Inside the World’s Après Ski Party Culture
It doesn’t matter whether you spent the whole day traversing the bunny hill or toughing it out on the black diamond trail. Beginners and experts alike share the same favorite skiing lingo - one that usually happens after the “last run” of the day (although the superstitious in you wouldn’t want to call it that). That’s right, it’s the après ski - a post-shred toast that everyone is looking forward to.
Avid skiers around the world enjoy their after-ski activities a little bit differently. From the elegant champagne toasts in the Swiss alps to the hot springs of Japan, let’s take a look at the après ski party culture around the world.
What is Après Ski?
It was the French who coined the term après ski. This word literally translates to “after ski” or “after skiing”, and it was made popular in the Alps when commercial skiing has seen popularity in the 1950s. It’s a social activity where skiers would unwind over a craft beer or two after a long, tiring day at the slopes.
But it’s more than just a period of relaxation. Depending on the après ski custom or culture, activities can range from an upbeat party at a nightclub to expensive, sophisticated dinners at fancy restaurants.
Although there are really no rules on when should an après ski party should start, it typically takes place in the late afternoon until dinner. In some countries like Austria, it could even go as late as 6 a.m the next day.
Après Ski in Europe
To some people, Austria is known for its festive Christmas towns and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the most prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. But for powder seekers, Austria is definitely one of the top destinations to be. And it’s easy to see why.
As the birthplace of modern skiing, there is never a shortage of breathtaking ski resorts in this German-speaking country - especially if catchy Europop beats and a dance-loving crowd are more of your thing.
Those who are looking for a rather wild après ski party scene would often flock to St. Anton. Hundreds of skiers and snowboarders can all agree that one doesn’t leave the slopes of St. Anton without ever setting foot at Mooserwirt.
It’s arguably the most popular après ski bar in the area - known for its table-top dancing that can start as early as 3 pm until the early hours of the morning. Expect to see waiters carrying enormous trays filled with huge quantities of beer and shots of ‘Flying Hirsch’ or known internationally as the “Jägerbomb”.
For the uninitiated, a Jägerbomb is an alcoholic drink where you drop a shot glass of energy drink into a larger glass of Jägermeister, a herbal liquor. It’s usually swallowed in one go, much like how you would drink a shot of tequila.
As a country that occupies a peninsula that juts into the Mediterranean coastline, Italy is famed around the world for its quaint, charming towns and scenic landscapes.
But head on over to the Dolomites of the Italian Alps and you’ll be treated to a skiing experience like no other - especially if you consider yourself a huge foodie. Who could ever forget mentioning Italy's cuisine - one of their most important contributions to the world along with supercars and luxury consumer goods?
The après ski in Italy starts early with most people skiing until lunchtime. Skiers would often dine al-fresco, taking two-hour lunches to enjoy a spread of pizza, pasta, local cheeses, and dried meats.
As an after-ski drink, skiers usually enjoy a cup of cappuccino, a selection of local wine, and Bombardino - an alcoholic drink that’s made by combining eggnog and brandy with cream. It’s a go-to drink for a lot of skiers, as this hot concoction proved to be soothing and comforting on a chilly winter day.
Switzerland, as a ski destination, is often synonymous with refined elegance. As you sit down on outdoor terraces while feasting on cured meats and cheese fondues, you’ll find that the luxurious, more relaxed vibe of the Swiss après ski scene is a stark contrast to the rowdy, energetic atmosphere of its neighboring countries.
In St. Moritz, for example, après ski would mean a time where you can have an intimate chat among friends and family over a bottle of champagne instead of a big party.
True to their tradition of offering high-end hotels that boast world-class service, it comes as no surprise that Switzerland is a top destination in mind for those who don’t mind spending an extravagant amount of money to get the best skiing and après ski experience possible. It is, as some people would call it, the place to see-and-be-seen.
Those who are looking to take their après ski to the next level would also enjoy the “après ski train”. The Glacier Express, two rebuilt rail cars that run between Andermatt and Disentis, offers locals and tourists alike to witness the idyllic scenery of the Swiss countryside through its wide, panoramic windows.
The stunning panoramic view of the Swiss countryside inside the Glacier Express.
In France, there is not really a specific time where the après ski festivities would begin. While skiers would often be ready to unwind at 4 p.m., many might be tempted to start a little earlier if the weather is colder than usual.
The après ski culture in France is teeming with options for people with varied preferences in activities. It can go from vin chaud (mulled wine) tasting on a sun terrace, enjoying a cozy night at a bar over cocktails and champagne, partying with live music at nightclubs, ice skating, spa sessions, and even spending quiet nights playing board games in your chalet.
Après Ski in South America
Chile might be a country that lies in the South American continent, but the European influence is prevalent all throughout the country - from the metropolitan architecture reminiscent of the streets of Madrid to the rustic cobblestone pavements of the capital city of Santiago.
And this influence can also be seen in the country’s après ski culture. Like most Europeans, the Chileans are no stranger to drinking a good glass of wine after a day of testing their metals on the slopes. Two of the most popular iconic and ski resorts in Chile are Valle Nevado and Portillo, each offering their own unique spin on a true South American skiing experience.
While there are plenty of nightclubs for those who are looking to dance the night away to Latin house music, the après ski in Chile tends to fall on the more laid-back side of the spectrum. Outdoor hot tubs are very popular hangout choices regardless of the ski resort you’re at.
Skiers would often head to the nearest outdoor hot tub while grabbing a Pisco sour, which is, as the name suggests, a sour alcoholic drink of Peruvian origin.
Together with its neighboring countries Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela, Argentina shares its borders with the Andes - the continent’s highest mountain peak range. The mountains’ snow-covered terrains attract an influx of winter sports enthusiasts from all over the world, beginners and experts alike.
And just like Chile, Argentina is one of the top spots for powder seekers who are looking for underrated ski destinations. The Las Leñas in Mendoza and Cerro Catedral in Bariloche are two of the most popular ski resorts in the country, with the latter being a far better choice due to its well-developed lifts, inexpensive food, and reasonable accommodations.
The après ski in Argentina, especially in Cerro Catedral, takes after the country’s customary late-night starts and later endings. Clubs would usually open their doors at 1 a.m. and parties could last until way beyond 6 a.m. But those who are looking for more relaxed activities post-ski shouldn’t be disappointed, as casinos, chocolate shops, underground cafes, and restaurants are also abundant.
Après Ski in North America
As the melting pot of different cultures and customs by state, the U.S. après ski scene varies. But if there’s one thing in common across all American states, then it has to be taking a swig of beer at rock-bottom prices.
On mountaintop lodges or grills, cornbread, nachos, soups, chili, and hot chocolates all make up the post-ski staples for ravenous skiers looking to fuel up after a long day.
If your taste in your après ski experience would fall more on the fancy, upscale side, the Aspens are not short of their luxury resorts offerings such as the Little Nell, St. Regis, and Hotel Jerome.
These are also the places if you want to shed your usual ski attire in favor of fur-vest and designer winter boots. And there’s even a ski shack called the ‘Cloud Nine’, which sells a $125 of Veuve Clicquot champagne. All that luxurious experience at 10,900 feet above sea level.
In Taos, New Mexico, the Bavarian Lodge in Santo de Cristo Mountains lets you enjoy Germany without leaving the U.S. The sunny outdoor deck and the cozy, European-style dining rooms make the experience more authentic as you sip on huge glasses of lager and German food.
North Carolina is also home to six ski areas, where the après ski activities involve tubing, ice skating, ziplining, drinking local craft beers on top of the mountain, or just simply gathering around a fireplace in the on-site lodgings.
The Beech Mountain Resort is perhaps the most premium facility if you want the best snow skiing experience in North Carolina. It’s the highest ski area in the eastern United States, receiving an average of 84 inches of annual snowfall in the winter.
The town of Beech Mountain, North Carolina is home to the Beech Mountain Resort - one of the most popular winter sports destinations in the state.
Canadians, like the U.S., have a wonderfully varied approach when it comes to their après ski. The laid-back vibe involves sipping on a cup of apple cider or a refreshing craft beer while munching on a plate of poutine, Canada’s answer to French fries.
Ski resorts in Canada have plenty of lively bars if you want to listen to live DJ music. Families may also try fun afternoon activities such as husky sledding, ice skating, and exploring different restaurants.
Après Ski in Asia
The après ski culture in Japan is not as popular as it is in the West and in Europe. However, the trend is currently changing as most Japanese ski resorts are slowly redefining their entertainment and nightlife options. The Japanese après ski culture is unique as it showcases their rich traditions, both new and old.
Foreign skiers would visit the Niseko area in Hokkaido because of its live music, gastropubs, and high-end restaurants that feature international cuisine to cater to a wider audience.
Meanwhile, the Mizuho area is the perfect spot if you want to immerse yourself in Japanese culture. Dine in traditional restaurants and bathe in onsens (natural hot springs).
A traditional Japanese onsen bathtub in Iruma-gun, Japan.
Kazakhstan, to many, might not be a place that would immediately spring to mind when you’re talking about skiing and winter sports. But after Prince Harry visited the country to hit the slopes of Shymbulak ski resort, Kazakhstan is slowly gaining recognition as Central Asia’s skiing paradise. In the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains, you’ll also have the opportunity to go backcountry skiing in its picturesque gorges.
The après ski in Kazakhstan entails relaxation at bathhouses and swimming pools, a night of live music at cozy, atmospheric bars, and a chance to discover its local culture.
In Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest metropolis area and where the famed Shymbulak ski resort is also located, you’ll find the city’s oldest food market called the ‘Green Bazaar’. Here, you’ll be treated to an impressive selection of local food that shows a strong influence of diverse cultures reinvented to suit the local palate.
Après Ski in Oceania
From late June to mid-October, ski resorts in both the southern and northern hemispheres of New Zealand come alive with people from all facets of life seeking fresh powder from this other side of the world.
In the Southern part of New Zealand, people enjoy a night ski from 4 - 9 p.m. in Coronet Peak in Queenstown. It’s an activity that’s a must for visitors as they can take in the amazing sunset over the Wakatipu basin while hitting the slopes. After an intense day outdoors, skiers can head straight to the bars to grab a bottle of ale or two while listening to a live DJ over cozy fires.
For many around the world, skiing is an activity that signals the start of the winter season. It’s that time of the year where those who are serious about the sport explore off-piste routes that would test their skills.
For beginners, it’s the time to bask in the sight of snow-blanketed mountains and spend an amazing time with family or friends.
And nothing beats capping off an intense outdoor activity with good food, good drink, good music, and an even better atmosphere to help us kick back and relax.
Unfortunately, due to the onslaught of COVID-19 around the world, ski resorts have to close down as more and more countries impose restrictions. Until the restrictions will be fully eased, we can all dream about a fun-filled day spent in fresh powder, a bottle of our favorite après ski drinks, and the company that we have.
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