Find the best places to for apres ski plus the key ingredients to an epic celebration
Apres ski, if you’re like me no good ski trip is complete without it.
In fact for some, it’s as big a part of a day on the slopes as the actual skiing and snowboarding.
So maybe you’re looking for a taste of the action or you’re a seasoned snow party goer and you’re looking for the next hot spot.
Keep on reading to find out more about apres ski including what is it, the best resorts, and how to have an epic time.
What is Apres Ski?
Apres ski, pronounced ‘ap-ray ski’, is the time in the afternoon after you have finished skiing and before dinner, usually between 4pm-7pm.
The French term literally translates as after ski and is coined by the snowsports community to discuss what goes on once the skiing stops.
Generally, it consists of some sort of party near the slopes with live music, local drinks and a lively atmosphere.
To be honest, there is no right or wrong way to apres ski, some people enjoy tasting the local alcohol and dancing while others might simply warm up around a fire with a mulled wine.
When Does Apres Ski Start?
There’s no exact time that signals the start but usually, things start to ramp up from mid-afternoon onwards. An apres session can run from 3pm until around 7pm, it’s up to you though.
Really and truly, once you’re finished exploring the slopes for the day, it’s time to relax!
Live music kicks off from 4pm or 5pm. You might find music starts at 4pm early in the season (Dec, Jan, Feb) and 5pm into the spring as ski lifts stay open later as the days get longer.
What Is There To Do?
When you think about apres ski, most people think of a busy bar, dancing on tables and loud music but this is just one activity to choose from.
In reality, there’s a ton of things to do in the afternoon and every ski resort offers a different number of adventures.
If you really want to relax then think about hitting the local spa filled with hot pools, saunas and steam rooms. Trust me when I say, it’s the ultimate way to rest your tired ski legs. Plus if it’s super cold out then you’ll warm up in no time.
Still got a little craving for adrenaline? Snowmobiling or dog sledging gets you zooming across the mountain as the sunsets.
Thanks to the unique winter mountain climate, there’s a whole mix of activities to try including hot air ballooning, ice skating, luge runs and even ice diving.
What Do You Wear For Apres Ski?
Your choice of apres ski apparel can make or break your session.
It’s particularly easy to miss dress in the spring when it may even be warm enough to ski in just a jumper or t-shirt.
Just remember, once that sun disappears behind the mountain peaks things start to get cold quickly.
So the key is to bring out that unique mountain party style of practicality and ‘fashion’.
Some like to keep it classy with luxury ski wear brands, some stick to their usual ski wear while others opt for bright, wacky and wonderful.
Here’s a few things to consider having with you:
Warm mid-layer: Having a warm mid-layer like a fleece or down jacket are great for striking a balance between warmth and comfort. It will enable you to shed a heavy outerwear layer/ski jacket while staying warm.
Spare shoes: Skiers might want to think about some comfy footwear. Nothing beats the feeling of sliding off ski boots at the end of the day. Having a change of shoes should help warm up the toes and remove some aches and pains. N.B. Ski boots can be excellent for iconic apres dance moves and stamping out a beat.
Iconic Hat: Nothing signals party time like a groovy hat. Something with a little added flair is easy to stuff in your pocket or backpack ready to whip out in time for the toffee vodka shots and photo opportunities.
Sunglasses: Things get bright in the mountains. When the sun’s out and the snow is sparkling you’ll need some eye protection. Ski goggles can get a touch cumbersome at outside apres ski so don’t forget the sunglasses you picked up at duty-free.
Retro ski suit: Ready to make a real statement? Nothing says apres ski party like a retro 80s ski suit. They’re warm, waterproof and groovy. If you can get your hands on a funky piece out of your family’s loft then you’ll have a classic ‘this was my mums ski suit’ to go with your style.
Coloured sun cream: Grab a stick of fluorescent suncream to paint on your ski squad’s faces. It makes good sense to protect your soft skin while adding them funky vibes.
Headband: Add a headband to your get up for the final apres ski party touch. It keeps the sweat off your brows, hair out of the shot ski and turn some heads*
*head-turning can be for good and bad style reasons.
10 Best Apres Ski Resorts
Val Thorens, France – Highest Party Resort
Val Thorens is a big bully of a ski resort making up one of the main three ski resorts in The Three Valleys alongside Courchevel and Meribel.
It may not have the exclusivity and upmarket nature of its competitors but when it comes to an apres ski resort it’s hard to beat. The town is the highest in Europe, perching at 2,300 metres, making it an epic ski destination from November until May.
Along the side of the slopes, you’ll find epic venues like La Folie Douce and Bar 360 which play host to pumping parties every afternoon. If you’re lucky you might even arrive in time for a world-famous DJ.
Around the streets of VT, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to a lively watering hole from early afternoon until late at night. Ready to start sampling the apres parties? Then start from the top and work your way down. Saloon bar is one of the busiest bars in the Three Valleys and a perfect place to finish a day’s skiing. The amusingly named Frog and Roast Beef is a charming British style pub where you can catch some live sport, groove to a live band and fill up on a belly full of beer and food.
Still not satisfied? There’s a whole host of more bars to try during your ski trip including Rhum Box, Le Viking and nightclub Malaysia.
Courchevel – Party with Celebrities
Courchevel is known as the pinnacle of luxury in all departments from meticulously groomed slopes to VIP parties where you’re likely to rub shoulders with celebrities.
When it comes to Courchevel apres ski, you can kick back and party on the slopes with Magnums of Dom Perignon before hopping in a private car back to your luxury ski chalet for a dip in the pool. Of course, that’s for those looking to splash the cash. Courchevel’s ski resort spans a huge valley with 5 villages all offering something a little different. So you can still happily pile into an alpine bar for live music and cheap beers, dance the afternoon away on the mountainside or sneak off to a quiet wine bar.
For the most exclusive apres ski, hot spots like Nammos, Le Tremplin and Caphorn quickly change from an exquisite lunch into a party spot. For a more relaxed slopeside affair, Waikiki ‘beach bar’ has you sipping Pina Colada while Fire & Ice slides out Ice Shots around a crackling fire.
For live music, La Boulotte in Courchevel 1650 is always packed with all ages laughing and joking. For the most raucous celebrations, finish your day in La Tania at Pub Le Ski Lodge or La Taiga which fill up quickly with seasonaires when live music starts.
St. Anton, Austria – Piste-side Parties
St. Anton boasts the best mix of skiing and apres in Austria. Take to the epic ski area for a stunning ski day and once you get a thirsty pull up at one of the slopeside bars packed with Brits, Dutch, Austrians and Germans.
For the biggest and loudest party, The Krazy Kanguruh is always pumping with not just the world’s best skiers, but the world’s best apres skiers. A snowball’s throw away you’ll see (and hear) the Mooserwirt spinning cheesy Austropop which fills its tables ski boot dancing madness from 3pm until the sun goes down.
For a bit of a cult favourite, Basecamp now has a real following at the bottom of the slopes. You can’t miss it with a giant umbrella, live music and dancing. It’s not as rowdy as others but certainly is filled with happy skiers and snowboarders.
Elsewhere, Taps is popular with locals and ski instructors, always the sign of a perfect place to relax with Schnapps on tap. For a more family-friendly option, Heustadl is one of the original apres bars in St. Anton with live music to chill out on a sunny terrace.
Val D’Isere – Something for everyone
Val D’Isere strikes a superb balance of lively parties, casual hangouts and exclusive lounges. There’s something for every budget including the finest French Champagne. You can party slopeside, grab a cheap beer with friends and sample exclusive cocktails all having skied the iconic Espace Killy ski area.
You can start the party before even getting off the slopes. Home to the original Folie Douce, the music kicks in on the side of the slopes from 3pm with live dance shows, DJ, fireworks and dancing on tables. For many people, it’s the ultimate apres ski spot. Sitting at the top of the La Daille lift, you’ll hear it before you see it.
Once the sun starts to disappear behind the mountain peaks it’s time to ski down into town. Cocorito is handily placed above the Olympic gondola, not far from the snow front. Again the music kicks off around 3pm with pop music to sing along to on a busy terrace complete with heaters to keep the crowds warm!
Saloon is another well-known hangout to refresh with a cold, well-priced beer and a laugh with your ski crew. To be honest, there’s so many options to explore including Dick’s Tea Bar, Cafe Face and The Fall Line.
Tignes – Chilled Vibes
Tignes neighbours Val D’Isere making up the other half of the Espace Killy’s 300 kilometres of skiing. In many ways, it’s the laidback younger sibling with a choice of cool ski bars along the village streets.
Tignes is made up of multiple villages, most notably Val Claret and Le Lac. These are the two highest altitudes and most lively apres ski spots. Depending on where you finish skiing and are staying, a short free bus ride is needed to get between villages.
Le Lac is blessed with a heap of awesome bars along the snowy streets. Loop Bar is famous for chilled out apres which draw in a large crowd every afternoon. Live bands, DJ’s and comedy gigs keep the smiles big along with jugs of cold beer to share with friends. Further into the village, the Marmot Arms is a charming classically styled yet funky mountain bar. It goes without saying there’s live music, sports on TV and a healthy pub menu to refuel.
Higher up in Val Claret, Couloir is THE apres bar to hit with happy hour from 4-6pm making life very affordable. The lively bar buzzes with energy all afternoon, filling up quickly as the lifts close and the live music begins to crank.
If you’ve read about Val D’Isere and Val Thorens above then the name Saloon bar will be familiar. Val Claret is home to another one of the family offering the classic mix of well priced beer, live music, sports and some grub.
Meribel – Sunny Lively Parties
Meribel proudly sits in the heart of The Three Valleys, the world’s largest ski area. This A-list resort is in no way dwarfed by its neighbours Courchevel or Val Thorens. You can party right on the slopes at lively seasonaire hangouts or VIP champagne stages.
The first stop is always La Folie Douce for at least one drink. The world-famous party spot is a real show with live dance performances, DJs and champagne galore. If you want something special then splash the cash on the VIP section.
Further down the slopes near the mid-station of Rhodos, the iconic Rond Point ‘Ronnie’ is unmissable with quite possibly the biggest umbrella ever! It pops up when the snow starts to fall. When the sun starts to shine there’s no better party spot with live music and DJs every afternoon.
Once the sun starts to fade, the centre of town beckons with pubs including La Taverne, Jacks and O’Sullivans.
For a nice afternoon ski, snake down into Meribel Village to end up at Lodge du Village for some tasty eats, live music and great beer. Don’t worry if you’re staying elsewhere around Meribel, you can jump on a free ski bus home once you’re done.
Ischgl -Ibiza in the mountains
When you talk about the best party towns in the Alps you can go long without mentioning Ischgl.
It’s even been described as Ibiza in the mountains.
And to be honest, I completely understand why! The Austrian resort takes apres parties to another level with packed outdoor terraces, wooden mountain huts, pubs, DJs, disco and plenty of live music. All the key ingredients plus that intangible Austrian enthusiasm.
Schatzi attracts skiers of all ages from young seasonaires to the Ischgl regulars. It’s got that classic alpine feel to it, with a warm welcoming atmosphere. Head straight here right at the base of the slopes for a sociable place filled with people laughing and joking about their ski day.
For a more wild throwdown, you can’t miss Niko’s Hexenkuche which is handily placed next to the Silvretta lift. One of the iconic places to celebrate your trip with live DJs and plenty of Schnapps to go round.
Further round the town you’ll be delighted to find a touch of traditional Austrian apres ski with overflowing Steines, ‘oompah’ music and a few Lederhosen dotted around. An unmissable experience.
Whistler – Canadian Classic
In Whistler apres ski kicks off down the mountain in the main town from 4pm once the lifts have stopped running.
Stroll through the town and you’ll quickly find plenty of bars with sunny terraces, live music and big plates of delicious food. Perfect to relax after a long day on the slopes. There’s something to suit every taste whether you want a pitcher of ice cold cocktail or a local craft beer.
I can picture it right now, a big plate of nachos, a jug of beer and a bunch of friends to share with as you laugh about the day. That’s what you’ll get at Merlin’s pub alongside a portion of tabletop dancing, live music and a little fancy dress.
For more party spots try GLC and Dusty’s Bar for more pitchers, live music and a chilled mountain vibes.
Sip on a Canadian craft beer at Black’s Pub or even a full brewery tour at The Brewhouse. Over at The Mallard Lounge, there’s apres ski with a touch of class with stunning mountain views, cocktails and a crackling fire to warm you up.
Mayrhofen – Non-stop parties
Mayrhofen boasts a varied and almost non-stop apres ski scene which keeps you celebrating from the moment you finish lunch until the early hours of the morning.
It’s become one of the trendiest places to visit in the Alps with its mountain huts, slopeside bars and late night celebrations. If you’re ready to get amongst it then the wild parties are ready to embrace you. But don’t be afraid, if a slow pace of mountain life is more your thing, you can sneak off to more peaceful alpine bars to relax after a long day.
If you’re thinking, so what? Sounds like every other ski resort, then listen up. Mayrhofen is also home to a selection of epic events including the iconic Snowbombing festival – a week of snowsport, music and festival madness. Think Fatboy Slim, Dizzee, Liam Gallagher….
The start apres ski in Mayrhofen falls to The Pilzbar at the summit of the Penkenbahn lift with its giant umbrella and terrace. A spot to pull on the retro headbands and cheese out to Europop. Move on to popular hangouts like Bruck’n Stadl for DJs, live accordion and sing alongs or Scotland Yard Pub for a juxtapositioned British pub and Austrian parties.
Aspen – North America’s Best
Aspen’s reputation is built on much more than just incredible skiing, it’s treated just as much as a winter experience and lifestyle. This includes Aspen apres ski which is rated as number 1 by Conde Nast Traveler magazine.
Downtown awaits with a wealth of options to please your party going spirit late into the night. Plus, there’s choices on the mountain and base stations in the afternoon. Not looking for a party? Then take in the rest of the culture at art galleries, theatres and a touch of high-end shopping.
To get those classic European ski vibes, Cloud Nine offers a cosy cabin with a stunning backdrop and Lynn Britt Cabin sports a refreshing wine list at a sunny snow front location in Snowmass.
For live music, Belly Up sits at the bottom of Aspen Mountain while Zane’s Tavern is an easy going friendly pub with happy hour drinks, burgers and wings to refuel after skiing.
6 Ingredients to Perfect Apres Ski
1. Find Live Music
Without exception, the best apres ski parties are the ones with live music. Depending on where you’re skiing, you’ll find all sorts of different styles from bands rocking out to cheesy pop classics to more classy pianist and cocktail affairs. To be honest, it’s usually pretty easy to find live music. Keep an ear out during the afternoon as you ski around. Slopeside bars like Folie Douce echo reveal themselves with tunes and cheers echoing around the mountain. In towns and villages, use your ears as well or simply follow the crowds.
Not every bar will be rocking with live music every single day. Some like to reserve their parties for certain days. So if you’ve been recommended a venue to visit, double check what days entertainment is on. You don’t want to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time… it may end up missing the fun.
2. Follow the locals
The easiest way to find the best places to head is to follow the locals.
Keep an eye out for where the ski instructors head after ski school finishes, they should be simple to spot in their brightly coloured uniforms. Locals and seasonaires are your ticket to the coolest hangout spots and happy hours plus maybe even a spot of free food to keep your energy up until dinner. Trust me when I say, there’s always bars looking to lure in hungry skiers with complimentary snacks.
3. Order the best drink
In France, it might be a Vin Chaud (Mulled Wine), in Scotland perhaps a Hot Toddy (Whiskey, honey and lemon), for Austria a shot of Schnapps (flavoured liqueur) or even just a good old hot chocolate. If you’ve skied in multiple resorts and countries then you’ll probably know that everywhere serves something a little different to warm the bones on a cold afternoon. Don’t be shy to try the local drink everyone recommends. There’s usually a good story behind it! In many cases, it can be hard to avoid it as the drinks start flowing into the afternoon. The bar’s speciality drink is guaranteed to relax you, give you a warming kick and taste of the local mountain culture.
Take for example, Genepi – the local liquor served in the French Alps. It is made from the alpine Genepi flower, often picked and infused by locals, giving you a real flavour of the surrounding hills.
4. Grab your sunglasses
When you’re filling the neverending pockets of your ski jacket in the morning don’t forget to stuff in a pair of sunnies. It might not seem like you’re going to need them if you’re skiing in goggles, but when you kick the skis off in the afternoon you’ll be wishing you had a change of eyewear. Ski goggles quickly become bulky and uncomfortable once the music starts pumping on a sunny slopeside deck. So crack out the Oakley’s you’ve been dying to show off!
5. Know your way home
Almost every afternoon I see the same scene. Once the music stops and hunger starts to grow in anticipation for dinner the bars empty and everyone heads for their chalet or hotel. Left behind are the careless and confused who aren’t quite sure how to get home. I have to admit, I’ve been one of these poor souls ending up in the wrong part of town or even the wrong ski resort! If you’re not careful it can end in an expensive taxi back to your accommodation. Be sure you know where you are and how to get back. Is it a short walk? Do you need to jump on the ski bus? If you’ve got to get the last lift to get back to your village… don’t miss it!
6. Just relax and be happy
By now you’ll know that apres-ski is about chilling out and socializing with fellow skiers and snowboarders after a day on the slopes. A time to refuel, sip a refreshing beverage and laugh about the day. So pick your place to spend the afternoon and live in the moment. And don’t be afraid to let yourself go once the music starts ringing out and everyone starts singing along to their favourite anthems.