On Après Ski, the Gibbons Life concierges do everything in their power to make sure their clients have an unforgettable time at the Canadian ski destination Whistler. The season has just started, and we've already seen them hire butlers in the buff, serve dinner on a gondola, and organize a vow renewal ceremony right next to the iconic Inukshuk statue for visitors hoping to have an amazing time at one of the most famous ski destinations in the world.
But how could all of that fit under one umbrella term, you ask? Après ski is literally French for "after ski," and it's a general phrase to describe the social activities that take place after a day spent hitting the slopes. "Après ski is as much a part of the skiing culture as skiing itself," Dan Sherman, the VP of marketing for Ski.com, the leading provider of ski trips in North America, told The Daily Dish. "Skiing is really a social activity, while also being an independent activity. So people, they share experiences on the chairlift up the mountain, but they're kind of off doing their own thing. They may go off and experience different parts of the mountain, but then everybody comes together at the end of the day and meets up for an après ski drink."
Just like snowflakes, no two après scenes are the same. Factors like time of year, region, and even individual preferences can influence what festivities take place. But here's some of what you should experience no matter where your post-slope party takes place.
1. The Place
From watching Après Ski, we know that there's lots to do in Whistler after a day spent out on the slopes. However, there are plenty of other ski destinations across North America and Europe where you'll find a hopping night on the town. Aspen, Breckenridge, and Vail in Colorado have noteworthy après scenes, as well as Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Park City, Utah, according to Sherman. St. Anton in Austria "is known as the ultimate après ski resort," Krystelle Kubicki, the editor of London-based travel website Iglu Ski, told The Daily Dish. Chamonix, France is also a favorite of Kelley McMillan, a freelance writer who has covered skiing extensively for publications such as The New York Times, SKI, and Skiing and has had other work appear in Vogue, Marie Claire, and Outside. There's something special about the après ski scene at each of these destinations, so you should definitely go out and find the winter wonderland that's right for you.
2. The Timing
There's no official timeframe in which après ski takes place. However, Sherman said it usually starts in the late afternoon once skiing is over for the day and lasts until the late evening up until dinner. Though it may seem odd for people to get turnt before the sun goes down, there's a good reason for the après schedule. "Ski towns don't usually have a lot of late-night action as most skiers/snowboarders want to be on the slopes early in the morning," Lanee Lee, a freelance lifestyle writer and co-founder of the travel blog VoyageVixens.com, told The Daily Dish. "That's why apres ski is special—it is the only opportunity to party!"
3. The Lodging
Après ski lodging isn't just about where you get to rest up before you head out for another ski-filled day. Hotels, chalets, and other types of lodging in ski resorts and ski towns is where much of the party happens. "The atmosphere in any of these lodges, there's just like a lot of camaraderie. There's something about skiing that brings people together. You have this one thing in common, you know? So it's really easy to meet people. Everybody's in a good mood," McMillan told The Daily Dish. "I feel like skiing's everybody's common denominator, no matter if you're like a ski bum who lives in a trailer or like [a] Bill Koch billionaire."
In particular, McMillan likes the "great atmosphere" the live bands at the Limelight in Aspen create during après ski. Sherman also notes that the Sky Hotel in Aspen is famous for its après ski scene, partly due to its 39 Degrees Lounge, which often has "raging parties" going on around its outdoor pool. With its Spur restaurant and bar serving elevated "mountain cuisine" and spirits, Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa in Jackson Hole is another fun and convenient place to unwind. "That's a great après spot," Sherman told The Daily Dish. "If you want to stay where you're doing après, then that's a really good option."
4. The Food
Nothing hits the spot like some grub after an action-packed day. Since après ski usually takes place before dinner, its cuisine is often of the appetizer and finger food variety, according to Sherman. "For me and my definition, après ski, it's traditionally nachos and wings," Sherman said. If you're doing après ski in Canada, you may also find yourself nibbling on some poutine, french fries covered with cheese curds and gravy. But if you do consider dinner a part of après ski and find yourself in Europe, you might be chowing down on traditional alpine dishes like fondue, a French cheesy potato bake called tartiflette, and a Swiss melted cheese dish called raclette, according to Kubicki. With all of the meat, starch, and cheese featured in après ski delicacies, you're sure to have a delish time.
5. The Drink
If there's one thing that après ski is definitely about, it's warming up with a good drink after a long day in the snow. For Sherman, it's all about beer and maybe a hot toddy, too. For McMillan, essential après ski drinks include Pabst Blue Ribbon, hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps, and apple cider with Tuaca liquer. European après skiers also imbibe in mulled wine (also known as vin chaud or gluhwein, depending on where you are), according to Kubicki. You may also see plenty of shots passed around, from Génépi, toffee vodka shots, and Jägerbombs in France to Jägermeister, Flügel, and schnapps in Austria. In some après ski scenes, you'll also find people swigging those shots with a shotski, which has also been a beloved Watch What Happens Live tradition, thanks to Jimmy Fallon.
6. The Bars
So where does all of this drinking happen? Well, you'll find a bar to suit just about every taste in the après ski scene. However, the Mangy Moose in Jackson Hole is probably what you envision when you think of an après ski bar. "This is a place where you go in, and there's ski memorabilia all over the walls. There's two floors. There's a moose hanging from the ceiling with a sleigh behind it. There's a stage with live music almost every day after the lifts stop running," Sherman said. "It's just like a really good place to go and connect with people and hang out." The Krazy Kanguruh in St. Anton and Chambre Neuf in Chamonix also have really great après scenes, according to McMillan. With Colorado's Beaver Creek serving as a stop on the men's alpine skiing world cup circuit during the first week of December, you might also get a chance to hang out with some of the best winter sports athletes from around the globe at Coyote Cafe. "It's a really fun scene," McMillan told The Daily Dish. "You could possibly rub shoulders with Bode Miller."
7. The Partying
Just because après ski traditionally happens while the sun is still shining doesn't mean it doesn't get wild. "It’s so unique as you are drinking and dancing in the afternoon (normally around 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.), in the clothes you’ve been wearing all day, often dancing outside in the snow or sunshine," Kubicki told The Daily Dish. "You can’t experience anything like this anywhere." It's not uncommon to see people dancing on tables in their ski boots or even swinging from chandeliers, McMillan added. Of course, there's always a chance that sometimes people party a little too hard. "Sometimes, though, when you go with the best intentions with après to have that kind of after-lunch, before-dinner activity, it does sometimes spiral out of control, and there you are at one in the morning wearing your ski boots at the bar still," Sherman said. Time flies when you're having fun, after all.
8. The Fashion
If you're going to après ski, you've got to look the part, and that usually means wearing whatever you sported on the slopes all day. "It’s very rare that people go home and change first," Kubicki told The Daily Dish. For Sherman, wearing ski pants is a must in the après scene. "Honestly, if you're not dressed for skiing, then maybe you didn't ski, and then it's not après ski," Sherman said. "There's a fine line between après ski and happy hour." In addition to ski pants, expect to see people wearing ski jackets, sweaters, ski boots, and goggles off the slopes. But overall, there really isn't a dress code for après ski, according to Sherman. "It's an interesting scene because — and really goes for a ski town in general — you're never going to be the most dressed up or the most dressed down person in the room," Sherman said. "In the après, you're going to see everything from duct tape to diamonds."
9. The Relaxing
If you're the type of person that's looking for more of a low-key après experience, you'll find hot tubs and hot springs at many ski destinations to soothe your muscles after a high-octane day on the slopes. "The hot tub is a big piece of après ski culture, so if you're not at the bar, you're in a hot tub with a six pack," McMillan told The Daily Dish. If you'd like to take a dip in a more natural setting, in North America, you'll also often find hot springs pools at or near your ski spot, such as at the clothing-optional Orvis Hot Springs near Telluride, Colorado, Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and the Lost Trail Hot Springs Resort in Sula, Montana. A bit of R&R will definitely prep you for all the après activities to come.
10. The Lingo
Every culture has its own vernacular, and après ski is no exception. Raise your glass and say "prost!" instead of "cheers!" to do as the Austrians do. Sherman points out that Beaver Creek Resort has even made that a new tradition for the Winter 2015-2016 season where guests are invited to partake in a complimentary glass of Champagne and exclaim, "Prost!" If you want to brag about your great day of skiing, you could say, "The stoke is high," according to McMillan. Overall, après ski is about gemütlichkeit, a German word from Austrian après ski culture to describe a place that has hospitality, friendliness, and all-around good cheer. With that kind of vibe, who wouldn't want to après ski 24/7?