Few people can make their way to the top of the world’s tallest peaks; the elevation, weather, and pure will it takes to stand on the top of the world isn’t possible for all of us. However, for those who don’t have our sights set that high, having a glass of wine and delicious Italian meal at the highest restaurant in North America, Alpino Vino, just might do.
Alpino Vino at Telluride Ski Resort is a fine-dining restaurant with the highest elevation in North America. At 11,966 feet, it takes a bit of effort to reach the restaurant, but it pays off in the end. How you reach the restaurant depends on the time you visit. If you’re going for lunch, you’ll take the Gold Hill Express (Lift 14) from Telluride Ski Resort and then ski down the See Forever run to the front doors of the small wooden cottage-like restaurant.
Dinner is another experience entirely. After taking the gondola from Telluride Ski Resort or the town of Telluride, you’ll hop off at Allred’s restaurant and make your way to a large red ski coach. It’s heated inside the large snow coach with enough room for about 15 people. From there, the snow coach makes its way up the mountain, offering stunning views of the ski resort and valley, until you reach the top around sunset to take photos of the mountains off Alpino Vino’s outdoor patio, which offers a lovely place to enjoy a glass of wine or food item from the à la carte lunch menu during the day as well.
While lunch is a bit more laid back with patrons in ski gear, dinner offers an Old World dining experience. Inside, the restaurant has exposed wooden beams and stone floors, with decorative wine memorabilia like barrels and wine glasses along the walls or ledges. A wood fire burns, offering warmth amid the snow outside.
The Italian Alpine gourmet menu is created by Chef Nicola Peccedi, and includes a five-course dinner with optional wine pairing. While the menu varies, items like homemade soup, handmade pasta, braised bison short rib, seared Hamachi, and desserts like tiramisu or cheese platters have appeared on the menu. The food is artfully prepared on-site in a small basement kitchen, and served by knowledgeable staff, with wine pairings and selections curated by Andrew Shaffner, Telluride Ski Resort’s Wine Director.
There are a few things to keep in mind when booking a dining experience at Alpino Vino. The restaurant is only open during ski season from December to April, and while you don’t need lunch reservations, you’ll need to have the skill set to manage at least a blue ski run. Dinner reservations fill up fast, so it’s best to make a reservation a few weeks before the restaurant opens to secure a spot.
This unique dining experience also doesn’t come cheap, and you wouldn’t expect it to. In addition to the restaurant offering great views and top-notch quality food from a superb chef, just getting the ingredients to the restaurant is interesting, with staff sometimes having to ski fresh lobsters on their backs downhill. Lunch prices range with an à la carte menu, but dinner is $150 per person which includes transportation, dinner, water, and soft drinks. Alcoholic beverages and tips are additional. An optional wine pairing is $75–$125 depending on if you want to use a by-the-glass or by-the-bottle menu.
Sitting at approximately 12,000 feet on a mountain, you’ll feel the elevation, though the degree that you do will vary, as everyone’s body reacts differently. Drink a lot of water in between glasses of wine; your body will thank you!
To say a dining experience at Alpino Vino is exquisite, is to say the least. The food melts in your mouth and matures in flavor with the perfect glass of wine. The crackling fire, the snow that falls on the other side of the glass windows, and the wooden walls make for a delightful European-like dining experience, which can be hard to find in the U.S. Each bite, each sip, each stunning view that Alpino Vino has to offer is perfect. As the highest restaurant in North America, we wouldn’t expect any less.