What is Après-ski? All you need to know

Last updated on November 2nd, 2023 at 12:07 pm

Ahh, yes, après-ski. That magical and mystical part of a ski holiday, where the skis have come off your tired feet, and round two of the fun begins.

But what is après-ski? Which ski resorts have the best après-ski? And what should you wear? 

Let’s snow-plow our way through those questions one at a time.

What does après-ski mean?

Après-ski is a French term from the 1950s that means “after ski” or “after skiing.” 

  • According to Merriam-Webster, it is defined as a “social activity (as at a ski lodge) after a day’s skiing.” 
  • The Cambridge Dictionary defines après-ski as “social activities that take place in the evening at hotels and restaurants in places where people go to ski.” 
  • Oxford Living Dictionaries define après-ski as “the social activities and entertainment following a day’s skiing.” 

I find the latter definition to be the most precise. It certainly doesn’t only take place in the evening but can easily start early in the day on the slopes.

However, these definitions only touch the surface of après-ski. Après-ski culture has its subsets of rules, dress codes, and activities, which depend on who you are, what kind of skier you are, and where you are.

So what is après ski then?

Following the definition of Oxford Living dictionaries, après ski is “the social activities and entertainment following a day’s skiing.” Après ski usually starts in the afternoon and includes enjoying drinks in slopeside chalets or bars in town. Dancing on benches and tables or outside in the snow to live or recorded music is typical and often done in ski clothing. Some argue that aprés ski lasts until dinner, while others say that après ski lasts until bedtime.

So Après ski is something you do after a ski day, although it sometimes starts on the mountain before the last run. More on this later.

How is après-ski pronounced?

Pardon my French, but unless you’re natively born and raised in France, you’re probably pronouncing après-ski wrong (well, at least according to the French, that is!).

If you’re strong in the discipline of phonetics, après-ski is pronounced /ˌæp.reɪˈskiː/ or /apreɪˈskiː/ if you prefer.

If your phonetics skills are a bit rusty, here’s a YouTube video with the pronunciation of après-ski (with sound):

You don’t need to sound like a Frenchman, though. Most skiers will get what you mean. If they don’t, you can say, “after ski” or “can I buy you a drink?”. 

Then, you’ll be on the same page.

When does Après ski start?

Since Après ski literally means “after skiing,” après ski starts when you’re done stumbling down the ski slopes for the day.

For most skiers and riders, that means late in the afternoon.

However, some VERY thirsty skiers enjoy taking the rest of the day off skiing and start partying in the lodges and restaurants on the slopes as early as 11-12 a.m. This often involves dancing in the snow and enjoying warming alcohol shots outside in the sun.

And around 2 or 3 p.m., it is not uncommon to find skiers dancing on the tables to high music in some places.

When does après ski end?

When après ski ends is up for debate. 

How long aprés ski lasts also depends on where you are staying.

Some people argue that après ski is only the hours after skiing up until dinner. What you do after that should be called something else, e.g., partying.

Others call all the time after a day of skiing for après ski.

I’ve seen articles online arguing that because skiers and riders love to get up early in the morning, ski towns don’t have a lot of late-night action. I guess the writers haven’t been to ski resorts, e.g. in Austria or France.

I have seen my fair share of late-night parties at night clubs and bars, which lasted until 2 or 3 a.m. And let me tell you from experience: riding a gondola while hungover in windy conditions the following day is no fun! But let’s not go there…

But I’ve also been to resorts focused on serious skiing. Here, you might find a restaurant where you could eat dinner in a solemn atmosphere, but that was pretty much it. You’d get up early and hit the slopes at 8 a.m.

This brings me to my next point…

Après-ski attire: What should I wear for après ski?

The cool thing about après ski is that there isn’t a dress code. Not unless you’re going to some posh restaurant in the evening, at least.

Even if you go out to drink after dinner, you’ll find people still wearing goggles and ski boots while others have changed into their party dresses instead and showered.

And no one cares what you look like. That’s what’s so cool about it. You can wear whatever you want without being frowned upon.

That being said, when you consider the prices and design of most ski clothes, the ski runs are like catwalks. Even the most casual rider looks cool.

Most skiers who start the afternoon after skiing in the slopeside chalets and restaurants will wear their skiing attire. It makes perfect sense: you can ski to the place, park your skis, and go to the bar and pick up something to drink.

If it’s warm and sunny outside, you can hang up your ski jacket and enjoy the sun in your baselayers.

Sometimes, it’s better to move inside and watch the snowfall through the windows with a hot cup of cocoa or maybe ski down to the valley and visit a bar back to the hotel or chalet.

Most skiers are still in their ski clothes, but many prefer to slip into Moon Boots, Salomons, or Sorels, which are much more comfortable. This is a good idea since clunky ski boots aren’t meant for walking.

I prefer to return to my hotel, have a bath, and change into something else entirely before heading for dinner, often at the chalet where I’m staying.

If you’re the type who prefers to spend some hours in your room to relax, you might want to have a nice cozy base layer to relax in. You can get some cool-looking Merino sets and onesies.

Knitted jumpers – Norwegian style or other – also never seem to go out of style.

If you’re a woman and going shopping, short-cropped jeans are a perfect match for those big boots. The same goes for thick tights, which will keep you warm and not interfere with boots.

Après ski activities

So what’s included in apres ski? Is it all about drinking and dancing?

No, of course not, although drinking and dancing are a big part. So if dancing and listening to live music or DJs are your thing, you’ll get to do both at most resorts.

But Après ski isn’t just about eating, drinking, and dancing. 

Other activities include shopping, sleigh rides (with jingling bells and all), ice skating, toboggan runs (don’t do this drunk – people have gotten seriously hurt!), and even taking a dip in a slope-side hot spring, hot tub, or spa.

Starting Après ski early

If you want to begin partying in the early afternoon, you can do so on the mountain. Many bars and restaurants in the mountains kick off the après-ski scene early with happy hour and good music.

Remember that if you haven’t had your last run yet, it’s probably a good idea to hold back with the beer and cocktails and get some hot chocolate instead. 

If you get drunk in the high altitudes, take the gondola down to the ski town in the late afternoon! Don’t risk your or others’ health because of happy hour and the great vibes in the full bar! 

Après ski music on the pistes

From early in the afternoon, you can find loud music at many slopeside chalets and bars. You’ll often hear a music playlist from loudspeakers, but it’s easy to come across a DJ and live music, too.

I’ve seen stages built next to bigger chalets, with bands playing in the afternoon. If you’re going to Val d’Isere, check out the slope slide La Folie Douce, which has a crazy mix of cabaret, live music, and clubbing.

What’s being played depends on where you are. It can be the latest top 50 pop hit list, with the same songs you’ll hear on the radio. But it might also be of a much more local flavor.

If you’re going to Austria e.g., you’re guaranteed to hear some spiced-up techno-version of old Schlager music classics. I’m talking about a mix of Hansi Hinterseer, DJ Ötzi, harmonica, and yodeling mixed up with equally spiced-up dance versions of old Boney M songs. 

In other words, entertainer music and German hit mix. Whether you like it or not, the music adds to the perfect after-ski atmosphere.

Après ski dining

When it comes to eating, the food you can find at a ski resort isn’t that different from all other cities. You can get good food and… ehm… not-so-good food. 

If you’ve booked an apartment or a hut, you can visit the local supermarket and shop and cook dinner yourself.

If you prefer to get some food at a restaurant instead, you can get everything from pizza and burgers to regular meals that aren’t fast food.

These days, I prefer to book a hotel where dinner is included. That way, you don’t have to think about where to eat or how much it costs. After a long day of skiing, you return to the hotel, change into your most comfortable clothes, and drag your tired b*** down to the restaurant where everything is handled.

On all occasions, I try to try at least one local cuisine. Fx Leberkäse in Austria or Cheese Fondue in France. My favorite, though, is Truthahnschnitzel – not because it tastes good, but because I think it sounds funny… come on… Truthahn! (It means turkey.)

Fine dining

If you’re more into putting on a fancy dress or a nice suit and going to a swanky restaurant, many ski resorts also offer fine dining. 

Especially posh resorts like Aspen, Colorado in the US, or Verbier or Zermatt in Switzerland have some of the best restaurants with world-class chefs, where you can enjoy an expensive meal and fine wines if you have money to burn. Fx The Little Nell 5-Star Hotel restaurant in Aspen is recommended in the Michelin Guide.

Speaking of Aspen, if you love cocktails (and you’re 21), Aspen is famous for the ‘Après Ski Cocktail Classic’ festival in March, which, besides the award-winning mixologist and ‘Après Tasting Experience’ also includes fireside chats and ‘The Great Après Ski Pub Crawl.’

If you think Aspen is too warm for you, you could always visit the ‘Ketel One Ice Room’ at ‘The Bearfoot Bistro’ in Whistler, Canada, instead. Sitting in a temperature of -32°C/25F you’re going to want that vodka shot (you’ll have around 50 different vodkas to choose from) to get your blood flowing.

The Après scene and live music

After dinner, there are usually a lot of bars you can go to, which have live music. The most common thing is cover bands or guy-with-a-guitar who plays cover tunes.

I have a background as a musician, and I also have had the chance to play a few cover tunes on bars in France and a lot of my friends like to spend a week skiing in the day and playing at the venues at night. It’s a great way to spend a week in the Alps while being paid to ski and play music at the same time.

The bigger resorts will feature original artist concerts, e.g., Ischgl‘s famous ‘Top of the Mountain’ opening concert, which has featured big names like Katy Perry, Leona Lewis, Beach Boys, Elton John, and Robin Williams, to name a few.

If you’re interested, the ‘Top of the Mountain’ opening concert in Ischgl usually takes place at the end of November.

I enjoy the small venues the most. Some of the best live acts I’ve heard have been the one-man-with-a-guitar type.

Après ski and nightclubs.

Many big ski resorts have nightclubs with famous DJs and sometimes dance acts. If you love dance parties till the wee hours, these are the places to be.

Resorts with many nightclubs tend to be popular with a younger audience. Take, for instance, Val Thorens in France. During the season’s peak in weeks 6-8, it is a haven for high school students and undergraduates from all over Europe.

Val Thorens not only has some amazing nightlife but also offers the largest ski area in the world (Les 3 Vallées). The party starts early in the afternoon at Bar 360 and Folie Douce, but if you want to party all night, you should head to Le Malaysia nightclub, which offers both big-name DJs and live music and four bars.

If you like skiing in France, check out Val d’Isere and Tignes, connected by the La Grande Motte glacier. Both resorts sport some excellent nightclubbing.

In Val d’Isere, you’ll find Dick’s Tea Bar, where you can get a pair of slippers for your tired feet. When your feet are rested, you can dance all night to music played by world-famous DJs.

St. Anton in Austria is known as an excellent resort for partying. If you’re into cocktails and dreams, go to Bar Cuba. And if you want to party all night, visit the Postkeller.

If you’re going to Ischgl in Austria instead, stop by the Kuhstall in the afternoon for music and beers, and then go clubbing at the Pacha Club all night.

If you’re staying across the Pond (at least from where I’m living) in North America and you like to spend your après skiing in a nightclub, you should try to go to Breckenridge in Colorado. 

After dinner, head over to Cecilia’s Martini Bar and Nightclub, where you can get some great Martinis and single malts whiskeys and dance to DJs or live bands until the wee hours.

Après ski equals lots of fun.

Now, I’ve only touched upon the basics of après ski in this article. And there are lots of good resorts, which offer fantastic after skiing, which I haven’t written about. 

But hopefully, I’ve given you some ideas about what to expect and maybe even where to go for your next ski trip.

At the end of the day (no pun intended), après ski is about having good times and sharing the day’s adventures with fellow skiers. It’s a great social experience whether you like to hang out in the hotel bar, at a slopeside chalet, in a posh restaurant, at a spa, or dance the night away in a nightclub.

What do you like to do after skiing? Where’s the best nightclub or bar located, you think? Do you have anything to share? Please do so in the comments.

Happy après skiing, and be safe 🙂

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