We’ve recently covered budget skiing destinations for the money-conscious skier, rounded up the cream of this season’s festival crop, and shown you how to pack for both endeavours, so what’s next in line to get you excited for the ski season that’s just about to kick off?
A good party, of course. Skiing involves a lot of hard work and training to perfect those turns and acquire the elegance and speed of a gazelle flitting down snowy slopes, but behind the scenes is where the action really starts warming up. We all know skiers love letting hair their hair down after paying their dues on the runs, and we’re certain a good number of you will be on the lookout for the best après-ski resorts to be at this winter.
Here goes the list of what we forecast to be the hot beds of this season’s ski entertainment. We have a few of the usual suspects mixed in with a couple of new kids on the block, so you’re spoiled for choice.
St Anton, Austria
Hands down, St Anton takes the cup year after year for providing the world with the most animated, extensive and prestigious après-ski offerings attended by the glitterati of the ski universe. Its reputation is somewhat well-earned, what with its crucial role in inventing and developing the sport, earning it the nickname ‘cradle of Alpine skiing’.
With a selection of 22 cafes, 14 very diverse bars and pubs, and parties that span the sun’s entire trajectory through the sky, San Anton is where it all begins and ends. Mooserwirt is by far the most famous, and an après-ski icon in its own right with its instantly recognisable circular, wood-panelled exterior bar. This is where all the revellers in the resort round up to marvel at and consume the double-stacked trays of a dozen pints.
Krazy Kangaruh is another highlight: run by two-time world champion and probably the best slalom racer of all time – Mario Matt – the immensely popular bar features a short ski down at the end and plenty of buzzing atmosphere. You’ll also find standard fare of the British kind at Scotty’s, styled after the quintessential British pub. Expect bar staff to join in the fun and madness too – this is where you want to be for all things après-ski.
Home to the après-ski institution that is La Folie Douce, Méribel hosts a fantastic scene that is loud and boisterous. Youth make up its major demographic, so the resort definitely has a freshman vibe to it, aided in part by the hordes of party-hungry youngsters gathering for daily happy hours. Le Rond Point should be your first point of call, renowned for its raucous antics starting in the early afternoon which find the tables rattling to the beat of skiers’ and snowboarders’ dancing. That, and the exquisite toffee vodka that powers the boot-tapping.
For sports, comedy and cheap drinks to the tune of €1 beer pints, hop down to Jacks Bar. This outlet has introduced a touch of British charm to its events menu as of late, featuring regular stand-up comedy nights. The variety and tradition is ever-present as the resort is constellated with British-run bars focusing heavily on providing a great live music experience.
You can still expose yourself to the full après-ski spectrum here, however, with all-night clubs such as Le Loft and quieter, more sophisticated options like Barometer Bar. Méribel is one of the most swiftly expanding resorts on this list, with its après-ski and skiing facilities seeing exponential improvements each year.
Nightlife and high-flying après-ski are synonymous with Verbier, although this resort is tailored to cater for the elite and the extremely wealthy in addition to seasoned skiers verging on expert status. Beginners and budget travellers might feel out of place in this star-studded resort that has historically welcomed celebrities in among its ranks and is probably the most posh entry on this list.
The après-ski opportunities are grouped in a dense, compact area of the resort across a few venues, making their energy tauter. Le Rouge is a good place to start off your daily festivities, bringing together an interestingly mixed international crowd which loves to socialise while still dusting off powder from the afternoon ski session.
At night, the two major clubs to visit are Étoile Rouge Supper Club and The Farm Club in Hotel Nevai, the former of which doubles up as an Eastern European/Scandinavian eatery and the latter providing the best ski clubbing experience in Verbier. The grand sporting contests – Xtreme Verbier, Verbier High Five and Patrouille des Glaciers – are a feast for the eyes and hearts of any avid ski fan and pull in ecstatic attendees at every occasion, making for a truly top-class aura that perennially hangs above the peaks of the resort.
Les Deux Alpes, France
The proud wearer of the liveliest après-ski resort badge in the whole of France, Les Deux Alpes seems to have it all, with unlimited access to Europe’s sprawling and most expansive ski area in addition to a rock-solid après-ski stature. It boasts a strong legacy, being the second oldest European ski resort and having been in existence, in some form or another, since 1925.
Pub Windsor is still standing after all those years and has accrued an enviable collection of more than 100 different beers and whiskies to serve to both sophisticated and rowdy clienteles who have one thing in common: their welcoming demeanour. Pano Bar is perhaps the most famous afternoon watering hole, and is frequently the point of departure for wild nights out. There’s a DJ spinning tunes every day from 3pm to 5pm, after which you can move on to Avalanche Club or Discothèque L’Opéra and dance the night away till 4am.
For more of a pub ambience, make a stop at Smokey Joes, which serves a full English breakfast until the early afternoon hours as well as a finger-licking selection of homemade burgers, pizzas, fajitas, steaks and more. Pool, table football and live music are a staple, as well as sporting events broadcast on big screen. At Les Deux Alpes, the options – like the mountains – are endless.
Sauze d’Oulx, Italy
This resort has a notorious history – its former days of glory had it labelled as a sort of ‘Ibiza’ on ice, with its party animal character having more gravitas than the skiing. This has changed in the last few years and Sauze d’Oulx is now a bona fide full package, absorbing a healthy dose of activity and sports into its high-octane après-ski environment.
A cornerstone event is the annual free music festival held in the town, as well as the all-year-round bustling calendar of gigs catering to all tastes, from progressive electronica to the likes of Billy Sheehan. This, coupled with the splendid array of options for non-ski activities such as boar-spotting, snowmobiling, bar tours and torchlight descents, has introduced some hefty diversity to the Italian resort. It’s worth visiting for the food alone – which verges on the divine – and can be sampled at one of the 15 restaurants spread across the plains, each with their own speciality.
The entertainment here is much less in-your-face than at the resorts we’ve considered previously, so you might have to do some digging and seek out tucked-away spots for yourself. In general, the bars will serve alcohol at much cheaper prices than the average resort and throughout the UK; La Grotta di Boururd is one such establishment, offering the cheapest beer this side of the Alps. Max’s Café distinguishes itself through its generously long happy hours – lasting the grand total of four – and for its live football. All in all, while glamour doesn’t belong here, Sauze d’Oulx still supplies a broad enough range of après-ski fun to earn a place on our list.
It’s common sense that the first ski resort in the world – and probably the most well-known to this day – would have a thriving après-ski culture. And a culture it is, breeding everything from winter paintball tournaments to glamorous cocktail bar charcuterie-tasting sessions. The only drawback to Chamonix is that you won’t find ski-boots-on après-ski venues as the ski area is distinctly isolated from the town. However, you can rest assured that the buzz reaches stratospheric levels as night falls upon the town and skiers crawl the streets in search for a good time.
Monkey Bar is a must for the typical afternoon kick-off involving free-flowing boozy banter and an eclectic cohort of musicians playing live. Surprisingly, the club scene is quite contained and the major players are L’Amnesia – a regular discotheque blasting the mainstay Euro-pop hits – and La Cantina as the underground alternative, which hosts some of the finest names in contemporary electronic music.
For evening drinks preceding the dancefloors, Chambre Neuf is a popular haunt serving two-for-one cocktails until 10pm. Le Jekyll stages well-loved comedy nights with performances from international comedians adorning the equally well-stocked bar and restaurant on selected nights. Chamonix’s après-ski takes some time to fully explore so dedicate nothing short of several days to uncovering its various delights, although you should steer clear if you’re averse to tourist-heavy destinations.
It’s a given that after having taken the trophy in our ski festivals guide for hosting not one, but two major ski festivals, Mayrhofen is, by default, a mecca for après-ski. Indeed, skiers and snowboarders party hard in this Austrian resort nestled in the Tyrolean Alps. There’s something for everyone here, from families hoping to wind down in an amicable atmosphere before an early sleep, to thrill-seeking pros quenching their thirst for adventure, on and off the slopes.
You have to take the cable car to the last stop atop Ahorn but you’ll be rewarded instantly as soon as you lay foot into White Lounge – an igloo doubling up as a bar and lounge, perfectly positioned to watch unforgettable sunsets flood the mountain valleys, Glühwein amaretto in hand. In a similar vein, Ice Bar at Hotel Strass treats patrons to lounges made of ice where they can drink to their heart’s content and mingle with the locals. Scotland Yard – the former Mayrhofen police station – now brings in snowboarders and seasonnaires instead of arrested drunkards and is a favourite for its authentic English and Irish pub atmosphere. Disco Schlüssel Alm whips up an interesting playlist featuring soul, house, R&B and eighties’ remixes from the resident DJs who have kept the place’s popularity booming for years, supported by its late hours where you can dance till dawn. Hotel Strass has also opened Speak Easy Arena, where you can listen to anything from chart dancefloor fillers to Austrian pop hits to dubstep and drum and bass.
You can check out the terrain park action from the sun terrace at Grillhof Alm, which specialises in pizza with a seemingly infinite number of toppings at relatively cheap prices. Mayrhofen is an après-ski gem through and through, and its ability to please and cater for everyone makes it a top choice among newcomers and die-hards alike.
Part of Livigno’s appeal is the wide range of the town’s offerings at duty-free prices. You won’t be paying extra tax to enjoy yourself here, and despite being a well-established major Italian resort, it’s still pleasantly down-to-earth. It’s an incredible fact to note that there are as many as 150 bars in Livigno, apart from a hefty selection of shops and restaurants that reflect a bit of Austrian character as well as the stronghold of Italian cuisine.
Jpioca is the place to go for fairly priced cocktails with a flavourful kick, especially if you favour a mature, calm crowd. Il Cielo is the main nightclub, while Daphne’s Pub and Miky’s Pub draw in the night owls before they leave for the dancing. Everything gets going after 10pm here, and you can visit Bivio Club Glam Disco Bar at Bivio Hotel for live music set in a rustic cellar, as well as Hotel Helvetia close by. For authentic Italian wood oven-baked pizza, Pizzeria Bait dal Ghet is phenomenal. The ‘osteria’ woos its customers by giving out the first drinks free on the house, and is a popular haunt with locals.
Kuhstall Disco Pub is where your Livigno nights will be consummated with an endless supply of drinks, music and composed Alpine fun, after which you can head to Latteria Livigno the next morning to fix your hangover with their mouth-watering cheeses and fresh ice-cream. For the food lover who isn’t too fussed about larger-than-life après-ski, Livigno will tick all the right boxes.
Zermatt is one of the priciest resorts, and not without good reason: lying below the iconic Matterhorn peak, the facilities and activities are world-class and bountiful. Matterhorn Museum showcases farming, mountaineering and village history, and there are numerous antique shops and galleries to discover. The Vernissage cinema, concert venue and club plays host to the Zermatt Unplugged festival each year and crafts a wonderfully intimate atmosphere suited to each particular use of the space, with many varied and interesting cultural events to look forward to.
Après-ski action commences at Hennu Stall, Papperla Pub, and Hotel Cervo in the early stages of the afternoon, where you may find live music and certainly expect to rub shoulders with a young, energetic crowd. Needless to say, if you have cash to burn, Zermatt’s upscale entertainment merits a visit. You can spend a classy evening at Mont Cervin and Zermatterhof sipping champagne and listening to the finest of piano players. For a more relaxed vibe, head to Snowboat, where you can eat, drink, and even dance at Cuckoo Club. Grampi’s is another outlet with a successful formula of great food and lively post-dinner entertainment. For pure partying, Broken Bar Disco is open for business every night till 3.30pm and promises a wild night out. Loft Lounge Club is also situated in the exquisitely charming Unique Hotel Post and is one of the best spots to hang out in after-hours for over 25’s.
The added allure of this resort owes itself to the appreciation of mountaineering and all its different aspects. The two town cemeteries in Zermatt, for instance, seem to be an open-air history book chronicling the perils and exhilaration of tackling the surrounding peaks. Zermatt is not for the faint-hearted but can turn into a rewarding cultural ski experience.
Après-ski is a serious affair at Saalbach – action-packed, unhinged, and sometimes over-the-top. You’ll find examples of this ethos at the 40 cosy mountain huts, snow bars, pubs and discos scattered across the resort. Here, happy hours start at 3.30pm and the mayhem stretches on till the wee hours of morning.
Berger Alm is where you can start drinking cheaply way before the sun starts to set to some rocking music. Alte Schmiede has three large floors of attentive service and hunger-satisfying après-ski grub like burgers and beers to feast on. You can dance as soon as the runs close at Bäckstätt Stall and the main bar of Berger’s Sporthotel, but the real party gets started at places such as Ötzi Bar and Alibi Bar, which both get rambunctious as the night goes on. You’ll also find clubs under a good number of hotels, and saucier hang-outs for more adventurous entertainment.
Zum Turm is a converted jail-turned-bar for the edge clientele, and Spitzbub is consistently highly rated for its lively après-ski atmosphere. You’ll never get bored or be let down by the goings-on at Saalbach.
Val-d’Isère is one of the original homes of après-ski, and although it doesn’t quite match up to the likes of the crazier Austrian resorts such as St Anton, it holds its own among French resorts. Its cornerstone establishment is unquestionably La Folie Douce, where the entertainment shifts from typical Eurodance tunes to saxophonists rocking out a crowd that’s only just beginning to recover from a pulsating techno set.
Café Face is a close runner-up: the bar is a sight in itself, with rows of carefully lined spirits, an intriguing décor and regular live music guaranteed to set you up for a good time. For a more local feel, you can hang out at Le Coin des Amis, where you can also grab a good bite to eat at reasonable prices, washed down with even cheaper drinks. Cocorico is where you can tap your feet to old-school classics in traditional après-ski fashion, and Dick’s Tea Bar – yet another unmissable, frenetic bar – keeps fuelling the fun until 4am.
Doudoune runs nights with international DJ headliners, while La Graal is worth a visit if you’re more into a less intense, more French clubbing experience. Val-d’Isère will have have something for everyone at every corner, and deservedly carves its own place on this list.
If you’re planning a skiing trip and still have to get kitted out or are missing an essential piece of gear, you can pick up all you need here with plenty left to splurge on having the time of your life. For preparation, you can explore our ski advice section to equip yourself with handy knowledge so you can make the most of your skiing experience.