In my previous post, I took you on a vegan culinary tour of some of the mouth-watering vegan dining options in the popular ski resort of Chamonix, France. If you missed it, check it out here, and be sure to watch the video!
But I don't want to paint an unrealistically rosy picture of what a vegan ski trip is like. Let's be honest, most crops don't grow on mountains, which means that the local cuisines in ski destinations tend not to be very vegan-friendly. So, what about the worst case scenario, where every menu seems to be filled with nothing but fondue and cured meats?
If you're willing to do a little advance planning, a vegan ski trip to even the most cheese-loving mountain village in Switzerland is really not difficult. Here's how it's done:
On the Slopes
Since it's hard to know exactly what will be on offer at the restaurants and cafeterias up on the slopes, it's a good idea to take some provisions along with you. Your vegan snack pack could include:
- Dried fruit
- Trail mix
- Dark chocolate
- Energy bars
- Vegan jerky or sausage
- Fresh fruit
If you do bring fresh fruit, make it something sturdy, like an apple or orange. Wiping out on a run is bad enough without having to clean squashed banana off your wallet.
You may even want to pack an entire lunch, and in fact many skiers do this to save a few bucks, as eating up on the mountain can get pricey. Some ski resorts will have designated picnic areas for folks who decide to brown bag it; check the website of the resort you're visiting to see if they mention this.
Restaurants and cafés, on the other hand, are often quite strict about not letting people bring their own food and sit at their tables to eat it. So, if there's no picnic area and you want to sit down and relax while you let your legs recover from that rather ambitious attempt at a black run, you will need to order some food.
Not a problem! Even if vegan options on the menu are sparse and the wait staff is unwilling to adapt the dishes on offer, it's pretty much a guarantee that, at the very least, they will be able to serve up a plate of French fries and a basic salad of lettuce and tomato.
Doesn't sound very filling? This is where your vegan snack pack comes into play! Turn that wilted lettuce into a meal by throwing in some chopped up veggie sausage or fruit. Or both. Go crazy! Sprinkle a generous helping of trail mix on top and, voila! You've got yourself a healthy and filling vegan meal, and a comfortable seat with mountain views to boot.
Dinner in Town
So you've made it through a long day of skiing, and now that it's getting dark the cold has really set in. What you want more than anything is a piping hot, hearty meal to warm you from the inside out.
The good news is that, as tourism hot spots, many ski resorts are becoming more aware of the needs of vegan and vegetarian visitors and are catering to their needs. But we're talking about the worst case scenario here, so let's assume that's not the case.
What do you do? Call ahead to local restaurants and ask if they can accommodate you. If you give them enough advance notice and explain clearly what you need, you'll most likely find that they'll be happy to oblige. Let me tell you a story as an example of how this might play out.
As I showed in my previous post, the city centre of Chamonix, France is chock full of vegan dining options (hellloooo smoked tofu tacos!), but what if you're staying in a chalet way out of town? That's exactly what happened when we booked into Chalet Les Frenes – a small, British-run place on the outskirts of Chamonix in an area called Les Bossons.
First off, you'll want to ask the chalet about vegan breakfast options. Chalet Les Frenes was able to offer bread and jam, hot oatmeal and a variety of cold cereals. They didn't have any plant-based milk, but this was no biggie, because I just brought a couple of single-serving packages of powdered soy milk purchased from an Asian grocery store. Chalets might also let you use the stove or microwave if you prefer to self cater.
Now, on to dinner. I knew that options around the chalet would be extremely limited, so I called ahead to a restaurant within walking distance, named Le Tremplin (a reference to the nearby ski jump), to see what they could offer. [UPDATE: The restaurant's website has been taken down, so they may have closed. Try contacting them via their Facebook page before you go.]
It was obvious that they didn’t get many people asking for vegan meals, and the owner initially seemed pretty daunted by the request, saying that they were just a small, family-run restaurant that specialized in local Savoyard dishes, and perhaps I should try somewhere else.
She did, however, list several vegan side dishes and starters from the menu, and I was confident that these could be combined to make a lovely meal, so I asked to book a table anyway.
When we arrived, my meal began with a hearty minestrone soup of vegetables and beans. This was followed by a rice dish served with a generous helping of ratatouille and another helping of chickpeas tossed in basil and olive oil. The ratatouille was part of their regular menu, but the chickpeas were something that the chef had whipped up just for me. Both were delicious and, combined together, made a balanced meal of perfect après-ski food.
The moral of this story is: don't be afraid to ask for what you want! Even if restaurant staff are not sure what veganism is, in many cases they will be happy to help if you explain what you need. Just be very clear about what you do and don’t eat as a vegan, and suggest some dishes or ingredients that they are likely to be familiar with and have access to.
Even on the snowy top of an Alpine mountain, vegan travel can be as easy as a cruise down the bunny slopes.