A good day of skiing is best appreciated over a few toots and a bit to eat once the slopes have closed. This month, we’re counting down the Top 10 Après Ski Resorts, where the nightlife and post-skiing activities are almost the main attraction. Where do you think the best après resort is? Join the conversation on Facebook and let us know your thoughts.
10. Aspen, Colorado
Aspen is like the Miami South Beach of ski towns, hosting a regular cast of actors, television personalities, sports stars and supermodels. Celebrities aside, the town fills up with throngs of backpackers and resort workers who migrate by the bus-full every season. The entire town is like a revamped piece of art, balancing its original silver-mine heritage with ritzy hotels, glamorous shops and eateries, all set against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. It’s posh, cozy and naturally beautiful in equal measure.
While Aspen’s reputation was initially forged on the amazing ski elements, the Colorado resort town has become equally renowned for its après scene. Whether you’re a soap star or a gondola operator, everyone hits the town once the slopes have closed. Aspen Snowmass offers a showcase of the best bars, restaurants and clubs in town, compiled by the people who know Aspen best.
9. Soll, Austria
Once known as a raucous student's party location, the après scene at Soll has matured over the years. This might have something to do with the lower altitude of the village, which, in the past, meant that bad seasonal snowfall made for more partying and less skiing. These days the snow canons have sorted that out, and provided some more daytime action to drain everybody's energy. The après scene is still top notch though, and provides a friendly, fun atmosphere that compliments the scenery. There's a fine selection of restaurants and bars, where good food and live music are the order of the night and the drinks are well-priced by all standards. Serious party-goers can still get their fill at any of the clubs, which stay open till late. Like all the big Austrian ski resorts, it's a beautiful place with lots of historic architecture and quaint stores. The town offers accommodation that caters for everyone - from budget to luxury - but all in all, Soll is very well-priced for such a beautiful ski town in Austria.
8. Zermatt, Switzerland
Zermatt is home to one of the most famously mystifying landmarks in Alpine history: the Matterhorn. It's a mountain so startling, Walt Disney designed a theme ride about it. The real one, in Switzerland, is home to some of the best skiing and nightlife available at any resort. This luxurious resort town may be very popular and sometimes crowded, but it's worth it for the scenery, the skiing and the après vibes. Overlooking the slopes and mountain range, you will find a huge selection of bars and restaurants with magical views. The après activities are known to continue all night and get very merry, and many a skier has written off a day on the slopes after getting carried away. One of the most popular haunts is the Hennu Stall which takes its slogan, 'Come Rock With Us' pretty seriously.
7. Sauze d'Oulx, Italy
This charming Italian ski villa is renowned for two things: its position at the foot of Mount Genevris and lively après ski activities. After a day on the gorgeous slopes, public transport will have you and your group at one of the buzzing bars or restaurants, partying up a storm with the large international crowd who visit each year.
For more information about the resort, as well as details about ski lessons and up-to-date piste news, visit www.sauzeonline.com.
6. Heavenly, South Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe might not be as internationally known as Aspen, but this Nevada gem is catching up quickly. The aptly named resort, 'Heavenly', is situated on the South Lake, where views of the surroundings and the crystalline lake will make the gondola ride (or the walk, if you're feeling up to it) one you won't forget. Since Heavenly was purchased by Vail Resorts, the area has been given a facelift which puts it in a new weight-class. The upgrades include, “A bevy of new restaurants, hip bars and lodges are now vying to make Heavenly as much a draw for jet-setting Europeans and New Yorkers as it has long been for people from Sacramento.” The Tamarack Lodge, Heavenly's main après hub that sits at the top of the gondola track, hosts a nightly Unbuckle Après Party that involves half-price drinks and food, DJs and dancers.
For more information about Heavenly, follow the link to www.nightlife.skiheavenly.com/website.
5. Soldeu, Andorra
Soldeu is ever popular with international visitors for a number of good reasons: the resorts are affordable (Andorra is a tax free zone) and there is an après scene that almost pips the skiing itself. The gorgeous Pyrenees Mountains lie snug between Spain and France, making it an ideal location for travellers from across Europe. With such a hearty crowd on hand, it's tough to stay away from the bars and clubs (both stay open 'til LATE). You will find everything from traditional pubs, to full on clubs that host top international DJs and crazy theme parties.
4. St. Anton, Austria
St. Anton brings the bleary-eyed merriness of a wild Oktoberfest to an internationally renowned ski resort. If this list was about the best slopes or the biggest party resort, it would be at number one. It's only because of St. Anton's mild reputation for getting a little bit too festive that we're keeping it out of the top three. Located at the base of the Arlberg Pass, the resort gets a consistent flow of snow throughout the season – one of the main reasons it is such a commercial success. There's not a lot to do, other than ski and party, and it won't take you long to figure out where the latter happens. The village has one main road, which is lined with pubs and restaurants that cater for the après market. It's a small place and all the hotels and apartments are close by, so it's not uncommon to hear people singing their way home after a good night at the pub.
3. Val D Isere, France
You’d be forgiven for needing a few strong drinks after a day of skiing at Val D Isere, one of the most challenging and beautiful resorts on the French Alps. The town is a quaint little safe-haven at the base of the Espace Killy, where people have been living since before Roman times – which is pretty mind blowing, when you consider how cold and isolated the resort is. Besides being a really beautiful and interesting place to visit, the resort is also home to one of the finest après scenes in Europe. Upgrades made during the 1998 Winter Olympics have improved the roads and public access ten fold.
Dick’s Tea Bar, the most notorious club in the area, hosts some of the most well-known DJs each season, and this year is set to be a big one. We chatted to the people responsible for making the magic happen every year and this is what they had to say: “As Dick’s Tea Bar enters its 34th year in business, ski bunnies and novices alike have regarded it as their solace following a hard days ski. From 4pm onwards the complimentary shuttle service from the bottom of the slopes brings weary skiers to the bar, where, surrounded by chic chalet décor, guests can sink into comfy Dick’s slippers, sip on a vast list of drinks surrounded by a vibrant après ski atmosphere often with acoustic sets."
2. Chamonix Mont Blac, France
If there's one resort where you really want to get your pronunciation of the word après correct, it's Chamonix. It's the home of the first Winter Olympics (back in 1924) and has been the experienced skier's destination of choice for decades. The mountain is intimidating, beautiful and fast – a bit like the French language. Skiing in Chamonix is a well-established institution and the resort has grown with its own popularity, in order to keep up with the masses who visit every year. Off the slopes, there's a fun, eclectic mix of bars, cafes and clubs that will suit all tastes – families, live music lovers, clubbers and awkwardly cool hipsters.
For those of you who aren't sure, après is supposed to sound like ”ah-pray”, being said with a sweetie in your mouth.
1. Verbier, Switzerland
It’s Swiss resorts like Verbier that put European ski destinations in a class of their own. Besides offering a choice of runs that rival the most beautiful and exciting in the world, the town’s facilities are geared to hosting crowds of people who are there to have a good time. When the bindings come off at the end of each day, Verbier transforms into ‘Ibiza with snow’. The pubs, clubs and bars all fill up with skiers and boarders, who are ready to exchange tall stories over a few well-earned pints and cocktails. Up near the gondola you will find a row of pubs that offer spectacular views of the Alps, as well as transport into the town below, where the festivities carry on until the small hours. Arguably the best watering hole in town is Le Rouge, a relatively new Verbier institution that was established in 2008 and has rapidly earned a legendary reputation. Reachable by sledge, ski, foot, bus or car, Le Rouge Restaurant & Club is nestled at the foot of the run of the same name, with direct ski-in, ski-out links to the main ski domain. A mere 7 minute walk into town and a locality directly in between the two main lift stations (Medran and Savoleyres), Le Rouge Restaurant & Club is conveniently located to allow for 360 degree panoramic views of some of the most stunning sights of the area: from Col des Mines directly behind the restaurant, to the Grand Combin front left, the glacier du Trient front right and finally Pierre Avoi to complete the circle.
“I didn’t for one second think that the après-ski at Le Rouge would become quite so popular…although if I am really honest with myself, I secretly hoped that it would. It is not uncommon for the 400 square metres of sun-soaked decked terrace complete with wooden giraffes and sheepskin throws to be a swarming sea of brightly coloured ski get-ups with people soaking up the last rays of winter sun", says Le Rouge's founder and owner.
Clayton is a comfortable traveller, having grown up in a small city that was far away from everything. He spent lots of time in the car as a child, driving up and down the coast of South Africa on surfing trips with his family. After studying abroad in the United States and spending a year working in London, he moved to Cape Town, where he completed a Master's Degree in Creative Writing. He now works as a freelance writer for various travel, surfing and action sports publications.