Where to Find the Best Après-Ski in the U.S.

There’s a memorable evening scene for every kind of traveler.

Exterior of Cowboy Bar in Jackson Hole, with snowy slopes in background

The barstools are made of saddles at Jackson Hole’s Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.

Courtesy of Aubrey Odum/Unsplash

There are almost as many ways to celebrate après-ski (French for “after ski”) as there are to get down a mountain. And just as there are bunny hills and black-diamond runs, there are also après experiences for, well, every skill level: for the hardcore, shot-skis in a rowdy dive bar; for the uninitiated, fondue and cozy drinks by the fire. We’ve collected a coast-to-coast list of top winter resort towns in the United States, where après-ski might include sampling whiskey at the country’s only ski-in/ski-out distillery or bellying up to the bar on saddle stools at a western saloon. And as everyone knows: What happens after you get off the slopes can be almost as exhilarating as the ride down. If you want even more insights into the fashion, drinks, and customs of ski culture off the slopes, don’t miss our global guide to everything après.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Known for its proximity to Grand Teton National Park and its popularity among celebrities, Jackson Hole is blessed with “cowboy powder,” a type of light, dry snow that makes it rank high on any list of the best ski resorts in the United States. Everywhere from the slopeside Teton Village to the historic town of Jackson, watering holes put a western spin on après traditions. Just steps from the base of the Aerial Tram, which glides 4,139 vertical feet up the mountain, the Mangy Moose Restaurant and Saloon opened in 1967 and is beloved for its live music and frozen Sloshies, like the huckleberry mule. The Handle Bar at the Four Seasons, meanwhile, is a more elevated spot for smoked trout dip and duck-fat wedges with beer cheese. Down by the town square and its famed elk-antler arches, follow the glow of one of the most iconic neon signs in all the Rockies: the bronco rider that blazes above the nearly 90-year-old Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, where the barstools are made of saddles. Be sure to swap out your ski boots for cowboy boots before attempting to line dance.

Footbridge and part of ski resort, with chair lift and mountain in background at Park City

Warm up with beef chili or a spicy cocktail after a day on the slopes in Park City, Utah.

Courtesy of Benjamin R/Unsplash

Park City, Utah

The Beehive State has shed its reputation as the home of exclusively “near beer” (before 2019, Utah liquor laws capped beer ABV at a meager 3.2 percent), and Park City has also grown up as an après-ski destination. Favorite spots near the slopes include Umbrella Bar, a yurt where you can grab a warming beef chili and a Uinta Hazy Nosh IPA, and the No Name Saloon, which serves up popular buffalo burgers from its 1905 mercantile building. For something a bit posher, you’ll want to order a Bloody Mary from the St. Regis Deer Valley; each location of the luxury chain offers its own spin on the tomato-based cocktail classic that was invented at its New York City original location. The 7542 Mary here includes locally distilled vodka and a wasabi celery foam. If craft spirits are your jam, don’t miss the High West Saloon, the only ski-in/ski-out distillery in North America, where you can sample seasonal cocktails like the Catherine’s Pass, made with Douglas fir brandy.

Sun Valley, Idaho

Sun Valley Resort sits on the edge of Ketchum, where Ernest Hemingway spent summers toward the end of his life and is buried; earlier, he finished For Whom the Bell Tolls in suite 206 of the ski lodge. In terms of sheer convenience, you can’t beat River Run Day Lodge, which sits at the base of Bald Mountain and is known for its Bloody Marys and live music. But we have a feeling the famed novelist might also love some of the scrappier dive bars in town: Lefty’s Bar and Grill for burgers and beer; Apple’s Bar &Grill for killer mimosas; and Grumpy’s, which has been going strong since the ’70s and is known for its 32-ounce schooners of beer and make-you-feel-like-a-kid-again corn dogs.

Stowe, Vermont

This New England ski resort is one of the largest on the East Coast, with terrain that runs the gamut from family-friendly to intense (including Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in the state), and its après scene is equally as diverse. The Matterhorn Bar & Restaurant is the quintessential local hang, where bands have been performing since the 1950s (among them, the Monkees and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals), and the mugs of regulars hang above the bar. Elsewhere around the village, standouts include the WhistlePig Pavilion at the whiskey distillery of the same name for wood-fired barbecue, flights, and cocktails like a blueberry julep, and Doc Ponds, which boasts a 1,000-strong record collection and crave-worthy snacks like Vermont cheddar fritters. The bar gets its odd name from an 1876 court case,The State of Vermont v. One Keg of Lager Beer, in which the good doctor testified on behalf of the beer. It won.

A skier outside Scribner's Lodge, Hunter Mountain (L); small group at table playing cards and drinking, with snack bowls (R)

Hunter Mountain’s upscale après scene is less than a four-hour drive from downtown New York City.

Photo by Nowe Ski Co (left) and Moriah Wolfe (right)

Hunter, New York

OK , we know the Catskills may not be the Rockies, but they have their own kind of charm, and their proximity to the Big Apple has made Hunter Mountain a weekend favorite among city dwellers. Near the base, Scribner’s Catskills Lodge is the design-forward reimagining of a 1966 motor lodge, where you can warm up with s’mores by the fire or a maple Old-Fashioned at the on-site restaurant Prospect. For something a bit more Old World, Jägerberg Beer Hall & Alpine Tavern offers après with a German accent, thanks to a menu of German beers, beer/shot combos (like Hefeweisse with apricot liqueur or Maibock with herbal liqueur), and Euro-tinged cocktails made with ingredients like Becherovka and Jägermeister.

Taos, New Mexico

This artsy adventure hub brings some Southwestern flair to the après tradition, and don’t let the New Mexico location fool you: The town sits at nearly 7,000 feet and the ski valley at more than 9,000, meaning things get cold, and spice has become a favorite way for skiers to warm back up after a run. That means green chile cheeseburgers at the Burger Stand, chile stew at the Alley Cantina (parts of which date back to the 16th century), and vodkas infused with Chimayo red chile and Hatch green chile at Rolling Still Distillery. Perhaps the most atmospheric spot in town is the Taos Inn’s Adobe Bar, which has been welcoming weary travelers since the 1930s—though we’re not sure the guests back then were choosing from a menu of a dozen margaritas, including the Hot Mama, made with green chile–infused tequila, passionfruit, and a brown sugar/red chile powder rim.

Lobby of Hotel Jerome, Aspen, with two large leather couches facing each other under chandeliers

Aspen’s Hotel Jerome is everything you think of when you close your eyes and conjure up images of a cozy, historic, mountain town hotel.

Courtesy of Hotel Jerome/David O. Marlow

Aspen, Colorado

Aspen is shorthand for a certain ski-and-be-seen vibe, and unsurprisingly, that wintry panache can best be witnessed in the town’s stylish hotel bars, including the Ajax Tavern at the Little Nell, the rooftop Wet Deck at the W Aspen, or the Lounge at the Limelight. But the best might be the original. Opened in 1889 during Aspen’s silver boom days, the Hotel Jerome is dripping with history and charisma, with enough different après options to fill an entire long weekend here without repeating yourself: caviar and champagne on a floating ice tray at the heated pool; curling and cocktails in the Winter Garden; espresso martinis in the whimsically wallpapered Felix Roasting Co.; small bites in front of the fireplace in the Living Room; and even a $145 multi-course cocktail experience at Bad Harriet. (For something completely different, head to the Woody Creek Tavern, which occupies a 1940s log cabin and is wallpapered with ephemera from its most famous former regular, Hunter S. Thompson.)

Big Bear Lake, California

Southern California’s answer to Lake Tahoe sits by its own scenic body of water, high in the San Bernardino Mountains, though it maintains a more small-town, rustic vibe than its glitzier peer to the north. On-mountain, spend days on the decks at Laybacks Bar, just outside the main lodge; Slopeside Speakeasy, at the bottom of Chair 2 at Snow Summit ski resort; or Skyline Taphouse, at the top of Chair 1, where you’ll have a front-row view of the 11,503-foot San Gorgonio Mountain. Down in the village, Big Bear Lake Brewing Company is a favorite for its house beers and signature “avocado bomb,” a spicy-tuna-stuffed, beer-battered avocado, while Himalayan Restaurant is an ode to Tibetan, Nepalese, and northern Indian flavors.

Nicholas DeRenzo is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Brooklyn. A graduate of NYU’s Cultural Reporting and Criticism program, he worked as an editor at Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel and, most recently, as executive editor at Hemispheres, the in-flight magazine of United Airlines. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, New York, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Sunset, Wine Enthusiast, and more.
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