A great ski vacation is not just about the slopes and the powder, it is also about the festivities and fun surrounding aprés once you put your skis away for the day The practices and customs around aprés-ski vary from place to place in ways both minuscule and profound, but they’re an essential part of experiencing ski culture wherever you go. Wherever your ski travels take you this season, you want to know where to go, what to drink and brush up on a little of the local culture and etiquette. Being able to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the native language shows respect to the country and culture you are in, and will make the aprés-Champagne flow a bit faster. Here is a selection of some of the most salient aprés-ski destinations around the world.
Head to Aspen’s Cloud Nine for a rowdy Veuve-fueled afternoon party.
Drink of choice: Sip of Sunshine IPA on the East Coast; Coors in the Rockies
The variety of regional ski cultures and aprés-ski cultures in the U.S. reflects its extreme diversity. On one end, you have Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro. Located mid-mountain at Aspen, it’s become a notorious high-elevation party destination. Although a spokesperson for the resort recently tried to state that Cloud Nine is a mere lunch spot before skiers continue on their merry way, the Champagne-soaked, dance-filled videos on Instagram say otherwise.
Drink of choice: A tall, frosty Molson Canadian pale lager
Aprés-ski north of the 49th parallel has a distinct flavor unto itself. It’s a little grittier, a little more beer-centric—and don’t forget about the poutine. There are, of course, more elevated spots like Velvet Restaurant and Lounge inside the Josie Hotel at Red Mountain Resort in Rossland, B.C. (Velvet’s chef Marc-André Choquette is an Iron Chef alum and has worked at some of Canada’s top restaurants), and Whistler’s iconic Garibaldi Lift Co. is a unique synthesis of lounge, restaurant, and nightclub.
But perhaps no aprés spot is more emblematic of Canada’s come-as-you-are vibe than Griz Bar. Operating since 1962 at Fernie Mountain Resort, it has had numerous expansions and additions over the years, but its A-frame core remains pretty much intact. “The walls are covered with photographs of people skiing Fernie,” says Robin Siggers, operations manager at the resort. “A couple weeks ago we had a memorial in there for a good friend who passed and was a hardcore skier… and in 1983 I got married in there. There’s memorabilia, nostalgia, and if you go in on any given day, especially a Saturday afternoon after a powder day, there’s people coming in with their ski boots and powder beards. If you aprés at Griz, you really feel connected to the history and culture of the resort.”
Watch snow polo on the iced-over lake from the Carlton’s terrace
Courtesy Tschuggen Hotel Group / Photo by Gian Andri Giovanoli
Drink of choice: An extravagant glass of Champagne
Long considered Europe’s most elegant (and expensive) ski destination, Switzerland takes pride in its luxurious, refined approach to aprés-ski. As a country with a tradition of excellent, high-end hotels, it should come as no surprise that’s where a lot of the aprés action goes down. In St. Moritz, for example, the Carlton Hotel’s outdoor Sun Terrace offers prime views over the lake, where you can order a bottle of champagne and watch snow polo played on the ice—you may just have to contend with a few fur coat–clad ladies in order to snag a table. “Aprés-ski here is all about seeing people and being seen by people,” says a Swiss insider from the Carlton. “It’s more of a nice chat among friends and way to relax rather than a big party—there’s no dancing on tables, for example.”
Drink of choice: Stiegl, Austria’s favorite beer since 1492
If it’s a rowdy aprés-ski you’re after—particularly of the table-dancing variety—then consider Austria’s Tyrolean Alps. As the birthplace of modern skiing, a passion for ski culture runs deep here, and the aprés-ski scene rivals the nightlife of any city. The winter circuit is typically bookended by two music festivals: RaveOnSnow in Saalbach in December and Snowbombing in Mayrhofen in April, but every weekend at MooserWirt in St. Anton brings the party, too. Skiers typically ski hard until a late lunch at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, after which said lunch turns into a day-drinking affair. The terrain here is notoriously steep and challenging, and having an elevation hangover isn’t going to make it any easier, so proceed with caution. Prost!
Hot tubs are the main aprés attraction in Portillo, Chile.
Courtesy Ski Portillo
Drink of choice: Pisco sour
As a South American destination, Chile offers a unique blend of European influence and New World attitude. Things tend to err on the more refined side, while maintaining a relaxed vibe—for some reason, grabbing a Pisco sour and heading straight to the nearest outdoor hot tub is the most popular thing to do. After skiing the active volcano at Nevados de Chillan, guests congregate at the resort’s natural hot springs. At Portillo, there is a Instagram-worthy hot tub overlooking the iconic Laguna del Inca. And at Valle Nevado, the hot tub is so large, it features an overhead volleyball net that can turn quite competitive, especially after a few drinks.
Drink of choice: A shot or three of chacha
Don’t overlook the Caucasus, where the terrain is steep, the powder deep, and there is immense value relative to other European ski destinations. And thanks to Room Hotels, the mountain towns of Kazbegi and Kokhta now have design-centric destination hotels of their own, each offering sweeping mountain views, spas to treat those tired legs, and farm-to-table restaurants.
As for the aprés-ski scene, indulge in a couple shots of chacha, a type of brandy made from the grape mash leftover from winemaking, and then soak it all up with khachapuri, a hot, gooey mass of eggs and cheese on bread that’s part fondue, part deep dish pizza. Be prepared for aprés-ski to go late. “Such gatherings carry on well into the midnight and are filled with hearty conversations and experience sharing,” says Levan Berulava, managing director of the Adjara Group, which owns Rooms Hotels. “The wild Georgian nature and the grand Caucasus mountains are what make the local skiing experience truly unique.”
Take to an onsen for a relaxing post-ski experience.
Courtesy The Green Leaf Niseko Village
Drink of choice: Sapporo Classic, or a Suntory whisky hot toddy
Hokkaido is the choose-your-own-adventure of aprés-ski with three distinct options in increasing levels of energy. On the relaxing end of the spectrum is the onsen, a traditional Japanese hot spring where the volume never really gets above a respectful whisper (many hotel’s offer their own onsen, or can direct you to the closest one). The middle-of-the-road option is to chow down at an izakaya, where you can indulge in craft cocktails, fine Japanese whiskies, and some of the most satisfying ramen you’ll find anywhere—around mid-afternoon is when the crowds start to get lively. Finally, if you’re looking for a high-octane night out, there are also a number of Western-style bars in the major resort towns, like Wild Bill’s in Hirafu. While a sports bar serving up fish tacos and chicken wings may not be the most traditionally Japanese thing, it does attract a rowdy crowd of travelers from all over the world (mostly Australians). After all, isn’t a good aprés-ski about who you meet along the way?