By Heather Burke of Family Ski Trips & The Luxury Vacation Guide, Photos by Greg Burke
As a ski journalist, I have the cool (literally) job of travelling to so many snowy ski resorts to review their offerings from first chair to last, corduroy grooming to snow-filled glades, from steeps to eats, and lodging by the lifts. One of my favorite “jobs” is discovering authentic après ski bars. Every ski resort worth its margarita-salt has a slopeside bar, but some are more convivial than others.
Here my top 10 après-ski spots around the globe for a quenching cold beer or a craft cocktail by the ski slopes. Key factors include location - ideally ski-in with mountain views, music, alpine atmosphere, signature drinks and tasty snacks. Bonus rounds for fun locals, friendly bartenders and waitstaff, and shotskis.
Stateside best après ski!
Sunday River’s Foggy Goggle is like “Cheers” in Maine ski country. With its choice setting upstairs at the South Ridge base lodge, The Goggle has a commanding view of the slopes and the chondola, entertaining as the sunsets and night skiing lights turns on weekend nights. The big rectangular bar has plenty of stools, though I prefer the window booths. TVs, live bands, and a hearty menu are your après ski amusement, plus watching skiers out on the River’s slopes. A shuttle back to the Grand Summit Hotel is available just in case you get foggy at the Goggle.
The Shovel Handle at Black Mountain in New Hampshire is in an old barn, 1842, as rustic and authentic as they come for ski bars, by the Whitney Inn. The 1935 rope tow at Black Mountain next door had Sears & Roebuck shovel handles, hence the name. The Shovel Handle has great live music après ski, and the best old-school vibe. Sit by the fire under Whit, the moose mascot. If only these old barn board walls could talk, telling tall tales of thong bindings and tight stretch pants. Black Mountain is the oldest continually operating skiing in New Hampshire, cheers to that.
Scissorbill’s Saloon at Big Sky Montana is where the locals go after Lone Peak tram laps. This “nothing fancy” bar is ski-in, at the base of Tippy’s Tumbe (lol) third floor of Arrowhead, with a view from the window tables, and a big bar. Stumpy Sunday is a fun day here, with musician Brian, who has a fan following, and holds the not-so-esteemed title of Dirt Bag King - a Big Sky locals’ thing. Get a drink, get the word on how “The Big” (couloir) is skiing, sit back and relax like a Montanan. The Carabiner next door in Big Sky’s Summit Hotel is classier, with cowhide barstools, pricier drinks, but a worth-it view of Lone Peak. Carabiner’s expansive patio with fire pits is perfect on sun days. Lone Mountain Ranch down the mountain road has a fantastic Copper Saloon in the 1915 Dude Ranch Lodge for drinks before dinner at Horn and Cantle. Order the Flannel Shirt or The Saw Mill – the bartender’s own pine-infused vodka cocktail at the real copper bar.
Trap Bar at Grand Targhee in Wyoming is as real as you’ll find for a western ski in bar! When there’s only one bar in the ski village, that’s makes for an après ski epicenter. The Trap rocks with locals and vacationers, beers, bands, and ski boots on the dance floor. Order a pitcher and Wydaho Nachos - since you’re on the border of Idaho and Wyoming. Trap Bar is humble, happy and happening with ski slope views from the base lodge upper floor.
Vail’s Red Lion is a classic, where skiers gather on beautiful Bridge Street for pitchers of beer and a picture view of skiers walking off the slopes. Red Lion rocks with live music most afternoons under the iconic red and white awning. Funny that this was Vail’s first hospital in the 60’s – now skiers self-medicate.
The fancier Four Seasons Vail has an amazing deck and elegant bar inside, often with live band, where pricier drinks pair well with the furry clientele.
Cloud 9 at Aspen Highlands is après ski heaven, with amazing views of Aspen’s Maroon Bells from a charming mid-mountain lodge. Don’t be fooled by the sophisticated alpine façade, this place gets wet & wild with table dancing and bubbly spraying on big ski days. The caveat at Cloud 9, you are still at 10,000’ and need to ski down after downing drinks. Veuve Cliquot is the preferred taste of the well-funded ski partiers at Aspen.
Best Après in the Alps
Moosewirt at St Anton is #1 when it comes to wild après ski, DJ music and shot skis. Austrians know après ski, and this on-mountain bar, marketed as “the worst après ski”, rocks from 3 til late. If the dancing in ski boots isn’t enough entertainment, watch skiers attempt to click back in their bindings for the final descent to St Anton ski village after too many toddies.
Verbier’s Farinet, while not ski in ski out, is a happening place in this Swiss ski town. The bouncers keep the zebra and banana costumed skiers under control, but the shot skis flow, music blares and it’s a spring break party in an otherwise sophisticated ski village.
Rond Point at Meribel in Les Trois Vallées is a ruckus après ski party on the patio during sunny ski days that frequent these French Alps. Crazy costumes, loud bands and plastic cups overflowing with beer are the usual rounds at Rond Point. A short ski down to the village of Méribel proves double black diamond for some après ski overdosers.
La Folie Douce at Val D’Isère Tignes in France is freakin’ crazy, you must witness this on snow disco show at least once. Its choreographed and kitschy, 80s style DJ, dancers and divas converge mid-mountain on an LED stage with sparkly costumes, and an amped crowd dancing and drinking starting at 2:30. Val Thorens and Méribel in Les Trois Vallées also have La Folie Douce… it’s a chain, cult, infectious France ski dance party.
Portes Du Soleil’s Les Lindarets (goat village) is a mid-mountain cluster of classic chalets and outdoor deck parties, in Montriond on the French side of this vast 12 village ski resort region. A DJ bumps music, and chic European skiers sip Vin Chaud - a hot spiced wine, or chilled Aperol on sunnier Portes Du Soleil ski days. Warning, you will need to ski back to your lodging village (was that France or Switzerland?), so remember where the heck you are staying, and don’t miss the last lifts back to your ski hotel.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist, who started on skis at age 3. Now she adds après ski to her skiing resume, enjoying first chair, first tracks, followed in the afternoon by best bar stool available. Night skiing is not her gig, it interferes with her après ski rituals. Heather is editor of Family Ski Trips & The Luxury Vacation Guide.