What is après-ski?
Après-ski is a French term that translates literally to “after ski” or “after skiing.” The phrase was made popular in the Alps during the 1950s rise of commercial skiing, and today, après-ski is an umbrella term for popular post-ski activities. It can refer to champagne toasts on slopeside terraces in Chamonix, France, as well as kicking back around a firepit with a couple of craft beers in Breckenridge, Colorado.
There’s no official time frame for “après ski,” though it usually starts in late afternoon—say, around 4 p.m. after the “last run” of the day (pro tip: never call it your last run, it’s bad luck)—and can keep going well past dinner. Nightclubs in ski-heavy parts of Austria have been known to party until 6 a.m. Think of it as a happy hour of sorts, one that has the potential to last late into the night. While après-ski customs and culture vary from place to place—ski resort atmospheres can run the gamut from laid back to ultra posh—it’s common for your snow gear to double as après-ski attire, minus the clunky ski boots. So don’t worry about adding any fancy getups to your ski trip packing list. Simply swap your helmet for a beanie and stow your boards and skis away.
North America, Japan, and Europe each have their own distinct ski cultures, which can even vary from mountain to mountain. From table-top dancing to hot soaks, skiers can find a (very) wide range of après-ski scenes around resorts once the ski boots come off.
The European Alps
Prime ski season: roughly November to April
The wildest ski scene: St. Anton, Austria
Ski chalets and grand hotels, fondue and mulled wine, cobblestone streets and haute cuisine—Europe’s Alpine ski towns are generally known for their white-gloved elegance. But within a large swath of the Alps (from Austria to France), the après-ski scene also has a wild side that makes Hot Tub Time Machine look tame. Think cabarets, underground clubs, and late-night Euro-pop dance parties.
In St. Anton, Austria, expect singalongs and 3 a.m. dance parties fueled by oversized beers and Jägermeister shots—plus all the oompah music you could ever dream of. Check out MooserWirt for the “epitome of oompah après.” Other rowdy honorable mentions include Ischgl, Austria; Val d’Isère, France; and Verbier, Switzerland.
The best food: The Dolomites of the Italian Alps
This is where foodies come to ski—for an hour or two, after a cappuccino, aperitivos, and a two-hour lunch, possibly Michelin starred. Check out the South Tyrol village of San Cassiano for some of the best restaurants and hotels in the area.
The see-and-be-seen scene: St. Moritz, Switzerland
Best all-around après-ski: Chamonix, France
A playground of mountaineering, Chamonix is a near-mythical destination for serious skiers with serious drinking appetites to match.
Best après-ski alternatives: Switzerland
We love the “après-ski train,” two redone Glacier Express rail cars that serve as gliding lounges between Andermatt and Disentis. Order meat and cheese and a Kaffee Lutz (schnapps coffee) and come on weekends for a DJ set. A bit smaller but no less fun: The Grindewald Bus Stop in the Jungfrau region is a 1960s bus-turned-bar that serves Gingerbombs at the bottom of the Grindel downhill piste. Interlaken boasts multiple ice skating rinks. (Bavarian curling and all-you-can-eat raclette, anyone?) In Wengen, the Sunstar Grillkota (grill cabin) is literally a table set by a giant indoor firepit, primed for fondue parties. On Lake Brienz, a “hotpot” is a riff on a hot tub that also serves fondue. Be still our (slightly clogged) hearts.
The Southern Alps of New Zealand
Prime ski season: late June to mid-October
After a day spent cruising the Remarkables or Coronet Peak—two of the more accessible “ski fields,” as the resorts are known on New Zealand’s South Island—head back into Queenstown for a proper after-party. It may be extremely popular among expats, but as we all know, expats know how to have a good time. Fuel up with a Fergburger (a burger roughly the size of your head, made from prime New Zealand beef) before diving into “late-night shenanigans” at Yonder, a coffee-to-closing-time spot that delivers live music and comedy. Bring the whole family to Minus 5º Ice Bar, where you’re fitted with Ugg-style boots, gloves, and coat to endure the indoor chill.
Rather ski straight to the bar? Coronet Peak does night skiing from 4 to 9 p.m., and Cardrona Alpine Resort has a great champagne bar at the top of the gondola ride. (Or seek out the firepit scene at century-old Cardrona Hotel only five minutes away.)
Prime ski season: mid-December through March
With a diverse mix of skiers, snowboarders, and seasonal workers from Japan and around the globe, Hokkaido’s popular ski area, Niseko, has an après-ski scene that mixes both Western and Japanese elements. Visitors can spend the evening taking shots and dancing on tables at the rowdy, American-style Freddie’s clubhouse or cozying up with a craft beer at Niseko Taproom. Or try a very Japanese après-ski: an evening soak in an onsen at Hilton Niseko Village; hearty dinners of soba noodles at Rakuichi (advance reservations required); and Japanese whisky flights at Bar Gyu+, dubbed “the fridge bar” for its refrigerator door entrance.
The United States
Prime ski season: November to May, though some stay open as late as July
Where to begin? East Coast or West Coast? Northwest or Southwest? The U.S. après-ski scene is as varied as its states, though an undercurrent of cheap beer and fleece runs across the country. Hearty fare in mountaintop lodges or ski bar and grills (chili and cornbread, soups, nachos, and hot chocolate are all staples) fuel full-day ski and snowboarding sessions. But that’s where the similarities end.
In Killington, Vermont, skiers face off against steep, icy slopes and celebrate being alive by following up with a raucous night out (just Google “Pickle Barrel Nightclub”).
Big Sky, Montana, is known for attracting tech entrepreneurs and celebrities—though it’s not likely that you’ll see them while you’re here. There are nine square miles of skiable terrain (runs for everyone!) and laid-back, burger-and-a-brew vibes.
Classic lodges, massive spas, wide-open trails—everything is big in Sun Valley, Idaho. And Park City, Utah, is home to the Sundance Film Festival and beloved High West Distillery. At Deer Valley ski resort, head to the bright orange tent housing Après Lounge and Beach Club for champagne and caviar.
Aspen, Colorado, is known for being fancy, with its luxury resorts (Little Nell, the St. Regis, and Hotel Jerome, to name a few), fur-vest dress code, and Veuve Clicquot bars. Two hours away, Breckenridge, Colorado, offers après-ski for everyone, from families to dive-bar devotees.
Expert skiers come to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for steep chutes and cheap shots at the Mangy Moose, a local watering hole and live music hot spot since 1967. Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico is known for its heavy Bavarian influence and often serves up brats alongside green chile enchiladas.
And things are positively Heavenly in South Lake Tahoe, California, where skiers and boarders barely have enough time to kick off their clunky boots before they start dancing at Tamarack Lodge’s Unbuckle parties. Down the road at Northstar, head to Tōst for après-ski champagne in the snow.
Prime ski season: late November to late April
Whether you’re skiing with Aussies in Whistler, British Columbia, or the French Canadians on Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, there’s a distinctly Canadian feel to the après-ski in the Great White North. Things are much more laid-back, beer-fueled, and decidedly unfussy here. Whistler Village (built up for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics) remains one of our favorite scenes in the world. It’s walkable, shoppable—and safely stumble-able from the Longhorn Saloon and Grill at the base of Whistler mountain to renowned barbecue joint Dusty’s or—a must for beer hounds—High Mountain Brewing Co. Atop Whistler Mountain, Garibaldi Lift Co., or GLC, serves up a memorable Caesar (see “The drinks” below) and stays family-friendly until 10 p.m. Remember: You can never have too much poutine.
Prime ski season: mid-June to mid-October
Skiing in Argentina, from Cerros Catedral in Bariloche to Las Lenas in Mendoza, is as picturesque as it gets. The lakes! The granite spires! The après scene at Cerro Catedral is no joke—we’re talking a 1 a.m. start—so plan on a siesta after a day on the mountains.
When it comes to Las Trancas, Chile, AFAR contributor Zoe Baillargeon has a few suggestions: “After a day of off-piste skiing, snowshoeing, or dog-sledding, take a rejuvenating soak in the renowned, slopeside Termas de Chillán thermal hot springs, then head to the folksy Snow Pub, the local après ‘It’ spot, or Oliva’s Restaurant for casual eats and tasty pisco sours. Unwind for the night in town at stylish digs like the chalet-chic MI Lodge or the trendy, Scandinavian-inspired Las Trancas Hideaway, where you can revel in the local, laid-back vibe.”
For your après-ski outfit, don’t worry about heading home for a full change after your last run of the day. Swap your ski boots for waterproof boots that you can actually walk in, add a beanie to cover your helmet hair, and you’ll fit right in everywhere from Jackson Hole to Zermatt. However, while well-worn fleeces may be the norm in casual ski towns in California and Vermont, you’ll find the peak of après-ski attire in places like Aspen, Colorado, and St. Moritz, Switzerland (pun very much intended).
To help you find your own après-ski style, we spoke to a few locals about what to wear in the most stylish ski towns in the United States and Europe.
Après-ski attire in St. Moritz, Switzerland vs. Aspen, Colorado
“People wear everything from cool ski clothes to the latest runway looks,” says St. Moritz local Barbara Granetzny-Görtz, who’s worked in the fashion industry since the early ’90s. A typical St. Moritz outfit would be cashmere from locally based Cashmere House Lamm paired with Italian handmade Santoni leather boots, a long colorful scarf, and a Borsalino hat to top it all off.
Lee Keating believes Aspen has the greatest ski style in the world, and she would know: She owns three ski-wear shops in Colorado that stock sleek European brands like Moncler and Frauenschuh. One thing she’s noticed helping dress people for the slopes: The women are not afraid to show off their personal looks.
“Aspen’s an independent-thinking place, and [locals] don’t care what people think,” Keating says. Recently, Keating has also noticed more and more women opt for stretchy one-piece ski suits on the slopes over traditional separates.
“The black stretch suit has become the little black dress for après-ski,” Keating says. “People will wear a ski jacket over the one piece for skiing and then change to a long shearling vest for après.”
Another trend gaining speed is a movement away from traditionally over-sized jackets and shells to cropped bomber jackets that are functional on the slopes, stylish enough for après, and layer well over one-piece stretch suits.
For men, Aspen-based Aztech Mountain makes beautiful plaid shirts with incredibly soft brushed-cotton fabric and magnetic collars to keep out the chill; these shirts go from slopes to après to dinner.
For the full story, read Who Wears It Well? The Best in Après-Ski Outfits.
Your guide to ordering like a local in . . .
The European Alps
- Mulled wine (France, Austria, Switzerland): a spiced wine usually made with red wine and served warm (known as vin chaud in France and Glühwein in Austria)
- Bombardino (Italy): a warm winter cocktail made with eggnog, brandy, and served hot with whipped cream
- Jägermeister (Austria and Switzerland): A licorice liqueur made with 56 herbs and spices (drop a shot of Jägermeister into Red Bull or beer to make the popular Jägerbomb)
- Aperol Spritz (Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria): a wine-based cocktail prepared with prosecco, Aperol, and soda water
Southern Alps of New Zealand
- Craft beers: Try the Power Day Pilsner from Queenstown’s Altitude Brewing or the Kiwi Pale Ale from Wanaka-based Ground Up Brewing
- Central Otago Pinot Noir: Sample a glass (or a bottle) of Rippon Mature Vine Pinot Noir from Lake Wanaka’s long-running Rippon Vineyard
- Japanese hot toddy: a warm winter cocktail made with Japanese whisky, lemon, and water
- Sapporo Classic: a local brew only found in Hokkaido (though we also love the craft beers from Niseko Taproom)
The United States
- Bloody Mary: a cocktail containing vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper, and—if you’re daring—hot sauce, bacon, and even asparagus as garnish
- Craft beer: You’ll see hearty IPAs and porters from Washington State to Vermont. Notable brews include the Alchemist’s Heady Topper Double IPA out of Vermont and the Bavarian-style Skiesta Lager from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
- Veuve Clicquot: As a toast of sorts to European après-ski, you can find slopeside “bubbly” bars sponsored by this French champagne house at top U.S. ski resorts like Utah’s Deer Valley and Aspen Snowmass in Colorado
- The Caesar: Canada’s version of a Bloody Mary, made with vodka, Clamato (a blend of tomato and clam juice), Worcestershire sauce, a spice mix, and often festooned with elaborate garnishes
- Canadian beer and cider: Kokanee, British Columbia’s best-selling lager, is a classic après-ski brew, and B.C.’s Lone Tree Cider Company is the hard cider go-to.
- Pisco sour: a Chilean (or Peruvian, depending on who you ask) cocktail made from pisco (a type of brandy) blended with fresh lime juice, sugar, egg white, bitters, and ice
Après-ski at home
If post-ski socializing at lively bars or restaurants may not be your scene, it’s still possible to create your own après-ski fun at home or in your Airbnb. When your feet are aching and your cheeks are tingling after a long day outside, cap off your day with warm winter cocktails and alpine-themed dishes, plus some après-ski accessories to keep you on theme.
- Alpine Cooking: Recipes and Stories from Europe’s Grand Mountaintops (Ten Speed Press, 2019), $47, bookshop.org
- Ski Trip Candle, $38, homesick.com
- Boska Copper and Concrete Raclette Melter, $199, food52.com
- L.L. Bean Waffle Onesie, $40, llbean.com
- Danish Glerup Slippers, from $70, huckberry.com
This article was originally published in 2020; It was updated on October 24, 2023, with current information.