Home » What is Après-ski? All you need to know about Après-ski

What is Après-ski? All you need to know about Après-ski


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 which literally 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.

These definitions are only touching the surface of après-ski. Après-ski has its own subsets of rules, dress codes, and activities, which depends 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 common, and it often is done in ski clothing. Some argue that aprés ski lasts until dinner, while others argue, that après ski lasts until bedtime.

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 just use the words “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 the moment, you’re done with skiing for the day.

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

However, some enjoy to take the rest of the day off from 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 some warming alcohol shots, while sitting outside in the sun. 

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

When does après ski end?

When après ski ends is up to 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 simply 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 certainly have seen my fair share of late-night parties at nightclubs and bars, which lasted until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. Riding a gondola in windy conditions the next morning is no fun!

But I’ve also been to resorts, where the focus was 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 in the morning, and hit the slopes at 8 a.m.

This brings me to my next point…

What should I wear for après ski?

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

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

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 themselves 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 all the way 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 even hang up your 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 on the way back to the hotel or chalet.

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

I prefer to go back to my hotel, have a bath and change into something else entirely before heading for dinner, which often takes place 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 really 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 you’re 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. Also, faux-fur, whether it is for coats, boots, bags or hats, is all the rage this season.

Après ski activities

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

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

If you’re more into putting on a fancy dress or a nice and suit and go to a swanky restaurant, a lot of resorts offer that as well. Especially posh resorts like Aspen, Colorado in the US or Verbier or Zermatt in Switzerland have restaurants with world-class chefs if you got money to burn.

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 to 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 gonna want that vodka shot (you’ll have around 50 different vodkas to choose from) to get your blood flowing.

But Après ski isn’t just about eating, drinking and dancing. Other activities include things like 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 or spa.

Après ski music

An important part of after skiing – and any kind of partying for that matter – is the music.

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

I’ve seen stages build right next to some of the bigger chalets, with bands playing in the afternoon. If you’re going to Val d’Isere definitely check out the slope slide La Folie Douce which serves up 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. Here 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 definitely adds to the perfect after-ski atmosphere.

Après ski and live music

After dinner, there’s 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 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, Robin Williams to name a few.

If you’re interested, the ‘Top of the Mountain’ opening concert in Ischgl, takes place on November 24, 2018, and features US Jason Derulo.

Personally 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 night clubs

A lot of big ski resorts have nightclubs with popular DJs and sometimes dance acts. If you love to party till the wee hours, these are the places to be.

Resorts that have lots of nightclubs tend to be popular with a younger audience. Take for instance Val Thorens in France. During the peak of the season 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 to skiing in France check out Val d’Isere and Tignes, which are 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 a great 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) and you like to spend your après ski 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 DJ’s 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 awesome after skiing, which I haven’t written about. But hopefully, I’ve given you some ideas as to what to expect and maybe even where to go for your next ski trip.

The bottom line, après ski, is all about having fun and sharing the adventures of the day 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, 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? Got anything to share? Please do so in the comments.

Happy après skiing and be safe 🙂

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