Après-ski is a tradition as old as the sport itself, and no place does it quite like Canada. With welcoming locals who make you feel right at home and an exchange rate that makes it easy to buy them a round, Western Canada’s après scene is as much fun to explore as its untracked slopes.
Home-grown distilleries and craft breweries are at the heart of Canadian ski towns, gathering places for locals and visitors alike. And then there’s the amazing wine, which in Western Canada all begins in the gorgeous Okanagan Valley in southern British Columbia—home to some of the world’s best vintages. Wine has been produced here since the 1850s, and several distinct climates and soil types have allowed for the production of many varietals, from crisp chardonnays and fruity pinot noirs to robust Bordeaux styles and even Canada’s famous grapes-frozen-on-the-vine ice wine.
Because many of Canada’s wines, beers, and spirits aren’t exported, you won’t find these delicious labels in the U.S. So head north! From the west coast to the Canadian Rockies, here are our favorite après spots.
Here at Whistler, North America’s largest ski resort that’s just 90 minutes from Vancouver, you’ll find an atmosphere that’s rugged yet refined. After skiing on some of the planet’s most consistent powder, you can experience the legendary après-ski.
On the mountain, order wine by the flight from the panoramic and sunny patio at Christine’s on Blackcomb, which offers breathtaking views along with its extensive list of local wines. Also on the mountaintop, in the Roundhouse Lodge, Steeps Grill & Wine Bar also serves regional and local wines by the flight, glass, or bottle–and even hosts a “Winemaker Après Series” in the afternoons in the winter, where the chef pairs wines with each course on a special, locally-sourced menu.
Straight off the hill, people dance in their ski boots to live music at the Dubh Linn Gate, watch skiers coming down the slopes on the patio at the GLC, and enjoy the outdoor fireplaces at the Longhorn Saloon. For something more sophisticated, check out Bar Oso and Basalt (don’t miss the amazing charcuterie at either place!), the Mallard Lounge at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, or the new Raven Room. Then sample some vodka in the world’s coldest vodka tasting room, in an ice room at the Bearfoot Bistro. Later in the evening, you’ll find tons of clubs and opportunities to hear live music.
Sun Peaks Resort
In between Vancouver and Calgary, Sun Peaks offers a relaxed vibe and casual drinking options with terrific views. Start at the centrally located après-ski hangout Masa’s Bar + Grill, where you’ll find the largest selection of Canadian draft beer on tap in Sun Peaks—like Iron Road’s Loopline IPA or Granville Island’s Honey Lager. Bottoms Bar & Grill, with its cool glass-enclosed heated porch at the mountain’s base, is a hangout for watching skiers. Order the crisp, full-bodied Sleeman Honey Brown Lager, Okanagan Spring 1516 Lager, or slightly fruity Okanagan Spring Pale Ale—the most popular micro-beer in B.C.
Located above Washington State and right in the Okanagan Valley, Big White’s charming mountaintop village serves up great powder runs during the day and a lively après scene for when you’re done. Don’t miss the award-winning Snowshoe Sam’s—an atmospheric pub with DJs and live bands; right upstairs is the Gunbarrel Grill restaurant, which features delicious food and a big stone fireplace. Live entertainment is also on the menu at the Moose Lounge (or simply “The Moose”). And see what’s happening at Sessions Tap House, which hosts some of the mountain’s biggest parties and events.
With some of the best powder in the Rockies, uncrowded slopes, and a charming town, it’s no surprise that Fernie—three hours south of Calgary and just north of Montana—has attracted an outsize share of attention. Once you get done skiing, you’ll discover that it’s hyper-local in the drinks department; you can find everything from innovative liqueurs made here to local brews and ciders. Take a tour of one of Canada’s few female-run distilleries, Fernie Distillers, then relax in the lounge with a custom-made cocktail. Or check out the Brickhouse, located in the historic Imperial Bank of Canada building downtown, which has a funky vibe and a 100 percent B.C. menu of wines, beer, and Canadian ciders on tap.
Just 90 minutes west of Calgary, Banff is one of the planet’s most awe-inspiring mountain destinations, with SkiBig3’s unforgettable resorts—Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Mt. Norquay—that all boast mind-blowing views. Once you’re ready to imbibe, you have lots of options, like the Park Distillery, which offers daily tours and tasting experiences. Or hit the Juniper Hotel Bistro, which features herbs and aromatics grown by local farmers, as well as 100 percent Canadian wines and craft beers, all listed by Canadian city and region. The Banff Ave. Brewing Co. brewpub makes its beers with pure glacier water from the Canadian Rocky Mountains, so they’re super-pure and fresh. Or hit Banff’s oldest pub, Rose & Crown, with its hardwood floors, crackling fireplace, and pool table, for a wide selection of Canadian beers.
>> Next: The Essential Guide to Après Ski