Après-Ski, Defined

What is après-ski, exactly?

Après-ski is a French term that translates literally to “after ski” or “after skiing.” The phrase, made popular in the Alps during the 1950s rise of commercial skiing, is defined by Oxford Living Dictionaries as “the social activities and entertainment following a day’s skiing.” Today, après-ski provides an umbrella term for popular post-ski activities; it can refer to everything from champagne toasts on slopeside terraces in Chamonix, France, to craft beers around ski lodge fire pits in Aspen, Colorado. 

There’s no official timeframe 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 Austria have been known to crank until 6 a.m. While après-ski customs and culture vary from place to place—some ski resorts are more upscale while others have generally laid-back vibes—it’s common for your snow gear to double as après-ski attire, minus those clunky ski boots. Don’t worry, you won’t have to add extra getups to your ski trip packing list. Swap your helmet for a beanie, stow your boards and skis away, and embrace the local habits with the help of this guide. You can even après-ski at home. This is 2020, after all. 

Written by Jessie Beck, Sarah Buder, Lyndsey Matthews, and Laura Dannen Redman.

The Customs

Photo by Yolanta/Shutterstock
Photo by Shutterstock

From table-top dancing to onsen soaks, a (very) wide range of scenes once the ski boots come off.

The European Alps

Prime ski season: roughly November to April

Ski chalets and grand hotels, fondue and mulled wine, cobblestone streets and haute cuisine—Europe’s alpine ski towns have a white-gloved elegance. But from Austria to France, the après-ski scene also has a wild side that makes Hot Tub Time Machine look tame, with cabaret, underground clubs, and late-night Europop dance parties.

Unfortunately, COVID prevented ski resorts in France, Germany, and Italy from fully opening for the 2020 season—meanwhile, Austria has gone locals-only and Switzerland powers through. Until our pandemic-free future arrives, we can daydream of fresh powder and the return of some of the world’s finest après-ski:

The wildest scene: St. Anton, Austria. Expect sing-alongs and 3 a.m. dance parties fueled by oversized beers and Jägermeister shots—plus all the oompah music you could ask for in the Tyrolean Alps. Check out MooserWirt for the “epitome of oompah après.” 
Honorable mention: Ischgl, Austria; La Folie Douce in Val dIsère, France; Verbier, Switzerland

The best food: The Dolomites of the Italian Alps, where foodies come to ski—for an hour or two, after a cappuccino, aperitivo, and a two-hour lunch, possibly Michelin starred. Start in the South Tyrol village of San Cassiano for some of the best restaurants and hotels.

The see-and-be-seen scene: St. Moritz, Switzerland. Ferraris are parked out front of Badrutt’s Palace Hotel and elite athletes compete at the Kulm Hotel, credited as the birthplace of modern winter sports. 

Best all-around après-ski: Chamonix, France. A “mecca of mountaineering,” as one travel writer put it, the “near-mythical” Chamonix is for serious skiers with 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 during non-COVID times 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.

 

 

 

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 expat-heavy, 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, all prime NZ beef) before diving into “late-night shenanigans” at Yonder, a café-to-closing time spot that delivers live music and comedy. Bring the whole family to Minus 5º Ice Bar, where you’re fitted with your own Ugg-style boots, gloves, and coat to endure the indoor chill.

Rather ski straight to the bar? In a normal year, 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 a fire-pit scene at century-old Cardrona Hotel just five minutes away).

Japan

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 influences from both in and out of the country. For more Westernized vibes, 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; warming dinners of soba noodles at Rakuichi (advance reservations required); and Japanese whiskey 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 base bar and grills (chili and cornbread, soups, nachos, and hot chocolates 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 with a raucous night out (just Google “Pickle Barrel Nightclub”). For a more extravagant experience, take a snowcat ride to Motor Room Bar on top of Killington’s original ski lift terminal.

Big Sky, Montana attracts tech entrepreneurs and celebrities—not 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.

Park City, Utah has the famed 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.

You fancy, Aspen, Colorado, with your luxury resorts (Little Nell, the St. Regis, and Hotel Jerome, to name a few), fur-vest dress code, and Veuve Cliquot bars.

Breckenridge, Colorado has 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.

With a Bavarian influence, Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico serves up brats alongside green chili enchiladas.

And things are positively Heavenly in South Lake Tahoe, California, where skiers and boarders barely even 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.

(Note: Some businesses may be closed for the 2020-2021 season due to COVID restrictions).

Canada

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 Québec, there’s still a distinctly Canadian feel to the après-ski: laid-back, beer-fueled, and decidedly unfussy. 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 BBQ 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.

South America

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.

In Las Trancas, Chile, writes AFAR contributor Zoe Baillargeon, "after a day of off-piste skiing, snowshoeing, or dogsledding, 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 Olivia’s Restaurant for casual eats and great 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."

The Outfits

Photo by Natalia Nesterenko/Shutterstock

What to wear: après-ski attire around the world

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 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. 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 U.S. and Europe.

Who wore it best?

St. Moritz, Switzerland

“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.

This season, she’s especially excited for the new Bogner x St. Moritz capsule collection, inspired by the 1980s Alpine styles in the Swiss Engadine region. “I can already tell you after seeing so many people wearing it, it will be a hit,” Granetzny-Görtz says.

 

vs.

 

Aspen, Colorado

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, Frauenschuh, and Authier. 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 oversized 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. Perfect Moment makes a pink houndstooth version of this trendy style, while Dutch label Goldbergh designed one inspired by Mondrian’s abstract art.

For men, Aspen-based Aztech Mountain makes beautiful plaid shirts with incredibly soft brushed-cotton fabric and magnetic collars to keep out the chill that go from slopes to après to dinner.

For the full story, read Who Wears It Well? The Best in Après-Ski Outfits.

The Drinks

Photo by Leenvdb/Shutterstock
Photo by BLESKY/Shutterstock

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 Advocaat (or eggnog) and brandy and served hot with whipped cream

Jägermeister (Austria and Switzerland): A licorice liqueur made with 56 herbs and spices (you can 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.

Japan

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 Tap Room)

The United States

Bloody Mary: a cocktail containing vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, black paper, and—if you’re daring—hot sauce, bacon, 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.

Canada

The Caesar: Canada’s version of a Bloody Mary, made with vodka, Clamato (a blend of tomato and clam juice), Worcestershire sauce, and a spice mix

Canadian beer and cider: Kokanee, British Columbia’s best-selling lager, is a classic aprés-ski brew, and B.C.’s Lone Tree Cider Company is the hard cider go-to.

South America

Pisco sour: a Chilean cocktail made from pisco (a type of brandy) blended with fresh lime juice, sugar, and ice

Après-Ski at Home

Photo by Fernando Privitera/Shutterstock

What you need to recreate the scene...

While post-ski socializing at lively bars or restaurants isn’t really an option this season (thanks, COVID), it’s still possible to create your own aprés-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), $46, bookshop.org

St. Moritz Chic (Assouline, 2020), $95, assouline.com 

Aspen Style (Assouline, 2017), $95, assouline.com

Ski Trip Candle, $34, homesick.com 

Ski Bottle Opener, $45, uncommongoods.com 

Boska Raclette Quattro Concrete, $200, williams-sonoma.com

Everlane Waffle-Knit Onesie, $78, everlane.com

Danish Glerup Slippers, $135–$155, huckberry.com

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