From urban epicurean retreats to snowy chalets accessed by snowmobile, these lofty restaurants will lift your spirits
1. ASPEN, CO
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro
No need to be a skier to glimpse Aspen's best mountaintop views; just jump into a Sno-Cat and head up Aspen Highlands for an intimate four-course meal.
What's for dinner: Look for elk chops and pumpkin gnocchi, oyster-stuffed roasted Cornish game hen with chanterelles and horseradish purée. INFO: Sno-Cat Dinner Dec 20 and 27; $125, including transportation; reservations required; 970/923-8715. -Lori Midson
2. NELSON, B.C.
Fresh Tracks Café
Sure, locals love the deep, sugary snow, but what we love most about Whitewater Winter Resort in the Canadian Selkirk Mountains is the food. In fact, the clamor for Burgundian-trained chef Shelley Adams's tasty creations has grown so loud that her cookbook, Whitewater Cooks: Pure, Simple and Real Creations from the Fresh Tracks Café (Whitecap Books, 2007; $30 U.S.), is already into its fourth printing, and volume two is on the way.
What's for dinner: Whiskey-smoked salmon chowder, burgers piled high with caramelized onions and goat cheese. INFO: $; at Whitewater Winter Resort; 800/666-9420. -Deana Lancaster
3. MT. HOOD, OR
WPA-era hand-hewn furniture and unforgettable views converge 6,000 feet up Mt. Hood in the lodge's Cascade Dining Room.
What's for dinner: Dishes like salmon coulibiac, handmade desserts. INFO: $$$$; reservations required; 503/622-0700. -Bonnie Henderson
4. PHOENIX, AZ
Different Pointe of View
Who needs snowcapped peaks and alpine meadows when you can see swaying palms, pink oleanders, and showstopping views of downtown Phoenix? The Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort's 1,800-foot-high perch on a rocky mountain is the place to get perspective on the desert.
What's for dinner: Classic lobster bisque, truffle-grilled filet mignon. INFO: $$$$; 11111 N. Seventh St.; 602/866-6350. -Nora Burba Trulsson
5. HOLLYWOOD, CA
Dinner at Yamashiro is as much an escape from reality as any Hollywood film. Surrounded by Japanese gardens and built from teak and cedar, the restaurant high above Hollywood Boulevard is an exact handcrafted replica of a palace outside Kyoto. The rooms within are like a series of scenes, each with a different mood.
What's for dinner: Asian barbecue baby back ribs with ginger black beans and sweet-potato fries, or sushi and sashimi. INFO: $$$$; 1999 N. Sycamore Ave.; 323/466-5125. -Matthew Jaffe
6. MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, CA
Like the tanklike Sno-Cat that's been stylishly retrofitted with plush seats, the midmountain restaurant at McCoy Station transforms itself from a chili-and-fries ski lodge into a candlelit enclave with white tablecloths and five-course meals.
What's for dinner: Entrées like roasted venison loin chop, macadamia-crusted halibut. INFO: $$$$, including transportation; Dec 14-30 (closed Dec 20 and 25); reservations required; 800/626-6684. -Tim Neville
7. SOLITUDE, UT
The Yurt at Solitude
Don a pair of skis or snowshoes for the 3/4-mile trek from Solitude Village to this mountainside Mongolian yurt.
What's for dinner: Granny Smith apple-and-stilton salad, pan-seared Long Island duck breast with balsamic mashed sweet potatoes. INFO: Closed Mon; $100 per person, including equipment rental; reserve two months in advance; 12000 Big Cottonwood Canyon; 801/536-5709. -Kate Siber
8. BEAVER CREEK, CO
Bundle under blankets for the open-air ride from the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch to Zach's Cabin, high up in an aspen grove at 9,000 feet.
What's for dinner: Elk short loin with roasted fingerling hash and a cherry demi-glace, nori- and sesame-dusted tuna with crispy lotus chips. INFO: $$$$, including transportation (lunch for members only); closed Sun-Mon through Mar; reservations required; in Beaver Creek Resort at Ritz-Carlton; 970/754-6575. -Jane McConnell
9. WHISTLER, B.C.
Blackcomb Mountain, just 75 miles from Vancouver, British Columbia, is famous for extra-long, thigh-burning runs, gloriously steep powder bowls, and waffles. Find the thick and fluffy Belgian-style ones made to order at lunch in the Crystal Hut, a cozy log cabin notched onto a ridge at the top of the 6,053-foot Crystal chairlift.
What's for dinner (or lunch): Waffles. Or, after dark, fondue by candlelight. INFO: Lunch: $; fondue dinner: $169 U.S., including transportation; at Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort; 604/938-1616. -D.L.
10. CARMEL HIGHLANDS, CA
Okay, it's not really that high up, but vertiginous views of the Pacific crashing against rocks far below make it feel lofty in its own way.
What's for dinner: Local abalone, Hawaiian blue marlin sashimi, beef tenderloin. INFO: $$$$; closed Tue-Wed; at Highlands Inn; 831/622-5445. -Margo True