Crafting gourmet meals centered on a region’s signature in-season ingredients isn’t a novel idea. But then Utah in deep winter isn’t exactly Alice Waters’s Berkeley or slow-food Italy’s Piedmont. Fresh, local and sustainably produced fruits of the sea, field, pasture and vine are hardly the vaunted attributes of ski season in the Rockies High Sierra and Western Canada. That’s not stopping John Murcko, who—along with a handful of other inspired ski-town chefs—is satisfying even the most sophisticated skiers’ palates while leaving the smallest ecological footprint possible. As executive chef at Canyons Resort, Murcko oversees 25 dining outlets ranging from slopeside kiosks to the lauded Talisker on Main. At each, Murcko is quietly shifting toward regional, seasonal foods—an evolution that requires advance planning and resourceful networking. Instead of tomatoes grown and even sliced far away, for example, skiers may well find their burgers (made from grass-fed steers bought one by one from individual regional ranchers, then processed in-house) topped with intensely flavored tomato jam made from local growers’ fall crops and preserved right away by Murcko’s team. “It takes a passion-driven kitchen,” Murcko says. Not only is this approach tasty, but it’s altering Utah’s economy for the better, as the state’s small food producers ratchet up supply to respond to Murcko’s demand.
Similar scenarios are playing out elsewhere in ski country, with the following chefs leading the movement. It’s a welcome move toward stronger local economies, heathier diets and tastier dinners for skiers coming off the slopes.