel,” says Steibl.
Alpengasthof Sonneck, Solden
Judith Schöpf grew up in the Oetztal resort of Solden and is big fan of the Alpengasthof Sonneck, at the base station for the Gaislah t-bar. “It’s owned and run by Anita Fender, with the help of her children Michaela and Florian,” says Schöpf, “and it’s not your typical wood-panelled hut. It looks and feels like someone’s house, and I love going in for Grillteller – a mixed grill – and French fries, followed by ice cream. I’m one of those people who can always eat ice cream, even in the middle of winter…” In fact, the Sonneck is a real locals’ favourite, thanks to its affordable prices, calm and uncrowded atmosphere, and the amazing views of the Ventertal.
Seealm Hög, Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis
Fancy a change from traditional Tirolean food? Then Alexandra Hangl – who’s worked in the Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis ski area for more than 30 years – suggests the Seealm Hög. “It’s is a table-service restaurant with an open-plan interior and large windows, soaking up the view of the lake and the surrounding moutains,” she says. “In spring, the sundeck is a delight, and the menu is full of surprises, including vegetarian and vegan food, as well as seafood specialties.” Mind you, her favourite dish is still an Austrian classic: “Tafelspitz – boiled beef with spinach, roast potatoes and some sour cream.” It was, apparently, a regular feature on the Emperor Franz Josef’s table.
Zirben Alm, Obergurgl
In high-altitude Obergurgl, Christine Klotz loves a good lunch in the Zirben Alm, just south of the main village, at the bottom of the Steinmannbahn lift. “It’s a pretty spot,” she says, “next to a pine forest, and easy to reach if you’re not a skier or boarder. So it’s a canny choice for a meeting if there are non-skiers in your group. It’s a new building, but the style rustic and the food has a gastronomic edge, despite the traditional theme. I usually go for soups with dumplings, or the Käsespätzle (cheese noodles).”